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Hidden Mysteries Discovered In Cloud and Mountain | Rolling Hills In the Morning

Fog evokes enchanting scenes. Rolling fog is magical. It tricks the mind into seeing valleys move. Fog adds a peaceful aspect to a landscape. It exudes ambiance and flowing energy. To waken surrounded by cloud and mountain is breathtaking.

My adventure in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee left a lasting impression. My son moved there for work for a time in 2011, so we rented a cabin to drink in the crisp mountain air and drown in nature.

The morning mountain in cloud recalled memories of misty pines in northern China. But the blue-tinted, low hanging fog differentiated the morning hills during sunrise. Now, both recollections merge to inspire new abstract landscapes paintings.

At the start of my career, I valued traditional Chinese art techniques. Shan Shui (山水), which is Chinese for landscape, has ties to Taoism philosophy. The two main elements of Chinese landscape paintings are water (山) and mountains (水). They also symbolize yin and yang.

Taoism and ancient Chinese philosophies continue to infuse my abstract art. It also displays traditional art techniques like reserving whitespace and spilled ink.

Western impressionism also influences my new abstract art. I aim to capture a static moment that conveys movement and energy. This painting,Rolling Hills in the Morningcombines both realistic and abstract elements.

How canvas united cloud and mountain

My appreciation for canvas grows with each painting. Broad brushstrokes of gesso prepare the canvas surface for the ink and acrylic paint. It provides an interesting texture. The still visible weave beneath lighter ink tones enhances the misty effect.​

After the gesso dries, I pour black ink into the canvas. Chinese ink creates a dark tone that differs from black acrylic paint. I rarely use black acrylic paint, as black ink is a superior color. The layer of gesso stops it from bleeding into the canvas.

After the ink spills onto the canvas, I follow the flow of paint with my Chinese brush to shape the mountain ranges. The Chinese brushes come in different shapes and sizes. Some taper down to form a point.

Different brushstrokes and different sized brushes produce distinct effects and shades of ink. A dry brush stroked through almost dry ink at a fast speed and with a light pressure makes a misty effect. The vertical brushstrokes also portray other landscape elements such as tree-covered hills.

The second layer contains an orange acrylic paint. Mixed with the black ink, it forms a brown hue. I apply the orange color to represent the light reflecting in the sky. It also bathes the morning hills during the sunrise.

Water is a significant element in Shan Shui (山水). Aside from the use of brushstrokes and color, this painting reserves whitespace.

Reserving whitespace is a traditional Chinese painting technique. It involves setting aside empty space in the painting for solid space. Also known as, “designing the white," I use it to render a scene of a morning mountain in cloud and rolling fog.

On the left side of the painting, beneath the tree-covered ranges, fog flows into the valley. The whitespace also creates softness and distance. The hills flicker in the mist. It has a mysterious and meditative charm.

Morning hills during the sunrise imagined

While the mountain is static, the fog creates energy and movement. Free flowing wavy lines formed with careful brushwork blend white space and layers. It almost appears as if the mountain moves with the cloud.

The painting guides the viewer's gaze with different scenes, features, and linear movement. From left to right, the eye roams along the mountain ranges.

You embark on a journey, traveling along the rolling hills. Below, thick fog stirs in the valley. As you ascend the mountain range, sunlight pierces through the low-lying clouds. Finally, the journey ends at a rocky pinnacle where fog and mist flow around you.

I can imagine gazing at such a scene from the cabin porch in the Smoky Mountains. Where, in the "place of blue smoke" the sunrise hides behind the cloud and mountain.

I aim to portray more than a physical rendering of the morning hills during the sunrise. I also seek to recreate the experience for the viewer with a spiritual abstraction of nature.

By embracing Taoist beliefs of the subjective and the objective, I share my passion for nature.

A morning mountain in cloud is full of surprises

There are other details and shapes in the painting. They invite the reader to linger. Like my other work, one might see fish or birds. There is an unlimited room for imagination.

A broad view of the painting reveals a face on the southern side of the mountains. It has a long forehead. A sunken eye lies between two golden threads of wavy hair, the lower strand curves around to make an ear.

Behind the face, the mountain ranges reveal a rider-less horse. It leaps into the air, tucking its feet under its body. Beneath the horse, the valley fog resembles a bird. An eagle rises up with wings outstretched, a fish grasped in its claws.

On the right side of the painting, a pixie-like creature with large ears and two dark eyes hides in the fog. Above this creature, forged out of the dark ink of the highest mountain range is a rabbit.

I recognize other faces in the fog above the rolling hills, but what stands out most is a long shape that ripples across the sky. A golden dragon with a serpent-like body and long head hides in the mist.

Mysteries of cloud and mountain

Like most of my art, the inspiration for this work came from within. Rather than use paper, I chose canvas for its sophistication. The ideas for my abstract paintings arise from a pool of memories. Yet, this piece takes me back to the Smoky Mountains.

My goal is to share my passion for nature. The landscape contains both realistic and abstract concepts of cloud and mountain. The canvas weave combined with traditional Chinese painting techniques creates a misty effect.

Mysteries hide in mountains blanketed in fog. Rolling Hills in the Morningis a physical and spiritual rendering of a morning mountain in cloud.

Shulin Sun

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