Inner Painting: Inside Painted Snuff Bottles with Dexterous "Fingers"

Inner Painting: Inside Painted Snuff Bottles with Dexterous \"Fingers\"
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inside bottle painting
Chinese disabled artist Master Yang is creating inside snuff bottle painting at an exhibition prior to 2010 Shanghai World Expo

 

Guoying Yang, born in 1964 in Hebei Province of China, has no hands and lost his left eye. He’s a researcher with the Inside Painting Research Society of Hebei Province, who was once received by President of Singapore in 1992 when he was performing the inside bottle painting, or inner-paintings, there paintings completed inside the snuff-bottles.

 

At the tender age of two, he had his left eye excised to save his life when a malignant tumor developed.  At age 16, he received an even heavier blow. He had no money to buy crackers to play with during the Spring Festival so he turned to the self-made explosive which ended up blowing off his hands. He was inconsolable then and denied himself food, determined to die. At that time, he thought he could still exist on degradation with one eye lost but losing two hands was tantamount to having his livelihood cut off.

 

Fortunately, he survived the worst of those tough days, by gradually learning to eat, get dressed, carry water and even to push a cart, hoe the field and graze the sheep.

 

How to Do Inside Painted Snuff Bottles?
— Endeavored to learn painting, pus dripping down from his remaining arms

 

After the survival, Yang began to get restless with his situation and was thinking to find a way out to live even better. He then thought of his childhood fellow Zengqi Zhang and his three brothers who were all artists of inner-bottle painting of Hebei school/style. Mr. Zhang offered him the brush, ink, paint and the newly-polished snuff-bottles and encouraged him to give it a shot.

 

Painting inside the snuff bottles requires the reversed way of wielding the brush, which is extremely uneasy for the able-bodied, not to mention a disabled man without his left eye and hands. At the time, many thought Yang couldn’t make it and some even said: if he could make it, anybody could.

 

inside painted snuff bottles

 

Yang didn’t take their words and kept practicing painting with the brush between his arms. He had no writing-desk then he painted on the dinner-table. When it’s dim in the room he would move on to the sill of the window to paint. The hot was tolerable in summer but the winter was just hard to bear. The winter coat could resist the cold but it would cover his short remaining arms so that he couldn’t paint. So he could only drape the coat over his shoulders to paint. The end of his remaining arms was often red and swollen from the cold, with pus dripping down.
 

inner painting inside painted snuff bottles

 

"Inside Painted" Snuff Bottles

Inner painting also known as inner drawing or inside painted, is a Chinese art form. It involves glass bottles which have pictures and often calligraphy painted on the inside surface of the glass. The bottles are produced by manipulating a specialized paint brush through the neck of the bottle.

 

Without doubt, the class of bottle that arouses most interest in the non-collector is that known as inside painted. These are glass bottles which have pictures and often calligraphy painted on the inside surface of the glass.

 

These delightful scenes are only an inch or two high and are painted while manipulating the brush through the neck of the bottle maybe only a quarter inch across, and also painted in reverse. Ursula Bourne, in her treatise on snuff, suggests that artisans painted on their backs to make it easier to work through the narrow opening. It has been said that a skilled artist may complete a simple bottle in a week while something special may take a month or more and that the best craftsmen will produce only a few bottles in a year.

 

The earliest inside painted bottles are thought to have been made in the period between 1820 and 1830 as, by then, the beauty of a snuff bottle was probably more important than utilitarian considerations—-and considering this—few would have been used for holding snuff. Inside painted bottles are still made today—expensively for collectors and inexpensively as souvenirs.

 

Like other types of snuff bottle, the range of subject matter used on inside painted bottles is without limit. There are scenes, fish, birds, poems, even portraits. They are testament to the skill and inventiveness of Chinese craftsmen.
 



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