Walk into the hallways of the Bedford Public Library, and you may be drawn to images reflecting a traditional Chinese landscape, often with modern ideas about emotion, as well as a sense of place.

Walk into the hallways of the Bedford Public Library, and you may be drawn to images reflecting a traditional Chinese landscape, often with modern ideas about emotion, as well as a sense of place.


In “Blue Mood,” artist Corra Puci conveys a sense of reflection matched with the beauty of nature.


“Waiting,” by Dee Birch, is both soft and stark, evoking – at least for one viewer -- Ezra Pound’s elegant, two-line poem, “In A Station on The Metro,” which ends: “Petals on a wet, black bough.”


“Lotus Branch,” by Eleanor Tung, captures a signature Chinese image, as if passed through generations and made fresh by a deft hand.


All the images are in the medium of Chinese brush painting -- a centuries-old tradition that keeps finding new followers.


But, although a painting in this style might take only a few minutes, becoming a true master can take a lifetime.


The works of lovers of Chinese brush art – members of the Chinese Painting Guild – are on view in “Spirit of The East,” an exhibit at the Bedford Public Library.


The guild includes students from all walks of life and backgrounds with a common passion for Chinese painting.


“With Chinese brush painting, we use the same materials and inks as in Chinese calligraphy,” said the students’ Waltham-based teacher, Ma Qingxiong. “We don’t say we are painting the painting. We say we are ‘writing’ the painting.’ We use the same brush strokes as in calligraphy.”


Ma said learning how to paint in this style is “much like kung fu – you reach certain levels. The more experienced you are, the finer the strokes. That’s why a lot of the best painters are older. They have been this a long time.”


The art itself is more than 1,000 years old. In early times, the paintings were often on silk; nowadays, they are most commonly done on absorbent rice paper.


‘A thing of the heart’


The guild has drawn members of many ethnic and national backgrounds with a common love of Chinese art and culture, said Judith Funkhouser, co-founder of the guild with the late Virginia Nason.


Many of the members have studied with Ma over the years. “I would say that it is a diverse group. Some are trained artists and some art just starting now. Some have roots in Taiwan, or mainland China, and have grown up in that, but even they didn’t take any classes in Chinese paintings until they came here.”


The guild has about 70 members altogether, with an active core group of about 40.


Members hail from many Boston area communities, including Bedford, Concord, Lexington, Acton, Wellesley, and Newton.


Funkhouser said, “I have been passionate about Chinese culture. It is not just the country or tradition, but the civilization. I grew up in Concord, so I am influenced by Emerson and Thoreau, and they were very eastern in their thinking.”


Funkhouser, who studied art at Rhode Island School of Design, said the teaching philosophy there was “very similar to the eastern method. They let you find a problem, and find a solution. There is guidance, and that is what early teachers in China would do.”


Other impressions are harder to describe in words.


Funkhouser said, “It is more a thing of the soul – a thing of the heart.”


Asked what he hopes viewers will see in the Bedford library exhibit, Ma said, “We hope people will see the world of color. They may be used to seeing oil paintings on canvas or another medium, so hopefully an audience will see the difference.”


“Spirit of the East” is on view at the Bedford Public Library, 7 Mudge Way, Bedford, through Sept. 15. Free. For more information, call 781-275-9440 or visit www.bedfordlibrary.net.


Margaret Smith is Arts and Calendar editor at GateHouse Media New England's Northwest Unit. E-mail her at msmith@cnc.com.