The Chinese character for “fan” 扇 (shàn) depicts a door with feathers. In fact, early forms of the Chinese fan were large, long handled devices made of plant leaves, tough silk, or feathers and attached to carriages for weather protection or decoration. It was not until the Zhou Dynasty that the rigid hand-held fan was used for cooling people. During the Song Dynasty, fans became fashionable and took many shapes—round or moon-shaped, oval, square, hexagonal, and blossom-shaped. While writing or painting on fans was done as early as the Han Dynasty, it was during the Song Dynasty that painting on silk or decorative paper fans rose to an independent art form. Considered treasured works of art, fan paintings were often mounted and displayed as album leaves.
Inspired by an exhibit of fan paintings on a recent trip to China, Ning brought back some wonderful fan-shaped paper. White flowers, such as this magnolia, are magnificent on the paper’s antique-toned finish, which looks and feels like silk and is a breeze to paint on. Similar in form to the lotus, the magnolia is shaped like a cup and saucer with a bright torch at the center. Part 1 demonstrates the formation of the outside surface of the cup petals and the center torch. Part 2 demonstrates the inside of the cup and the saucer or perimeter petals. Part 3 completes the composition with a bud and impressive leaves. Refer to the attached handout for materials, diagrams, color preparation, and steps.