Meet the tutor: Paul Maslowski

We caught up with Paul to find out about his art and what is in his Attenborough Arts at Home kit.

Tell us about you.

How and why did you become an artist?

I have always loved art but at school we were placed in maths & science streams or music & arts streams. I was good at maths so ended up in that stream despite wanting to study on both sides of the curriculum. It was virtually impossible to cross over. Once I left school it took a long time to return to doing art seriously. However, I persevered and eventually found Chinese Brush Painting. I can say without hesitation that something in me was driving me toward it and I needed it. With regard to the term ‘artist’, this is something that oriental arts take very seriously and it is a daily challenge that I work toward as diligently as I can…

What is the artform that you teach? And what drew you to it?

Chinese Brush Painting. I have always been interested in the arts of the orient and to start with I believed it was Japanese art that drew me. However, when I saw a Chinese Calligraphy Master practising his Calligraphy I knew without hesitation that this was what I was seeking. There was something in his movement that drew me and I had to do it! I still enjoy the study of Japanese, Korean and other Asian art forms but it is China from which a lot of the forms developed and this country that draws me particularly. It is also worth noting that I met my wife through a shared interest in Chinese Brush Painting and we set up Double Happiness Studio Market Harborough.

How long have you been practicing Chinese Brush Painting?

Practising for 25 years, Teaching for 19 years

Where did you learn about Chinese Brush Painting?

My formative training was in this country. I met a Taiwanese artist studying for his PhD and asked him to teach me. He refused as I knew nothing about Chinese Calligraphy and the thought behind it. However, I was not to be put off and he eventually relented provided I was to study Chinese Calligraphy with him. This I readily agreed to and so we began in earnest. I had hoped that he would teach me painting but he continued to refuse until I had learnt enough to be able to understand how to form a painting. This was an intense period of about 18 months where he taught very traditionally (and I refused to give in – it was tough). After this I had obviously done enough for him to start teaching me traditional painting techniques which I did for the next 2 – 3 years. After this he returned to Taiwan and he recommended other teachers who added more to my toolkit. Following some further years of study I travelled to China and studied there. Then came travels to Taiwan and quite a few years of serious study and exhibitions. I continue to train whenever I get the opportunity to study with other artists. However, I now take the chance to share this amazing art form whenever I get the chance.

Do you have any artists or role models that have inspired or influenced you in your artistic journey?

Far too many to mention from all traditions including western artists! However, I think it pertinent to say that I am often drawn back to the great Song Dynasty masters because a lot of these artists worked so phenomenally hard and advanced the art form to levels that are, in some cases, unsurpassed in over a thousand years. The level of technique reached is fascinating and all there for the drinking in. Rather than putting me off, it gives me something sublime to work toward while adding my own twist. It is worth noting that some of the monumental works of the period are complex to say the least. So, when I want a break from this I love looking at more contemporary Chinese art. Qi Baishi is an artist who my wife and I have always enjoyed because of his ability to break the rules in beautiful ways. His work is often described as free which leads to finding the essence, or spirit, of a subject – his work often looks simple but is more complex than one first sees…

Is there anything in particular that you or your work are inspired by?

I have always loved music and poetry. However, it is always the power of nature that can readily overpower me. I have always enjoyed the mountains and the people and wildlife around these amazing places wherever I have been in the world.

Tell us something interesting about yourself

I once performed my own poetry during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with friends, which was a fantastic experience. The bit I will always remember was the backhanded comment from an audience member who came up to me afterwards to shake my hand. He asked me where I was from. When I said Leicestershire he said that he had really enjoyed my poetry and it must be so good because there can’t be much to do in Leicestershire of an evening…

Do you have any interests or hobbies outside of your art that demands your attention?

There is never enough time to paint. However, my wife and I enjoy long distance walking which is both a chance to breathe the air as well as be inspired by a changing landscape. I also practice Tai Chi whenever I get the chance.

What is your most prized piece of work, the one that you are most proud of?

It’s funny but years ago this would have been easier to answer. Now, it’s often about who I am with. I love it when paintings refuse to be constrained and take their own route and tell a story that needs to be told. Sometimes, they aren’t mine. A student who surpasses their own expectations because I have been a good guide today means so much. Having said that there is one painting series ‘Buddha Heart Mountain’ - that I am particularly proud of as it led me back to Taiwan. At the launch of the exhibition this was projected on to the Tai Chung Art Center as well as put on a car!

Tell us about your kit.

What will you be teaching in your tutorial video?

Chinese Brush Painting. I have always been interested in the arts of the orient and to start with I believed it was Japanese art that drew me. However, when I saw a Chinese Calligraphy Master practising his Calligraphy I knew without hesitation that this was what I was seeking. There was something in his movement that drew me and I had to do it! I still enjoy the study of Japanese, Korean and other Asian art forms but it is China from which a lot of the forms developed and this country that draws me particularly. It is also worth noting that I met my wife through a shared interest in Chinese Brush Painting and we set up Double Happiness Studio Market Harborough.

I am teaching an introduction to Chinese Brush Painting with a nod to classical subjects such as the Chinese Orchid, the Carp and the Huangshan (Yellow Mountains).

How did you come to get involved with Attenborough Arts Centre?

I have enjoyed the Attenborough Arts Centre since it opened, not least of all for its café. I have enjoyed interesting exhibitions as well as taught classes along with fabulous performances. Some years ago, I started exploring if I could give something back by teaching in the inspiring Botanic Gardens which I have now for some years. I have run a Summer School for AA for quite a few years, which is great fun.

What is in your creative kit that students receive as part of your course?

The must haves which are the 4 Treasures of the Artists Studio. These are Chinese brushes and paper along with an ink stick and an ink stone on which to grind the ink. There are a couple of types of paper to highlight the differences in Chinese papers as well as a couple of brushes which give different effects. As an added bonus, there is a brush rest shaped in the manner of the character for Mountain (Shan).

Are there any pre-requisite materials students will need or need to purchase separately?

There are always other items that can be garnered but this is everything to get the budding Chinese brush artist started and hopefully hooked on this fascinating art form. The only thing that would be needed is some newspaper or material such as felt on which to lay the paper so that the ink does not go through to a hard surface below.

Are there plans for more in the future i.e. for exhibiting your work somewhere?

I hope that this will be possible along with exhibitions in due course. To see examples of our artwork please visit our website at: https://doublehappinessmh.com

Is it possible to buy your art, if so, where?

With current restrictions it is difficult but please watch the website… Thank you.