Meanings of Liu Guan Lue Yin

My artist book, The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, is one step closer to be published and in the midst of the pre-press activities for the center section of the book. Interestingly, while in the mode of making some very detailed commercial printing decisions, such as do we want to use a PMS color for the gray or screen the black, I found myself thinking more about the concept and implications of the book’s title. As I had very briefly stated in an earlier article, the book’s title is an adaption of the Chinese Mandarin saying Liu Guan Lue Yin, directly translated into the four words Flow Light Brush Shadow. Okay, that and a whole lot more.

While discussing this saying with others who speak Mandarin, I have come to find out that there really are multiple versions of how one might say Flow Light Brush Shadow, so I was interested in the underlying Chinese meaning, alternative words and how that might inform this project. Such that for Flow, the Mandarin Liu nails it as something that has movement. Brush for Lue is about a slight contact that impacts something softly. For Shadow, the use of Yin, or maybe Ying, is excellent, those things which have a shadow, such as negativity, chaos and interestingly, a word for anxiety. Growing up I had heard the term Yin-Yang, Shadow-Light, to represent the symbols of two intertwined colors for balance and harmony. There are a lot of ways to express Light and so Guan might not be the only choice, nevertheless it does work, as not only the light from a lamp or sun, but can also mean illumination, awareness and knowledge.

As to the title’s implications for the book’s cover design is the use of a gray background, representing Yin, about the underlying darkness and shadow. Since the ‘light is brushing’ this gray shadow, it made sense the text would not dominate but lay on top of the gray background, and one of the translations for Guan is sunlight; thus the choice of a yellow color for the text makes perfect sense. The outer layer of translucent vellum adds to the effect of Lue, bushing, since the vellum will flex with holding, the text will go in and out of sharpness depending on how much the vellum contacts the inner printed cover. That the ‘white’ vellum also appears gray, especially in close contact to the inside printed covers, is another aspect of Yin that is incorporated into the cover design. The dynamics of the vellum and inner cover interaction can be closely related to the constant battle for balance; something that is not a static condition, that achieving harmony is a constant pursuit with its inherent emotional ups and downs. The subtle of a book’s cover design, eh?

Related to my project, the statement Liu Guan Lue Yin ((four different translated words: Movement Awareness Impact Anxiety), can thus represent my underlying concept of investigating a movement towards awareness of how I am impacted by the shadow of anxiety.

Which I think is a very nice summary of this book’s narrative.

Nevertheless, I really like the ambiguity of the phrase The Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow for my book’s title. Which in China is a way to explain photography; about what results when a camera will allow the light of a subject to briefly contact the film (negative). I enjoy this multiple layering of meaning, especially since this is a lens-based project.

Cheers & make every day an Earth Day


P.S. While I was working in China, I had Liu Guan Lue Yin carved onto a stone to create a stamp, or chop, that I could use with Chinese red ink to mark things, such as documents, prints or even a book. To incorporate that aspect of using the stamp on these books is still something I am thinking about…but then that might need more explaining in the book. Hmmmm…


Pre-publication SaleThe Flow of Light Brushes the Shadow, an artist book from Singular Images Press, the artist book is $50.00 USD (regularly $60.00) & the Artist Special Edition (book + print) $100.00 USD (regularly $125.00), plus CA taxes for US sales and shipping. This special price ends in July. Message me ( or singularimagespress@gmail for shipping details and PayPal invoice.

Call for artwork:

SouthEast Center of Photography (SEC4P) open call for the exhibition The Green Environment, being juried by Douglas Stockdale. Submissions are now open and Submissions Close 7/31/22. For more information about the exhibition, here.

Book workshop:

Southeast Center for Photography (SEC4P): Creative PhotoBook workshop (Sold Out), a virtual event on Zoom; November 5 & 6 and 12 & 13, 2022, 10am – 1pm, EST (3 hour session each day, with a week between the weekend sessions to work your book-dummy). Wait list available for sign-up.


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