Western Path to Learning Sumi-e Painting (part 2)

by | Nov 17, 2016 | 0 comments

In my previous post, I addressed the obstacles that those who live in the Western face in learning to paint in Sumi-e style. Before getting into describing the method I teach, I have to share some background information that served as the catalyst for my teaching method.
As I have mentioned before on various occasions, throughout my life and my Western art education, I have searched for the simplicity…. , not for the easiness, but for that essential that runs behind everything we see and experience; The quiet, yet powerful presence that is in everything around us. Without knowing about Sumi-e and Zen for that matter, I used to dream of being able to communicate in my art what I felt with just  a few lines, strokes…. suggestions. Initially, I pursued my dream in my drawings. Through my drawings I discovered what it meant to see without labeling, to draw the experience and only the experience…. to see the subject matter as part of the surrounding; in harmony and one with it….I caught glimpses of Zen ….
It is in these searches that I discovered my late teacher Tomoko Kodama, a visionary lady from Japan who wanted to share/teach the art of creating in Sumi-e style with/to us Westerners. By realizing the cultural differences (some of which I have addressed in my previous post), she developed a unique technique to facilitate Westerners in learning of this profound art form. Later I came to realize that his technique can be beneficial to students with Eastern background as well…. most likely because of the culture’s increasing Westernization.
With her limited English Mrs Kodama taught the technique, showed what worked in our paintings and allowed for those of us who persisted in practice, to understand/experience what Zen art is, without ever mentioning its name. When  I showed her my drawings, I was  honoured by her comments calling them “Sumi-e drawings”.
So in the base of my teaching is her method which has evolved through my practice, insights and deepening of interests in Taoist and Zen Buddhist philosophies. I must say that my Tai Chi practice as well deepened the understanding…… All is a play of movement and stillness…. Always changing
……It looks like I am going to keep you in suspense again, but I thought it would be helpful to understand the background of my method that I will be using in my upcoming online classes. I will be able to go deeper in my next post.


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