The Breathing Brush

by | Sep 6, 2014 | 6 comments

brush breathe article illustration of sumi-e flowers dark red and purple.
Here I am in front of my students, teaching Sumi-e painting. They are attentively looking at me with their brush in their hands. I explain to them how to hold it, how to feel that brush as part of their body, how to feel the breath down into their belly ( dantian, hara) and how to feel the brush breathing with them… The mind needs more….the mind needs to understand ….how can the brush breathe?
Do we really need to understand this? I only know that if we trust that it does, we together with that breathing brush will create a painting, a statement that has a breath of it’s own.


  1. kathy p

    I agree that somethings we need to understand and others we need to accept. I'm a potter and as I work with my clay I have a vague idea what I want at the end but usually the clay works me and not the other way about. When I paint if I try to control the work it ends up looking tight and formulaic whereas if I let the work take over it is usually a piece that is emotional and full of life.

  2. Lilith Ohan

    Beautiful comment….would love to see your "breathing" pottery…thank you.

  3. MT McClanahan

    Good point Kathy. Never really thought of it, I guess forcing *is* an attempt to control–duh! to me.

    I see letting go of control maybe synonymous with being "in the zone" as they say

    I've often wondered about that–how to get to that place where the work paints itself, as it were. Usually I just work and work and it happens. But I don't think it needs be that I *don't* have the vision of the work before hand. I'm not sure that is the defining factor I mean.

    How can one focus on being in this moment without forcing it? It seems a conundrum.

  4. Lilith Ohan

    I think it is not focusing on being in the moment, as it is a natural state of being, but realizing/noticing what (thoughts, believes) are keeping us away from it and letting them go…Our western mind tends to be obsessed by them and that's what makes it difficult….

  5. Mary Holtz

    As an acupuncturist, we were trained in the same philosophy to bring the Qi up from the Dan Tian and breathe into the hand that holds the needle. Becoming one.
    Thank you

  6. Lilith Ohan

    Ha, ha….. the Breathing needle…. I like it!


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