Alice Yoo in My Modern Met:
“In painting and calligraphy, the first stroke is the most important. It comes from nothing and manifests something.” San Francisco-born artist Karl Martens creates beautiful paintings of birds using materials not often paired together – Japanese and Chinese calligraphy brushes with watercolor. What's most fascinating is that he paints all of his works by memory, without reference to any guide. What you'll notice first are the sweeping brushstrokes and then you'll see all the fine details. While he uses large Japanese and Chinese calligraphy brushes to create the general shape and posture of the birds, the intricate markings of them are done using charcoal pencil and smaller calligraphy brushes. Martens studied birds for so long that he knows how to paint both the large and subtle differences including the birds' beaks.
Martens is inspired by Shih-t’ao (1642-1707), one of the most famous Chinese painters in the early Qing dynasty. He was considered revolutionary during that time because he didn't believe in imitating old masters, while he respected them, he forged his own path. He valued innovation, and as such, he used bold, impressionistic brushstrokes and he left white space to suggest distance. Above all, Shih-t’ao believed that the artist must trust his or her own ability. He coined the term Holistic Brushstroke, which means that one could create something out of nothing. As Martens describes it, “Optimally, it contains no planned thought. It emanates from 'emptiness.'”
More here. [Thanks to Frans de Waal.]