The essence of Japanese art is its otherworldliness. The artist uses the brush to transport the inner vision of things onto paper. The special movements of the brush are expertly revealed through the talents of Tomi Ito Levin, Master Green Jade. With patience, Tomi Ito Levin generously guides the student to not only control various stroke styles, but also to an understanding of the stroke's basic meaning.
The Four Gentlemen
Sumi painting originates from the old Chinese Nanga School. Tradition dictates that the student first becomes familiar with the strokes that create the Orchid, Chrysanthemum, Bamboo, and Plum.
The first paintings are of the Orchid, which gives the beginner a fine opportunity to practice the line drawing of its long and graceful leaves and thus develop the important skill of free-arm movement.
The Chrysanthemum, of course, is the hardest of the four. It combines all that was taught in the first lessons and introduces the technique of shading, which is an essential element of Oriental painting.
The Bamboo shows the student how to handle the brush in short vigorous strokes.
The Plum is more complex, it requires the practice of line drawing as well as thick strokes for branches, thus giving the beginner a chance to try out both wet and dry techniques.
Learning to paint the four elegant plants in varying complexity, forms another important aspect of painting which is revealed through the study of Chinese literature. In the writings if the "Bunjin" or Literary Men, these four plants are dignified by associating them with desirable personal attributes and thus are considered True Gentlemen. Each one signifies a special quality in the character of refined individuality.
The Orchid is compared to a person of noble virtue because of the sweet fragrance of the flower, while the Bamboo is suggestive of a person of profound integrity. The Plum, because of the white blossoms, symbolizes a person of pure character, and the Chrysanthemum is thought to represent a modest recluse because its blossoms are almost unseen among the foliage.
These "Four Gentlemen" or shi-kunshi, are the four fundamental Shiboku subjects. Each relates to a special and meaningful human characteristic and each is expressed by a unique type of stroke. The foremost thing to remember, is not only to paint the object as seen, but to impress the viewer with its wonderfully motivating inner spirit.
Deep satisfaction is experienced in the process of learning how to handle and master the twists and turns of the brush, ink and paint.
Use this time honored tradition to enhance your skill in contemporary watercolor and oil painting or come to enjoy the wonderful world of traditional Japanese Sumi Ink and Watercolor Art.