Last night I painted this orchid. I am telling you it’s an orchid, because it really doesn’t look like one to me. My employer asked me to help teach a hundred people a few basic Japanese ink painting techniques at a seminar in a couple of weeks. I thought to myself, “no problem, after all, I am an artist, watch me roar!” so I perused the pages of a Sumi-e instruction book and found a section on making flowers in ink. That’s easy enough to do, afterall, only a few brush strokes in black ink and voila, a flower. So, I set up a roll of paper, a bamboo brush and ink on my worktable and confidently sat down to paint. I dipped the brush in water, then ink and started putting it on the paper. Now mind you, it takes many years of study and discipline to master the art Sumi-e and I was attempting to paint a flower before I even practiced the strokes. A big fat no no. My first leaves were big black streaks and my first petals were dark gray blobs. I was immediately humbled and a little worried that I’ll make a fool of myself at the seminar. According to the instruction book the orchid is supposed to be the easiest to paint. NOT! I went through more sheets of paper than you can imagine. Let me just say, I have a pretty fat wastebasket full of crumpled up white kozo paper with ugly ink blots all over them.
By practicing a few simple brush strokes every day, I may begin to understand the essence of this wonderful art form and hopefully I will be able to share what I have learned with at least a hundred people. I will let you know in a couple of weeks.