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.

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Tailspin

brush and ink

The inspiration for this picture was actually a line from the book The Writer’s Journey under the section titled, “The Wisdom of the Body.”

“In fact,the secret of drama may come down to control of the audience’s breathing, for  through the breath all the other organs of the body can be regulated.”

The fish I drew is in a complete tailspin, which can be defined quite literally as a “rapid descent…in a steep spiral.”  A tailspin might also refer to a “loss of emotional control.”

But to me, this sumi-e painting is not meant to be dramatic.  After all, this move is second nature to the fish.  The loss of control is symbolic of freedom.

You might feel like the fish is spinning out of control, but what you don’t know is that the fish is actually leaning into the spin.

According to Taosim.net, “Zen means being in the flow of the universe.”  Therefore this fish is experiencing a moment of pure zen.

Self-control is defined as “the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, reactions, etc.”

We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control how we react to it.

Every time we create something new we experience uncertainty.  But according to Jonathan Fields, author of Uncertainty, we need that element to create anything truly unique or innovative.  “Your ability not only to live with but lean into and proactively seek out risk, judgment, and uncertainty…will play a huge role in your ability to create genius in every aspect of your work….”

So keep the drama in your creations.  Let the audience feel it.

Want less drama in your life?  Don’t forget to breathe 😉  Flow with the universe and let everything else go!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

brush and ink