Chinese Inner Painting Inspired by “The Wolverine”

Wolvering Chinese inner painting
Wolverine Chinese inner painting

Whether you enjoyed this summer’s X-Men  spin-off/sequel The Wolverine or not, you have to admit the poster campaign featuring Japanese-style brush painting was pretty impressive. It certainly gained its share of attention.

This brush stroke method is similar in both Chinese and Japanese art. I’ve been inspired to incorporate this technique into some easy Chinese inner painting projects. Chinese inner painting, néihua, is the practice of painting a glass vessel from the inside and is most often associated with small glass decorative snuff bottles. The incredibly intricate and practiced skill requires specialized brushes, years of practice, and some very, very, steady hands for the accomplished artisan in this discipline.

Fortunately, GeekMoms replicating this method at home only need a little patience and the ability to “trace.”

materialsWhat You Need:
Wide-mouthed glass containers (you’ll want to use jars, glasses, or vases that allow you to fit your hand inside)
Craft paint (acrylic works well)
Paint brushes and toothpicks
Print-outs or cut-outs of desired images

Step One: Find a design. This one’s easy enough. Peruse your favorite movie, fan page, or art site for an image you like. In addition to the Wolverine images I used, I found a great Chinese brushstroke style image of Ridley Scott’s Aliens creatures. You don’t have to get as geeky as me; if you would rather practice with a simpler bamboo or floral design, there are plenty out there. Print the images out in a size that fits the surface of the vessel you want paint. The images don’t have to be high quality, just clear enough to use as a template.

Step Two: Lightly tape your chosen image around the outside of the container. Keep in mind this image will appear reversed when seen from the outside of the vase; if you don’t want that to happen, make sure you “horizontally flip” your image before printing it out.

Step Three: Using a paintbrush (or toothpick for finer lines), trace over the image to replicate it. Black paint works best for the most authentic appearance. Don’t worry about being perfect; it is okay for this image to appear a little rough. Making it look like a brushed-on image is the whole point in brush stroke painting, after all. If you’re working with beginners or younger artists, you can use an easier method. Tape the image on the inside of the container, facing out and paint the design on the outside of the glass. This is more a faux inner painting method, but will still create a cool look once the project is finished. Place design in container

The "easy" painting method (left) and the true "inner painting" (right).
The “easy” painting method (left) and the true “inner painting” (right).

inside layerStep Four: Once you’ve let the paint dry completely, coat the entire inside of the container with a layer of white or light-colored paint. If this layer seems a little thin, paint another coat or two. (This step is the same for both the easier and harder method of this craft.) If you’d like, you can paint the inside with a layer of decoupage glue or other clear sealant for extra protection. I would not recommend filling your painted container with any water. Dried or fake plants, work best if you want to fill it with something.

These not only make really cool showpieces, they make some striking votive candle holders. Even Logan would be impressed.

Lisa Kay Tate is a veteran feature writer with 20 years experience in newspaper, magazine and freelance writing. In addition to serving as Associate Editor for her local arts and entertainment guide, El Paso Scene, she has been a regular contributor to the site ihogeek.com and maintains her own blogsite at lisathegeekmom.wordpress.com. She and her husband, writer/photographer Rick, live on the edge of "New Texico" where they keep busy raising their two geeklings and sharing space with their dog, Sirius Black, and cat, Loki.