Sunday, 21 May 2017

Update On My Online Sumi-e School

It has been a while since my last post, so I thought I should give you an update on where my Sumi-e school stands now and the direction that I am taking it to.

Here are the courses that I have created so farand are now available through my school:

1. Sumi-e Painting of a Rooster Using Its Calligraphy - The free overview course which I created for the Chinese New Year. This short course is, in a nutshell, the way I paint and teach.

2. Sumi-e Painting of Clover Leaf Using Its Calligraphy  I couldn't resist creating another overview course which demonstrates various approaches to painting the clover leaf, using the Chinese/Japanese calligraphy of “luck”.

There are many advantages to my method over what I have seen being taught elsewhere. I have dealt with the topic in many of my blog posts. Through this link you will get a general idea, but feel free to check out my other blog posts to get more insights.

Of course, to be able to paint, one needs to learn the basics. Thus I have started creating courses to teach this method from the beginning.

3. Essentials for Learning  Sumi-e Painting   I have created this as a complete course for beginners, where I give historical, comparative and practical information, introduce the materials and the use of them. The highlight of this course is the demonstration of the control of the brush and the ink, since students often struggle with that.

I find that the meditative aspect is essential to learning sumi-e painting, but very few (if any) instructions are given in most sumi-e classes (as far as I know) - online or otherwise. I address this in this blog post.

4. Meditation With The Brush  is the second beginner's course in my school where I teach the meditative and practical tools for cultivating and accelerating the mind and body unity and developing the focus and presence needed to create in Zen spirit.

I am presently working on a course to teach Chinese/Japanese calligraphy - the structure, rules and applications. It took me a while to decide if I would start teaching calligraphy using the Roman alphabet, as my teacher did, to facilitate the westerner’s learning, but personally, I have always enjoyed the use of oriental calligraphy. After all, this art form is based on it. I will create a chapter showing how the way of writing Chinese/Japanese calligraphy can be applied to the Roman alphabet and how it can be used in sumi-e painting.

I am pondering now as to how far to take the Calligraphy course. There is an art form called Shodo (the art of calligraphy), where the emphasis is on the expression of the character, rather than the detail which demonstrates the energy of the subject it represents. My priority is to teach the application of calligraphy in painting Sumi-e. So maybe I should create a separate course on Shodo alone – please let me know if you would you be interested in this type of course.

There are other aspects that are involved in learning to create vibrant sumi-e paintings. One of them is seeing - yes, actually seeing (with the senses). I think I will be creating a separate course on this....

So what do you want to learn? What do you want to see next?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Essentials For Learning Sumi-e Painting

My online Sumi- e school is alive and active now. My first  and second courses were demonstrations of my painting process.

My method is unique. It is based on my late teacher Tomoko Kodama's method, which was developed to facilitate the western students to paint Sumi-e. As a westerner myself with a Western art education (BFA),  I have modified it further incorporating elements based on my initial Sumi-e learning experiences and observations and comments from my students.

The modern world regardless of the location is becoming more and more westernised. My method is aimed but not limited to people with western upbringing.

Here is a short YouTube video that I created to give an overview of what is covered in the first introductory course.

Besides demonstrating the tools and the materials needed for learning Sumi-e,
this is a very valuable course, as it explains the reasons for the difficulties the western students face in understanding the concepts and the subtle and obvious cultural differences on which this form of art creating is based.

Another important chapter is helping the students to understand and control of the ink and the brush handling; the beginner's first struggles.
On this course, I am and will be building and taking the students further and deeper into the application and mastery of this beautiful and mindful form of art.

My next one, called "Meditation With The Brush" already published,  is teaching the meditative aspects and practices involved. I will be making an overview  YouTube video for it as well

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Sumi-e Painting of Clover Leaf Using "Luck" Calligraphy

In this short Youtube video I am showing my process of Sumi-e painting of four leaf clover, using Chinese/Japanese calligraphic character of “Luck”.

If creating in this style/spirit inspires you, I invite you to visit my website and follow me. I will send you a detailed video with the explanations and directions.


Wednesday, 1 March 2017

How Important is Meditation in Sumi-e Painting?

A modern upbringing, regardless if it is of Western or Eastern origin, is heavily outcome oriented. When we start any endeavour, regardless of what it is, we already envision and strive for a specific product/result. This applies to creating art as well. There are countless art books and lessons, teaching the techniques for achieving a specific goal.

In Sumi-e as in all Zen-inspired arts, there is a dichotomy. In Zen arts, like in any art creation process, intensive practice is required by the artist, but the self, the logical conscious control of the artist, is not encouraged. If the intellect gets involved, then due to the mind's discriminative thinking, the painting becomes nothing more than a watercolour painting. One needs the physical proficiency but must be able to go beyond the confines of the intellect to paint in Sumi-e in Zen style and spirit.

So how does one go beyond the habitual discerning thinking?

Have you noticed how when faced with challenges, one's mind goes super active? One needs to develop the skill, the technique and the practical aspects of painting so that it becomes effortless and thus easier to take the mind out of the process. Next but most importantly, one needs to find a way of going beyond the intellectual self.

Each individual is different in their ability to “disconnect”. It all depends on the individual's familiarity with their own space of mindfulness. Artists tend to call it being “in the zone”. While in the zone, one has a heightened sense of perception and awareness which are the faculties most important for Sumi-e painting.

There are various tools included in my “Breathing Brush” course* which will help you achieve the meditative state. One of them is following the guided meditation provided. Another tool for meditation is grounding the ink; the process of grinding the ink stick on the ink stone with mindfulness. The repetitive stroke creation with the breath and the body are also a means of meditation. With practice, meditation will become intuitive every time one picks up the brush to paint.

The focus or purpose of Sumi-e/Zen painting is not the outcome but the process of creating while in the state of heightened intuition and of sensory awareness. Being in a meditative state is the only way of tapping into one's unrestricted spontaneity and creativity. The painting which is the outcome of this practice is a by-product only. This is something that is hard for the mind to conceive. If one is more mindful and less preoccupied with the depiction, the result (the by-product) will surprise with its vibrancy and its transcendental quality.

*The course will be published very soon. Follow my blog or my website to get notified.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Why Use Calligraphic Strokes For Sumi-e Painting?

Since I published my course “Sumi-e Painting  of a Rooster Using Its Calligraphy” I have been getting quite a few comments and questions about the idea of using the calligraphic language to paint. It is somehow viewed as an unusual way of painting when actually, it is the most proper way of painting Oriental art.

This is what I was talking about in my previous two blog posts. I will explain again from a different angle and maybe it will be better understood.

I am talking here about the old, traditional way of Chinese painting. You see, at that time, the only tool for writing and painting was the brush. They would not write their “letters” but they would paint them, as they were not writing phonetic sounds but they were painting the images of their words. Imagine, this was the only way of expression that they knew. When they were painting their images, they were using that language, the language of calligraphy. This language had a certain flow and order to it and was applied to both writing and painting. Again, that's the only way they knew how to write and paint

Around 500 AD, the Japanese adopted the Chinese Characters, as they didn't have a writing system yet. They had to modify these characters to apply to their own (different) language. These “imported” Chinese characters are called Kanji. The way of writing and painting became theirs as well and it evolved further.

Now it is coming to us, not only to the Westerners but to the Easterners as well. Eastern art more and more is starting to have a Western flavour. One of the reasons is that less and less calligraphy is done with the brush and so the flow is not developed in writing or in painting. Slowly the description takes over the essence of the subject matter, as in Western art. Oriental painting is now taught not as a derivative of calligraphy, but as a series of patterns and shapes to be copied by the student.

My teacher Tomoko Kodama realised this limitation and developed a method to teach Westerners to paint using calligraphy. She started to teach painting by applying the Roman alphabet and slowly introduced the Kanji calligraphy, to be applied in paintings as well.

So coming back to the main issue here: The proper way of painting Sumi-e (Oriental Brush Painting) is by using calligraphic strokes, calligraphic flow and energy.

There are many more advantages to working this way. I will show and explain more in my upcoming classes. You will understand even better when you practice it. We are aiming for the experiential understanding.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

"Sumi-e Painting of a Rooster Using Its Calligraphy" A Free Course

As it is the Chinese New Year of the Rooster as of January 28th, I have put the work on my main course on hold and created a free crash course to give an overview, an idea of the method that I teach and I use in my own paintings.
In this course, I show how to paint /write the Chinese calligraphy of the Rooster and how to apply it in making your own Rooster Sumi-e painting. You will get a taste of a method which facilitates the ability to find your own voice and language of expression, rather than copying patterns and shapes, which unfortunately is the common practice in the teaching of oriental painting.
In the scope of this course, it is of course impossible to cover and learn all the faculties needed to fully apply the method, but I think you will get a taste of it and even come up with your own Rooster painting. Just remember to enjoy the experience….. just play with the brush and lose yourself in the dance of the calligraphic lines.
In my upcoming Sumi-e classes, I will be teaching in detail and depth, the technical, meditative and other aspects involved in Sumi-e painting, using calligraphic principles and strokes.