Friday, November 19, 2010

Kids: Sumi For A Sunny Sunday

Beware the sumi-e dragons! Via.

There is an ancient story that a monk was working on a sumi-e painting of dragons. When he finished his painting, he went to the head monk to seek his approval. The head monk was very pleased with the young artist’s work but asked why there were no pupils in the dragons' eyes. The young artist shyly looked down and expressed that if he added pupils he feared the dragons would come alive. The head monk scoffed and asked him to put pupils in the dragons' eyes to prove he was wrong. The young monk walked over, lightly dipped his brush in the ink and placed the pupils in the two dragons' eyes. Once he finished and moved away from the paper, the two dragons blinked their eyes, slowly rose out of the paper and with one swift movement flew away. The head monk looked on astonished and then understood why the young monk was reluctant of placing the pupils in the dragon’s eyes. He did not just draw dragons but he captured their essence.

In Composition Arthur Wesley Dow describes the nature of sumi-e painting:
the painter…put upon the paper the fewest possible lines and tones; just enough to cause form, texture and effect to be felt. Every brush-touch must be full-charged with meaning, and useless detail eliminated. Put together all the good points in such a method and you have the qualities of the highest art...
A gorgeous description for adults but one wonders how this expression of sumi-e painting can mix with kids. Gather around and I will tell you sumi-e ink painting is very easy and fun for children. First off, the tools are only ink, a brush and a piece of paper. Secondly, the process is not painstaking reproduction of the subject, but rather a brisk and concentrated capturing of its essence.
Thirdly, sumi-e paintings have made their mark in contemporary culture through the Playstation 2 and Wii consules video game called Okami.  The action-adventure game allows the player to control the main character in an interactive storyline, accomplished through the unconventional use of animated sumi-e illustration with other traditional Japanese art forms. 

On November 21 Japan Society’s Education Program hosts Art Cart:  Sumi Ink Painting.  Led by a  Japan Society educator and artist Linda Malhauser, a member of the National Sumi-e Society of America,  children learn basic painting techniques, and create original works of art in reaction to the wonderful art in our current exhibitions, The Sound of One Hand: Paintings and Calligraphy by Zen Master Hakuin , which features an array of kid-friendly figures such as ghosts and demons, dragons, acrobats, dancing mice, and monkeys!

Hakuin's hanging monkey. Via.

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