My painting style is the antithesis of progress. Probably because I have grown up in a world of technology and as a graphic artist and photographer am very comfortable with it I have rebelled against it with my fine art and am using a process many hundred of years old. It is a process very difficult to use and more difficult to master and it is totally done with just a brush and ink on rice paper. It is a simple process but not easy.
My own personal progression as an artist has led me to this style of painting. I started out in college as a photographer in the days of darkroom and though I was having fun with the process but there was too many technical steps between myself and the finished product. My painting whether representational or not has always been about color smeared on a two dimensional surface. Because of toxicity issues I started working exclusively in watercolor after the birth of my son. As I did watercolor I realized that my work was just about the brush so the logical progression was to eliminate everything but the relationship between the brush and the paper, which lead me to sumi-e.
Sumi-e is a Japanese word that means “ink picture." Traditionally the ink is ground into water from an ink stick on a grinding stone. Once liquid the dark ink becomes permanent it cannot be changed after it is put down on paper. Also traditional of Sumi-e is use of rice papers. Rice papers are idiosyncratic and have their own ideas about how they will absorb ink and are also extremely fragile and tear easily, especially when using washes.
As a result of the challenges with material the painting style becomes very loose and spontaneous. The energy of the artist contributes to the free feel of the painting. With
sumi-e one is painting the inner spirit of the object--not objectively how it looks on a plane. The aim of sumi-e painting is to be very understated, leaving out details such as shadows, lighting and the illusion of perspective, depending instead upon the brushstrokes for strength and character.
I have been studying with a Japanese sumi-e master Koho Yamoto for about 10 years. Recently I was honored by her with the gift of her last name Seiho which means “true”.