Students find serenity through Chinese Watercolor


Isabelle King

Lia Bonet, junior, and Gianna Cruz, sophomore, painting in their Chinese watercolor class.

Stella Hall and Isabelle King, Contributors

Chinese watercolor may hold a key to relaxation during the pandemic.


Because the focus and precision of the art form is a type of meditation, said Ms. Paula Lin, Upper School Mandarin teacher.

“Art and working with watercolor is calming and makes me feel more relaxed,” said sophomore Shadé Ayoade.

Students in Ms. Lin’s “Inner Peace Through Chinese Watercolor” class entered room 310 to hear relaxing music playing as they began to set up their painting materials. They pulled out their brushes, mixed their ink, and followed the brush stroke instructions in their painting packets. 

“You have to practice your breathing as you pull the stroke through the paper, and by doing that it’s like meditation,” Ms. Lin said.

She said the reason she started this course was to create serenity during the pandemic. 

“I feel like throughout the pandemic, we’re always rushing to do something,” she said. “This is good practice to be present and intentional.” 

Freshman Andrés Bustos agreed.

“I don’t really have to think about anything other than what I’m doing, I can just paint,” said Bustos, while creating shades of color on rice paper. “It helps me just clear my mind.”

Lian Quan Zhen, an author and artist who specializes in Chinese watercolor, has described the art form as a low-pressure activity where the journey is as significant as the destination.

In his book, “Chinese Landscape Painting Techniques for Watercolor,” Zhen said Chinese watercolor gives him “freedom” and the ability to trust his instincts while painting. 

Sophomore Lauren Shu reflected on her watercolor journey. 

“Not everything is a mess up, it’s a learning experience,” Shu said. 

Chinese watercolor and calligraphy can also help with focus. 

Ms. Lin said when her students want to get everything on the paper, they have to block out their surroundings. 

“When I start painting, I just block everything out,” said sophomore Kate Mitchell. 

Shu said that she has to focus on perseverance. 

“I’ve learned I have to be patient with myself and when things don’t go my way I have to keep trying,” she said.