Thursday, February 23, 2017

My Spirit Book...

I remember Oprah Winfrey (a famous US celebrity, journalist and TV Talk Show personality) doing a segment on her show OPRAH called "Remembering Your Spirit". It was always an inspirational end to her shows with an enlightening reminder to take the time and remember to love oneself and feed one's soul.  This is true for everyone.  In my second career as an artist, I find myself doing a lot of this - for me to really be creative and find my "Joy Spark" in my Art, I need to continually explore what inspires me and what feeds my spirit.

A Spiritual Art Journal

I found this beautiful book when I was in the US last Summer.  I was taking my older son to tour Colleges and we were visiting my alma matter in Philadelphia.  I received my undergraduate degree from Drexel University....  a long time ago. (And we will leave it at that!).

Anyway, lots has changed since I went to college in Philadelphia.  University City (where both the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University are located) has gone through a complete makeover with several new shops and updated stores.  One of them is an Art Supply Store call Plaza Art Materials on Walnut St.  I found a book filled with beautifully textured handmade paper.  It had no idea what I was going to do with it - but it just called out to me.

The Book measures 9" x 12" 

Beautiful texture up close

The paper is handmade

After coming back to Tokyo, I realized I could make a Spiritual Art Journal.  Using photographs I had taken upon my travels in Asia and elsewhere, I have begun to create paintings as part of my Japanese Painting classes.  Each of these paintings is accompanied by an inspirational quote that speaks to me. So far, I have completed 5 paintings.

The first one was more of an experiment - just to see how the paper absorbed the Japanese ink and how the Japanese brush glided onto the paper.

Bamboo is the first stroke we learn
in Japanese Brush Painting

It felt so smooth to paint on this paper! I started going through my travel photographs and collect the ones I wanted to paint.  So, I began...

Kyoto, Japan

I did an art holiday in Kyoto in November 2015.  It was a wonderful getaway with a bunch of other artists who also observe the world around them with color and depth and fascination with lines and painting. We took a tour of the Arashiyama River.  I like to preserve scenes that inspire me to paint with my camera, so I can take them into my studio later and re-create.

Arashiyama River, Kyoto Japan
"Listen to yourself and in that quietude you
might hear the voice of God"  -Maya Angelou

The Golden Pavilion or Kin-Kakuji Temple is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Kyoto, Japan.  They say at sunset, there is the "golden moment" - as the Sun sets it casts a gentle orange light onto the temple.

The Golden Pavilion, Kyoto Japan

"Once a year, go someplace you've never been"
- Dalai Lama

Sapa, Vietnam

One of our family's favorite vacations (although it was hectic) was Vietnam.  We took an overnight sleeper train from HaNoi to Sapa.  It as an old rickety train which must have stopped at 10 different places overnight.  We didn't get any sleep - but once we got to the Northern Vietnam Tonkin Alps countryside - we were in Love. It was one of the most peaceful and lush places I have ever been.

Rice Terraces in Sapa, Vietnam

"Travel makes one modest.  You see what a tiny place you
occupy in the world."  -Gustave Flauber

Niseko, Japan

Our family greatly enjoys skiing/snowboarding.  Last two years, we have been fortunate to go to Niseko in Northern Japan on the island of Hokkaido.  The moisture from the Sea of Japan and the Siberian wind combine to create one of the best and snowy places in the world.  It is an outdoor wonderland.  My husband and I love to ski, while our children love to snowboard.

Green Trails on Hanazono Mountain, Hirafu Japan

"Not all those who wander are lost."  -J.R.R. Tokien
(Yes, I took a bit of liberty on this one to add the mountain in the background)

As I go through the pages of this journal, I realize that I am also "practicing".  I plan to create larger versions of these works for an upcoming exhibition in the next one year.  What better way to celebrate the Artistic Adventures we have been blessed with, than to share them.  

Inspiration comes from many places; and the source is different for everyone.  Being blessed with the opportunity to live in Asia - my family enjoys traveling and experiencing new places.  When I photograph the landscapes, I always find myself in awe of how large the world is - and how much there is to see.

Until my next blog!
Peace. ART. SouL.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Art of the Japanese Brush II - Kakizome 2017

According to Wikipedia: Kakizome (literally "first writing") is a Japanese term for the first calligraphy written at the beginning of a year, traditionally on January 2.

Every year my Japanese painting Senseis (teachers) host an incredible party for all their students.  It is a Kakizome Party held in January at the Tokyo American Club in Tokyo.  You can see the works of both beginning and advanced students on display with beautiful articulations of the "Japanese Brush".

The Kakizome Party held at the Tokyo American Club is sponsored by the Ohta Senseis every Year.

Whenever I look back at my Japanese classes. I have come to realize - that slowly, my Senseis have changed the way they teach me.  Over the last 3 years, they have slowly allowed me to depict compositions from my photographs - which are mostly landscapes from my various adventures in Japan and Asia.  The Kakizome party is unique because my Senseis teach many students who are expatriates in Tokyo and/or from outside Japan.  Thus; the subject matter we choose to paint may be Japanese in tradition - but with an "untraditional" Japanese composition.  

For example. there is one artist who does not like the color Gold - which is a very traditional color used throughout Japanese paintings.  Instead, she highlighted many pieces in various shades of Blue, Grey/Silver and Black.

The Artist found a screen at a local flea market and using
colors of grey and blue to offer renditions of ocean waves
The same artist shows a rendition of Mt. Fuji
in non-traditional colors of grey and blue.

Last year I blogged about this party and the Art of Japanese Brush  The Art of the Japanese Brush... and talked about the various tools of Nihonga and Sumi-E Painting.  

Allow me to speak of why I find this painting medium to be so beautiful. A lot of it - for me - has to do with the pigment used when painting in color.

Traditionally, Nihonga involves painting on Washi (Japanese paper) or silk.  The paintings can either be in monochromatic or polychromatic.  Customarily monochromatic paintings are in black/grey/white and these are called sumi-e paintings.  Sumi is referred to as a Chinese ink made with soot.  Originally, this brush painting technique emigrated from China into Korea and Japan.

Polychromatic Nihonga involves various pigments which are traditionally made from natural ingredients, such as shells, corals, minerals, and semi-precious stones like malachite, azurite and cinnabar.  They are grinded or blended into powders with some sort of hide glue solution to be used as a binder.  Water is also used and hence; Nihonga is a water-based medium like traditional Watercolor.  Still; Nihonga paintings offers vivid palettes and when mixed together - colors can be bright or muted, opaque or transparent.

I asked my Sensei regarding the source of various colors.  While now, synthetic materials may also be added to meet the demand for paints...  here is a listing of the natural ingredient that is still used as a base.

White = Gofun (Japanese name) from Shell (Clam, Oyster, Scallop)
Red = Enji from Safflower or Cochineal insect
Yellow = Yamabuki from Phellodendron amurense and/or Gardenia
Ocher = Oudo from Turmeric and/or Sulfur
Orange = Shu from Turmeric and/or Vermilion
Brown from Iron Oxide
Turquoise = Byakuroku, Light Green (Rokusho) and Dark Green (Aokusa) are both from Malachite (Rust of Bronze)
Blue = Gunjo from Azurite and/or Blue Malachite
Navy = Ai from Indigo Plant
Purple = Murasaki from Amethyst

Initially, practical applications for nihonga were for sliding doors (fusuma) or folding screens (byobu) - highlighting the cultural aspect of Japanese culture for surroundings to be especially aesthetically pleasing. Paintings are also done on hanging scrolls and hand scrolls.  

As part of the Kakizome Party, there was an artist who painted on both sides of doors that would be used in someone's home.

One side of door painted in Black/White Bamboo
Other side of Door depicts a forest scene with the moon.

As an artist, I love to experiment.  I have experimented using Nihonga on untraditional substrates (surfaces), including Watercolor paper and Acrylic grounds, such as fiber paste.  Any substrate or surface that can take on a water-based medium should - in theory - be able to take on Nihonga painting.  And so, here are my "experiments" as shown in the Kakizome party.

The Cherry Blossoms are done on a panel where a foundation of Acrylic fiber paste was laid down to provide a textural background.  The bottom painting is on 300gsm watercolor paper.  Both paintings are inspired by photographs I have taken during Cherry Blossom season and my travels in Kyoto, Japan.

My other contributions to the Kakizome Party used more traditional surfaces.

This is a painting of Mt. Fuji on a traditional Japanese screen on imitation gold leaf
, measuring 172cm wide and 97cm high

The "Four Seasons" are painted on traditional Washi paper and
Applied to panels that are traditionally used as part
of the Japanese tea ceremony (I found these panels at a local flea market).
All 4 panels measure 57cm high and 20cm high.
And still - I will leave you with some of my favorite pieces from other artists...

I loved the detail on this piece - the spirit of the horses suggest grace and power.

Beautifully decorated Bamboo boxes lend a pleasing accent

This blue and fiery orange colors of the Pheonix stand out against the backdrop of Gold.

One of the classes was charged with painting new ceiling tiles for a local temple being restored.

A beautiful temple will have the paintings from these students in its ceiling for posterity.

Until my next blog!
Peace. Art. SouL.

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