Learning To Paint Sumi-e

 As I have explained in my previous two posts, we Westerners need to develop few skills that Eastern artists have in them traditionally. To understand this post better, I would recommend you to read them prior to reading this.
If you haven’t read them already the links are below:
Here are the three essential abilities one needs to develop in learning to paint in Sumi-e style:
1. The use of the brush. Unlike the Western brushes, the traditional Chinese brushes are shaped differently and unlike the Western handling, are held vertically to the paper and the wrist is not involved in creating the image….

2. The use of the calligraphic strokes for painting. In the East, the strokes in calligraphic writing and painting are similar. The painting and especially of the four familiar motives: cherry blossom, orchid, bamboo, and chrysanthemum (traditionally called the “Four Gentlemen”), contain the strokes, the flow, the execution and the principals of calligraphic writing.

3. The rhythm which in the East gets learned and developed from the childhood with the use of the brush, calligraphy and by a repetitive painting of traditional motives and copying the masters.

To develop the sense of the rhythm; the flow of Oriental painting, my late Sumi-e teacher Tomoko Kodama introduced a particular breathing pattern into the painting process. She also taught initially the Oriental calligraphic principles by applying them to the Roman alphabet…
I apply many of her teachings in my classes.
I pay particular attention to helping the students to find, feel and connect to the belly (Hara, Japanese, Dantian in Chinese), as it is the seat of the vital energy and intuition.
I teach to paint living (breathing) calligraphic strokes and how to apply them in paintings or in the art of Japanese calligraphy; “Shodo”.
Sumi-e is an art form where our aim is not to show the detail of the subject matter but to show the essence, the spirit of it. I help the student to see… to see the subject matter as if seen for the first time. I have addressed this in one of my older blog posts Seeing With the Senses  I guide the student to learn to take the self/the intellectual mind out of the way to be able to create intuitively.
All those acquired technical and most importantly experiential skills and understandings will help not only to create dynamic traditional Oriental paintings but also to apply to any other form of artistic creation. I think I will address that in my next post.
You must have questions after having read this. Please post them. I will make sure to answer them and/or demonstrate in my classes.
Well… back to work… Indeed a great challenge, but very enjoyable. And please follow my blog for updates.

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