The idea is the thing. Bruce Iverson’s Hsieh-i brush paintings capture the essence of the object, be it bamboo, orchid or chrysanthemum. Paintings are not done from set-ups, but by observing nature and then expressing the “ch’i” with simple, yet controlled brush strokes that can take years to master. Iverson works in limited colors or just black ink, quoting an ancient saying, “If you have shades of gray, you have all the colors.”
Traditionally, a painting session starts with practice in calligraphy, the ancient Chinese writing form that depicts words with pictures. The ink stick is “ground” on the slate stone. Iverson explains that the time it takes to prepare the ink and lay out tools sets one into a meditative state of mind. It is like yoga or Tai ch’i, “you can’t think of anything else while you are doing it.”
The Portsmouth artist first happened upon the ancient tradition while stationed in San Diego 35 years ago. A chance encounter with a master brush painter in a continuing ed class gave him a life direction that complemented his biology degree. He found resonance in the tools, the technique and the philosophy of the Eastern art form.
Iverson enjoys teaching beginners, even people without traditional drawing skills, because “so much of the person comes out in the painting” — no one’s bamboo ever looks the same.
He teaches at his Portsmouth studio, the Coolidge Center for the Arts at the Wentworth Coolidge Museum and regional workshops. His artwork ($225 to $1,600) is on view at Chi’lin Asian Arts and Antiques in Meredith and through the fall at the Portsmouth Seacoast Growers Association Farmers Market on Saturdays.
— Susan LaughlinBruce Iverson
Welcoming Pines Studio
Portsmouth, (603) 433-8484
This article appears in the March 2010 issue of New Hampshire Magazine