Brush and ink Sketches and more on Hokusai (April, 2005)

I have continued to sketch with brush and ink, and have neglected my pencils and pens completely. First it was the brush pen, and finally I converted to drawing exclusively with traditional Japanese bamboo brush and sumi that I keep in a yatate. I just love sketching this way!

"The grave of Katsushika Hokusai in a small crowded cemetery in Moto-Asakusa. The atmosphere was lonely, sad and slightly oppressive like all cemeteries. This structure dominates the other graves, yet it is small and humble for such a historical figure. While I was sketching, two business men came and prayed in front of the grave stone which is engraved with Hokusai's final name, Gakyo Rojin Manji. I didn't pray to Hokusai, but I did ask God to give me a deeper passion for drawing. April 14, 2005, 156 years after Hokusai's death."

(Carbon ink in brush pen plus watercolors)

I had been adding information on Hokusai landmarks in Tokyo here, but it grew so large, I took it all down and moved it to a new page called Hokusai Landmarks in Tokyo

"As I walked through Kiba koen this afternoon (Sunday, April 17, 2005) I saw crowds of photographers in clusters of about 50 or so, snapping photos of something I couldn't see. As I got closer, I saw each cluster had a pretty model in the center going through poses. I stood at a distance and quickly sketched two of the models. I drew the man later. He was neither a photographer nor a model. The models were young and pretty while many of the photographers looked like geeks. It was an interesting contrast."

(Carbon ink in brush pen plus watercolors)

I have always known that sumi ink on a bamboo brush is superior to any other sketching tool I have, and lately I have been drawing exclusively this way with my yatate. Nothing can compare with those wet ink lines coming from a real hair brush. Above and below are more sketches done on the subway using my yatate. For more information on the Japanese yatate, see my article. These are just a few of the many pages I have filled with this style of sketching in the past few weeks.

No pencil underdrawings are needed with this style of sketching. You'll notice many of the lines are not even connected. They don't need to be connected with this style. Ink and brush -- especially real sumi from a yatate -- has changed my style, and I am able to draw faster with more expressive lines. And the results are surprisingly accurate. I don't know why, but brush and ink seems to have made me a better artist. Hokusai used to call himself "Gakyo Jin" which means person who is crazy about drawing. Like every other artist in Japan at the time he drew with brush and sumi ink. I think the thrill of brush and ink drawing contributes to this excitement for drawing. I know it does for me. I'm amazed at what comes out of the tip of my brush!

The figure on the left is a sleeping sumo wrestler (rikishi in Japanese). I am usually able to sketch people without being noticed by the subject but I realized another rikishi was standing nearby, watching my every move. The drawing of the girl in the center was done most recently, and reflects my new tendency to really charge the brush with sumi and get bold expressive lines. It makes a world of difference. The drawing above that of the guy with long hair and glasses was also done with a fully charged brush.

Watercolor and sumi

This sketch is of the entrance pillars (torii) at Higashi Ojima Jinja, a local Shinto shrine and the most interesting architecture in my neighborhood. This time I painted with watercolor first, with no pencil under drawing and then drew the black lines with sumi and bamboo brush from my yatate. Liquid sumi is not waterproof, so I must save it for last. Sumi ground from an ink stick is supposed to be waterproof when dry, and can go on the paper before watercolors, but I haven't found any that were completely waterproof.

Recently I have discovered a new liquid sumi by Kaimei called mokkan boku. It thins nicely with water and is completely waterproof when dry. It is intended for outdoor wooden signs that are exposed to the elements. It's in my yatate now, and I take care to add drops of water to the ink pot periodically to keep it moist because I don't know what will happen if it dries out. It is available from several online vendors in Japan, but apparently it's not carried by any vendors outside of Japan. I see Amazon in Japan carries it.

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