I first found this wonderful video of Sumi-e ink and wash drawing of the Buddha around 3 years ago and have shared it with many friends since. In the video we see both the tension and the flowing movement of the young artist Kazu Shimura as he manages to bring a Buddha to life on his canvas.
As to the history of Sumi-e, there is this from the Wikipedia:
In an old Chinese legend, an artist named Zhang Seng You 張僧繇 was asked to paint a mural in a temple. He painted four dragons but left out the pupils from their eyes. The Abbot asked him why. Zhang explained that if he painted the pupils, the dragons would come alive. When the Abbot insisted, Zhang proceeded to paint two of the dragons’ eyes. As soon as he finished painting the pupils on two of the dragons, they roared to life and flew away in a thunderous flash of lightning. The two dragons that had no pupils stayed on the wall.
This story embodies the philosophy of Oriental sumi-e. The goal is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. To paint a horse, the sumi-e artist must understand its temperament better than its muscles and bones. To paint a flower, there is no need to perfectly match its petals and colors, but it is essential to convey its liveliness and fragrance. Oriental sumi-e may be regarded as an earliest form of expressionistic art that captures the unseen.
And here is Kazu’s description of the technique involved:
The key three lines are:
- shoulder outline
- inside line to abdomen
- slanted down line from abdomen.
The three lines cross at the key point called “tan-den” where the “ki” power is focused, about 9 cm under the navel. Focusing “ki” at the tan-den point is applied for all martial arts or breathing method like yoga.
When you’ve finished you will find scores more at his youtube channel Kazu Shimura Sumi-e.
And if you stay tuned I will show you a sumi-e-style animated video tomorrow.
if this video is no longer available please leave a comment so I can update the page