How Can I Learn Oriental Leather Brush Art?

Updated July 20, 2017

Also called name painting, leather brush art originally came from China and Korea. Calligraphers use this method to write a person's name in painted colours. Each character or letter of the name is made to look like an animal or other festive symbol. The calligrapher pushes each colour of paint around using a special brush with a leather tip. The brush acts like a squeegee, manipulating the paint by smearing it in a controlled manner.

Observe a master. Find a local practitioner of this art if you can. Sometimes community centres or schools offer classes in leather brush art. However, this art is not widely known so finding a local artist may be impossible. If this is the case, try online lessons and video tutorials instead.

Look for books at the library. Many libraries have an arts and crafts section, and they may have how-to books on this subject. Even if they do not, you can likely get books on the subject through interlibrary loan. In the meantime, use ordinary calligraphy books as a guide. The principle behind leather brush art is very similar to that of Western calligraphy in that the artist varies the width of their lines by tilting a straight edge that applies the pigment to the page.

Purchase supplies, or make your own. Because leather brush art is not well known, you may have some difficulty finding a good source for leather brushes. However, you can make your own by retrofitting an ordinary brush with a chisel-shaped piece of leather rather than bristles.

Practice a little bit each day. As with any art, the key to learning and improving largely comes from continual practice. Traditionally, leather brush art is done on rice paper, but you can practice on ordinary printer paper as well. You can also create multicoloured lines by applying two colours to the end of your brush rather than just one. Doing this can lead to a variety of different effects. Play around with this method in order to create your own.

Things You'll Need

  • Library card
  • Leather brush
  • Colourful paints
  • Paper
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About the Author

Jennifer Meyer received her B.A. in anthropology, specializing in archeology, in 2004 from Beloit College. She then earned her master's degree in museum studies at Indiana University in 2007 after being awarded a university fellowship. She started writing in 2005, contributing podcast scripts, procedural guides and exhibit copy to museums in the Indianapolis metro area.