Mountain Rain Echos Like Song by Karla Van Vliet

Karla Van Vliet


Chinese Brush Painting

Bristol VT

After attending Bennington College, Karla Van Vliet finished her BA at Goddard College in Plainfield. Karla received her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College in Montpelier. She has published poems in Painted Bride Quarterly, Poet Lore, The Dry Creek Review, and Many Mountains Moving, among other journals. She has begun to show her brush paintings over the last two years at local Vermont galleries.


Karla came to Chinese Brush Painting after becoming fascinated with the often poetic layering of images which make up Kanji characters. After some study of Chinese Calligraphy, Karla began Brush Painting. This brought together an early love of painting and her poetry in a way that felt natural and spiritually regenerative. What Karla loves about Brush Painting is within the precise rules which have governed the medium for centuries there is the space for accident and spontaneity which gives life to the painting.


As a seventh generation Vermonter, the Vermont landscape is in Karla’s blood. This has strongly influenced the subject matter of her brush paintings. Landscapes are a traditional subject for Brush Painting and show off the unique qualities of the ink as it reacts to rice paper.


Karla’s Chinese signature is taken from the meaning of her own name.  Karla's Kanji signature: symbols for river, woman, oath stands for river, woman, oath. Karla picked Kanji characters based on their full meanings. This character for woman Kanji symbol for woman, earthalso means earth, and the character Karla chose for oath Kanji symbol for oathhas the characters of sun and moon within it. Karla’s red seal is a carving of these three characters. The seal is important; a painting is not finished without its imprint. A person’s seal in China is the same as a signature and is legally binding.


Here is a poem that she wrote in Kanji and translated into English:


Poem written in Kanji symbols, translated in text below.


Mountain rain echoes like song

awakens evening, loves longing.

To name the heart: trust it, rest in it.


Karla lives in Bristol, the town where she grew up and within the landscape that so influences her painting. Her work was Featured at Art on Main in July, 2004 To learn more about Karla, visit her web site at


A Note on Chinese Brush Painting



Many styles of Chinese brush painting were developed over the last 3000 years. The “free style” Karla uses possesses three distinctive qualities: simplicity, spontaneity, and balance. The painting stives to capture the inner spirit of the subject.


û      Traditional Chinese ink, made of soot and glue, is applied to rice paper. Rice paper has a unique interaction with the ink and holds each brush stroke. There is no covering up mistakes.

û      Calligraphy is often added to paintings. Bits of poems and phrases can enhance and balance the painting as a whole. The painter often signs their name in traditional or cursive calligraphy.

û      A painting is not considered finished until the painter’s red seal has been applied.

û      After the painting has been completed, the painting must be mounted. The mounting process involves soaking the painting with water, applying a rice glue (made from rice flour), and placing a second sheet of rice paper to the back of the painting. When the adhesion has been completed, the wet painting is glued to a board and allowed to dry. As the painting dries, it is stretched flat.

û      At this point, the painting is ready for framing.