In the corner of a narrow street on top of a hill in Shibuya there’s a tiny special place where the art of sumi-e has been taught for many years, every single day. As soon as you enter the room, you will be struck by the colours of the paintings hanging everywhere. The air is filled with the smell of freshly made ink, and you are welcomed by the notes of delicate and relaxing music.
On the main table, the teacher prepares the essential material for each student.
Here’s a before and after shot of my workspace. Ah, the mess. But the messier, the funnier. I promise.
During the class, you will be invited by the teacher to join him at his personal desk. Here you will stand behind him while he paints for you, in order to show some techniques. That is my favourite moment of the class, as you get to see pure art performed right before your eyes surrounded by the teacher’s intriguing equipment.
I love the ink’s splashes on the wall – I always wonder what happened there.
Another lovely moment is the much needed break time: the teacher prepares sweet treats and tea for everyone to enjoy while chatting and resting.
I would be lying if I said this is the place I expected when I first entered the room.
And that is because there is so much more to it that my pictures – or words – will ever say. Entering this place is like entering a new dimension, where everything is upside-down. A new world, where you soon will learn to accept that sumi-e is not something you will learn by applying the techniques.
I will gift you with some precious words my teacher said.
Now, don’t imagine him speaking with the severe tone of a lecturer. Picture him while smoking a cigarette, and addressing you as if he was small-talking about the weather.
“You should Never, ever think about the result when you paint. It’s not about that. You don’t need talent to paint sumi-e. I don’t care about talent, such a thing does not exist”.
Sumi-e is the art of holding a brush and making ink, indeed. But that is the shallowest way of defining it. Sumi-e is made for you to enjoy, to relax, to stop thinking. Sumi-e is about forgetting – everything.
In sumi-e there’s no such thing as sketching. And there’s no such things as correcting mistakes. It’s not about the past, nor about the future. It all lies in the moment, in the enjoyment of letting go.
Mind you – it is easier said than done.