Plain Line Drawing
Plain line drawing is one of the traditional Chinese styles of artistic presentation. It features the contours of images sketched in black ink lines. This style of painting is mostly used in painting human figures and flowers. Although not much ink is applied, this technique can achieve a very lively effect. Plain line drawing originated from the plain drawing of earlier times; through variations in lines’ length, thickness, pressure, and changes in trajectory, the artist can portray the texture and motion of images. Plain line drawing was prevalent from the Jin Dynasty through the Tang Dynasty. During the Song Dynasty, it formed a distinctive style of its own. Gu Kaizhi of the Jin Dynasty, Li Gonglin of the Northern Song Dynasty, and Zhao Mengfu of the Yuan Dynasty specialized in painting lines of perfectly even width like iron wire, while Wu Daozi of the Tang Dynasty and Ma Hezhi of the Southern Song Dynasty were renowned for their skill in drawing thick, wavy lines resembling orchid leaves. Plain drawing is also a very important style of expression in narrative literature. In this context it refers to a simple and concise style of writing, without embellishment, so as to produce fresh, lively images. In classic novels such as Outlaws of the Marsh or Romance of the Three Kingdoms, one finds abundant instances of a plain drawing style of writing.
Paintings drawn with plain lines are prone to being overly fine or weak, often lacking a soaring spirit and vigor despite a feminine beauty. But today, after admiring this particular painting, I have found its strokes to be vigorous like bent wire. (When it comes to vigorous brushwork,) Yan Liben of the Tang Dynasty, Li Gonglin of the Northern Song Dynasty, and Zhao Mengfu of the Yuan Dynasty were truly a Great Triad. (Wang Zhideng: Postscript to Korimaro Preaches a Sermon)