Embracing Imperfection with Gyotaku and Cherry Blossoms

ink print

So as promised, here is the artwork I created at the Japanese art class.  The above fish ink painting is inspired by the Japanese art of printing fish known as gyotaku.  We used rubber fish, but typically artists print from the real thing!  The tradition may have started as a way for fishermen to record their catch.  It’s harder than it looks because you have to use just the right amount of ink and then press in all areas evenly.  But boy was it fun to paint a fish!

watercolor and ink

This next piece is considered a Japanese scroll painting of cherry blossoms.  I thought it was perfect for the season 🙂  There’s actually an interesting story behind the process of creating this painting.  My friend and I attended this workshop together.  Both of us like watercolor AND controlling the outcome of our work.  But those two things don’t really go together.  The nature of watercolor supports spontaneity and embracing happy accidents.

Well, we finished our blossoms and couldn’t seem to go any further, although the next step was to take a clean, wet brush and paint over the surface to produce a beautiful, loose, watercolor effect.  Were we doing that?  No way!  But then I decided I needed to grow.  So I took a chance…a slightly calculated, slow, rhythmic, in-the-flow chance.  And wow, the world didn’t end and my painting didn’t get wrecked.  Under total surrender, the painted deepened in its value and aesthetic beauty all because I took a chance.  And you know what?  I looked over at my friend who appreciates control far more than I do.  And what is she doing?  She’s embracing water and freedom and lack of control like crazy!  And truthfully, it looked like a perfect storm on her paper for a few minutes.  We could not predict the outcome to save our lives.  BUT as the water and paint dried, there emerged these blossoms as if from a fire of smoke, water, and ashes.  Imperfect.  Beautiful.  Just like life.

Spring Sumi-e Sketches

Scottie Dog Sketch

Scottie Dog

brush pens

Frolicking Frogs Sketch

brush pens

brush pens

Telling a Story with Pictures

Japanese sumi-e ink and collage on rice paper

Japanese sumi-e ink and collage on rice paper

Happy Friday!  Welcome to my current style.  I’m also practicing the idea of carrying a character from illustration to illustration.  What do you think will happen next???

Tour of My Mindwork Art Exhibition

Greetings 🙂  Can you believe it’s the end of October already?  I hope many of you had a chance to see my recent art exhibit at the Troy Public Library.  But if you didn’t, don’t fret!  You can still take the virtual tour now.  Enjoy!  (Don’t forget to let your mind wander…)

Mindwork honors the mind as both creator and creation.

That’s all for now…  Until next time!

Mindwork: My Art Exhibition at Troy Library

Greetings 🙂  I’m excited to report that my artwork will be showing at the Troy Public Library for the month of October.  It was a lot of work putting together, but I’m very pleased with how it turned out.  It’s a combination of work, some adult and some children’s illustration.  If you’re in the area, you should come check it out!

I’ve been talking a lot about bucket lists lately.  Speaking of which, I can cross one item off my list.  In a recent post, I offered a tour of Denise Fleming’s Story Park, which features her work at the Toledo Library.  I mentioned that it’s a dream of mine to have my work displayed in a library.  I guess some dreams do come true…especially when you make them happen!  What dream will you make happen?

Bamboo with Red Bird

sumi and watercolor

Yohaku

brush and ink

Yohaku is the concept of white space. I first heard this term at a library conference in 2006. Legendary author E. L. Konigsburg, who wrote From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, gave a speech about appreciating both the half empty and half full glass.  She read us her elegant, intellectual speech and all eyes were on her.  It is a reminder that it is okay to prepare your words ahead of time and still be heard from the heart.

So what was she trying to tell us that was so important?  First of all, we need both the positive and the negative.  Everything has a duality.  You can call it masculine and feminine, black and white, yin and yang, north and south pole, good and evil, but it is all the same.  We exist because of it and we can transcend whatever side of the pole we find ourselves on in any given aspect of our lives in any moment.

She pointed out that only in our society would we refer to this beautiful white space as “negative” space.  Why?  We seem to have a need to fill up every corner of every painting, every closet, every space in our lives with stuff.  If we don’t, it is seen as a negative.  But how does black exist fully without the white space behind it, between it, around it, pushing it forward?  The reverse, of course, is also true, but we usually start with a white piece of paper.  And doesn’t that scare us to death?

When I asked my husband, who is Japanese, about the term “yohaku,” he immediately referred to the term as white space.  When I called it “negative” space, he said, “Oh no, it isn’t negative.  It’s a positive thing.”  I had to explain where the negative reference came from.

So how does this relate to my latest sumi-e painting?  It is my first attempt at something abstract with ink.  It is supposed to represent the concept of the “black hole.”  A little research taught me that black holes exist throughout the universe and balance the stars (light) that exists.  Black holes suck up matter (including light), which is a scary thought.  But they also spit out particles that make up all living things, including us.  We in essence would not exist without them.  The earth may in fact be a byproduct of one of them.

Looking at the painting, where is your eye drawn?  To the black in the center or the white throughout?  Could either exist fully without the other?  Which is more important?  More beautiful?

Konigsburg told us she gave herself time to write even as a young mother.  She found the space for her words.  We must find the space for ours.

My secondhand childhood copy signed and dated by the author 🙂

Check out these other posts that highlight yohaku as well as the concept of creative space:

The Four Noble Ones

Letting Go

All Its Birds

brush and ink

“the universe takes care of all its birds.”
Wonder by R. J. Palacio

I recently read Wonder by R. J. Palacio, and I highly recommend it to everyone.  It’s the story of fifth grader Auggie, a boy who was born with a facial deformity, and how he faces the challenges of transitioning from home school to mainstream school.  As I said in my Goodreads review, I think reading this book will help humans learn how to be a little more humane.

When I attended the SCBWI summer conference in L.A. last summer, Gary Schmidt gave the last keynote speech.  He offered the writers in the room some serious advice, which has stuck with me to this day.  And yes, I’m going to quote him once again.  😉  He said, “Write stories to give kids more to be a human being with.”  I think Palacio has done that.  We can, too.

Getting back to the book, my favorite chapter is only one page and is titled, “The Universe.”  The narrator of this section is really questioning how the universe could allow kids like Auggie to exist in the world.  Why do some people get all the luck and others none at all?  I guess it depends on how you look at it and what you define as lucky.  Auggie is lucky enough to have a loving family and support network to protect him and serve as his nest.  He’s also learned to be very strong and brave in his own way.

Here is my favorite quote from the last lines of the chapter:  “maybe it is a lottery, but the universe makes it all even out in the end.  the universe takes care of all its birds.”

This can be a hard concept to accept sometimes.  But I think the more that we believe this and strive to embody this in our world, the more we can make it a reality.  It is our choice.  We all have a responsibility to take care of each other.

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