Tuesday, April 1, 2014


.....Wabi Sabi is a distinctly Japanese ideal. It's the world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transcence and imperfection.  Beauty that is imperfect, impermanent and incomplete.  The characteristics of Wabi Sabi include asymmetry, roughness or irregularity, simplicity, economy, austerity, modesty & an appreciation of the ingenuous integrity of natural objects and processes.  Please do read more on Wikipedia!

Brush painting may be said to contain Wabi Sabi as paintings should include; rough/smooth, dark/light, thick/thin and be done in a spontaneous manner enjoying the imperfections as a metaphor of life.  When one paints flowers, it's of great value to show all the stages of the subject.  For example, when expressing Cherry or Plum, one would show all the 'faces';....the bud, a partially opened blossom, full view, side view and a blossom missing some petals.  The 'spent' blossoms would be the Wabi Sabi element.  If a Chrysanthemum is painted, a decayed leaf at the bottom of the stem adds great dignity or Wabi Sabi to the painting.

I became intrigued with this concept many years ago when a student gave me a precious little book on Wabi Sabi.  It's cover was hand made in a rough manner and it was tied with twine.  Beautiful!  I've also enjoyed a book on flowers (photographs) where all of the subjects were in various stages of decay.

We had the privilege of meeting Mr. Tani Toshitaka, Master Potter in Shigaraki which is also the name of the style of pottery he has mastered.

But first, Mr. Toshitaka prepared tea for us .......

Along with the tea, special sweets....little pastel colored pieces of rock candy!

We looked about at all of the amazing works (you can see a few behind Pam above) and also wandered into the area displaying Mr. Toshitaka's collection of 'Old Imari' which we were delighted to find out were also for sale.  Note: All shoes were left at the door!

After purchases were made, a hike to see the kiln was in order.  My memory is that it's quite old and that Mr. Toshitaka's father also used it. It's huge and I wish my photograph did it justice.

Here are some of the bags of clay waiting to be turned into sublime objects in the master's hands!

There were several 'sheds' stacked with various types of wood.  This 'stack' is right next to the kiln.

The various 'pieces' appear to have been glazed but were not.  Through some strange alchemy, the heat combined with the various types of wood account for this effect.  One never knows how the piece will come out of the kiln and that's where the Wabi Sabi comes in.  One must be prepared for divergence in the plan!

Mr. Toshitaka's brother is a Bonsai expert and also a potter.  He 'threw' a pot for the group and thanks to Pam here’s the photo of that.
Here he is working on his bonsai.

Just in case you're wondering, I did get a charming, small vase.  It's perfect to hold brushes in the studio and I was drawn to it because it's just so lopsided, not wanting to conform to our usual notion of a vase.

As always, Bonnie got with the program right away.  She and Charlie are the most fun to be with as they are so interested in everything and have developed such refined eyes.  Bonnie knew immediately the piece that was 'hers'!  She told me, "As we sipped our Green tea, I looked around at all of his works of art when my eyes fell upon a gorgeous flower vase with a long neck.  When I picked it up, the base fit perfectly in my cupped hands and I felt the energy of the piece vibrate in my palms.  It was a perfect melding of earth and art.  Some of the 'glazing' had dripped down the neck creating a wonderful Wabi Sabi effect - the one and only vase for me!"  Thank you Bonnie.....that was beautiful!!!

And it's off to our next adventure!

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There is no avoiding the pull of the internet, the blogs, the YouTube imaginings. It's as if we're all 'On the Road' with Jack Kerouac each in our own world of meanderings. When we tell someone to 'get a life' it might be a bit difficult when you're dragged into other people's 24/7.

I've come to realize two foundational principals, there are no accidents and everyone has a purpose. More and more I'm desiring everyone to come into a full realization of their purpose as we all find our way on this little jewel of a planet.

For me, as a professional 'Western style artist', I stumbled into Chinese Brush Painting after a trip in 1980 to Monet's home/garden. Seeing all of his collection of Japanese woodblock prints was an ahh haa moment for me and when I returned to the States I started painting in the Chinese manner and never looked back. The first year was extremely painful for me as I felt that I should be able to master the technique since I was a 'trained' artist. Not a chance ... that just gets in your way.

Now, after teaching close to 3,000 students and having my book 'The Ch'i of the Brush' published by Watson Guptill, I can say that every one of my students does better their first day than I did my first year! Why? Because I insist that they leave their critical parent outside and just enjoy the journey, respecting the work that they do. I never let anyone throw anything away because that just ingrains frustration and defeat.

We really only begin to learn when we stop and figure out how to 'save' a painting. It works every time.I am so proud of my students, their receptivity and eagerness to express themselves is a continuing blessing for me.So, back to finding your purpose. Perhaps it starts with realizing 'it's not about me'. It so easy to want our needs met and to filter everything thru this attitude. When we realize that we're here to be of benefit to every life that we touch the universe really provides the ways and means.

The best part is that it's really exciting to not have yourself on your mind all the time!I'm re-reading a wonderful book about authenticity and in my next meandering I'll tell you about it. In the meantime I'd love to hear about your journey and am here to answer any and all questions about Chinese Brush Painting.