Harmony of Heaven and Earth

My high school art teacher wasn’t interested in Australian art. So I spent most of high school studying Asian art.

One of my all time favourite books is the Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting. The handbook was first published in 1679.

In the section on trees there are 74 examples on the most perfect way to draw trees.

| Wang An-Chieh, method of painting the trunks and main branches of three trees, ~1680s |

There are two ways of painting two trees together. Draw a large tree and add a small one; this is called fu lao (carrying the old on the back). Draw a small tree and add a large one; this is called hsieh yu (leading the young by the hand).

Old trees should show a grave dignity and an air of compassion. Young trees should appear modest and retiring. They should stand together gazing at each other.

If only.

Julia Ritson

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