Swept Away

I have always admired the philosophy and meditative qualities of oriental art and became a self-taught student of brush and ink wash work in the late 1990’s.

Some pictures are created in a few seconds with quick, decisive strokes of the brush. The goal is to simplify form and go straight to the heart of image. Other work is more abstract and layered in shades of black and gray. Most recently, I have been exploring combinations of ink and watercolor.

Often I do not have a subject in mind before painting and allow the ink, brush, water and paper to find their own expression without interference. The interplay of positive and negative areas invites the viewer to explore the interplay of energy and bring his or her own intuition to the experience.

 “Rather paint the flying spirit of the bird than its feathers.” Robert Henri

Zen Point 0f View

Sumi-e, or ink wash painting, was brought to Japan from China and embodies many of the tenets of the Zen aesthetic. The goal of sumi-e is to deeply understand the essence of the object painted, to become the other, so that the actual painting can be rendered in a few brushstrokes. It is painting from the inside out.

Oriental ink wash painting may be regarded as an earliest form of expressionistic art that captures the unseen. While this type of art can be executed in a few seconds, it is the result of years of practice and preparation.

“One-stroke painting leaves little room for thinking; the moment it’s started, it’s already done.” Tanahashi, “Brush Mind”


Ink, brush, rice paper and water are the materials used to create Zen art. The rich black ink when mixed with water produces a multitude of shades of gray. The brushes are made from the hair of various animals and are in differing sizes. Each brush has its own personality – quick, abrupt and strong to soft, yielding and diffuse. The Xuan rice paper imported from China. Because the paper is highly absorbent, the ‘wetness’ of the brush and quickness of the stroke determine the sharpness of the lines.

“The feminine paper lies with wide-open arms waiting to receive the brush, and the brush has to summon up all its masculine authority to stay in command.”

Van Briessen, “The Way of the Brush”

Check out my other blog at (essays)


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