Tag Archives: Brush painting

Take heed

This guy (why do we always assume that bare bones folks are all guys?) didn’t quite make it in time to be the Halloween greeting I was counting on, but he was fun to whip up.

The vintage skeleton image came from The Graphics Fairy‘s wonderful blog. You want treasures? She’s got you covered–free vintage and antique images (copyright free!) of everything you can imagine. So that’s that part.

The background is a page from a discarded book on which I’d done some brush paintings of a tea bowl. The painting didn’t really work out, so it went into the scrap pile. At the wonderful ATC party I attended a couple of weeks ago, the pieces all came together.


Art lessons

I spent last weekend in Vermont with some folks from my dojo at the home of our teacher (a gorgeous cabin he and his family built with their own hands). It was a great weekend. We ate (a lot), drank (more or less moderately), roasted a whole pig, hiked around in the woods marveling at things like the beaver pond, the requisite fall foliage, the dark dark skies (enabling us to see many falling stars–or alien scout ships, depending on who’s doing the telling). We even squeezed in a tiny bit of karate.

One of my fellow students, an artist by inclination and training, has been helping me with my kata and my art. He believes there is a connection, so I packed amongst my weekend gear two cheap sketch pads and a box of conte crayons–relics of the one pathetic art class I took in college (not saying that was a long time ago, but the sponge sheets between the two tiers of the crayons turned instantly to dust the moment I picked them up).

I got these things out during a quiet part of one afternoon when the nine of us were just sitting around telling karate stories (and tales of a few alien encounters) My fellow student/teacher set me to doing quick motion sketches, and when he decided the crayons were slowing me down (“Faster! Bigger! No thinking!”) he had me swap them for a little pot of black ink and a brush.

Now, I’m untaught and awkward. And I think too much. But I had a blast doing these and have kept it up a little since getting home. Not saying that anything I did was “good” (or, in most cases, even recognizable as human beings), but it was soooo much fun.

And I’m not completely convinced it helped my kata. But in class last night I got the kumite set I’ve been laboring over right all the way through. Nobody said perfect, okay? But at least I’ve got the basic choreography down right.

Hee, hee. Where did I put that sketch pad?

Itchy fingers

This isn’t the first time I’ve posted about wanting to invite a library book to take up permanent residence in my collection.  There was that Thomas Merton book way back around the time I began this blog, for instance. And the Nancy Marculewicz volume (now, alas, out of print) on making gelatin prints that I want so badly I’ve been haunting used bookstores and library sales.  And I haven’t even told you about the time I checked out Maggie Gleezer’s wonderful book on baking artisan breads about 6 times in a row. I’m convinced that this is why my local library now has limits on how many times you can renew a book.

The librarian finally looked at me in a pitying way and whispered, “Did you know there’s a bookstore right across the street?”*

But, anyway, now there’s this wonderful little volume, currently celebrating its 50th anniversary. If you mean by “celebrating” that I knelt down on the floor in the library stacks and just read books about Chinese brush painting until I got to this one, and brought it home, that is.

As soon as I brought it home, before I even started reading it, I was already online looking for a used copy of my own. And now, for something under $6, my very own nicely used copy (I can’t wait to sniff its ancient pages) is winging its way to me.

Which means I’ll be able to get out my ink sticks and ink stone and lovely Chinese brushes and grind the rich black ink and let Mai-Mai Sze come to life again as I try (clumsily) to breath life again into her wonderful paintings. Like these:

And this one, my favorite:

The translation makes reference to the fact that the people in the bottom left illustration are playing chess. It looks to my as if they are playing “go,” an old and venerable game that’s easy to learn but devilishly difficult to master.

Like Chinese brush painting.  Hurry, Mai-Mai Sze! Hurry and show me what you know. Preferably before the librarians abolish my borrowing privileges.


*I did actually go and buy the bread book. And used it well and with great success for several years. Alas, it was one of the books lost in the great flood that took place two years ago when a pipe burst in the ceiling over our pantry while we were out of town for two weeks and the house was locked up tight. Let’s just say hot, damp, wet books are not happy books. I’m back to looking for another copy of the Glezer book. Some terrible person seems to have actually stolen our library’s copy.

Buddha board, Buddha hands

Some brush paintings the easy way. I did these on the Buddha board with a brush and water, then–quick!–scanned them before the images faded away. This is actually a great way to work on an idea or just to piddle around until an idea forms itself.

This single hand image ended up getting transferred to t-shirts for my kids and my niece and nephew last Christmas.

I have tried and tried to find out exactly how the surface of the Buddha board is made. It’s definitely cardboard with some sort of slip over–a clay of some kind? Would love to be able to buy large pieces of it but I can’t even find out the proper name for the board.

Anybody out there know more about this?

In the meantime, regardless of whether I’m able to pin down what it is, it’s awfully fun to work with.

A little art homework

Skipped my walk today so I could use the quiet time before most folks were up to do a little art practice.

Are they “good”?  Probably not. But they served their purpose.

This one isn’t really so blue and green. I had the white balance set for something else and forgot to change it. I sort of like it, though.

On this one I had to laugh at myself. I was paying such careful attention to what I was doing, but at some point I carefully placed this one aside to dry, and inadvertently set it over the tiny stub of a still-burning stick of incense.  Oops.

So much for mindfulness.

Next time–first the tea, then the art.

Lotus Moon, maple leaves, and ink

Clad in black robe,
I should have no attraction to
the shapes and scents of this world
but how can I keep the precept of detachment
gazing at today’s crimson maple leaves?

~Otagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875)(trans. John Stevens)

Found a link to what looks like a wonderful art exhibit on the life and work of the Buddhist nun Rengetsu.  Alas, the exhibit’s in Canberra, Australia, clear around the globe from me.  Lots of interesting stuff about Rengetsu (whose name means Lotus Moon) and her poetry, paintings, and pottery on the site, though.

I can’t claim to skills like hers (in either artwork or commitment to detachment), but I painted this over the weekend as part of my art practice for this season of crimson maple leaves.

Spinner, 1990-2008

[cross-posted to my other blog, The Cat Person’s Dog Blog]

Both of my dogs are hams. They were born ready for their closeups, they live for the spotlight, and they crave attention. Nemo the cat, too, loves to be where the people are, and has been in more than her share of photos.

Not so Spinner, who shuffled off her (9th) mortal coil late this morning. Spins was a cat of great dignity, poise, and composure, and we miss her already. Up until a few days ago, she enjoyed the company of 2-legged creatures, but she seldom actively courted attention. Even so, we often found that she had crept quietly onto the lap of a family member distracted by what they were reading or watching on television, and long after arthritis had begun to compromise her mobility, she would periodically surprise us by jumping up onto a bed or the couch so she could sleep near her people.

A rusty cinnamon-colored young cat when we adopted her through extremely formal channels (i.e., pulling up to the home of someone displaying a “FREE KITTENS” sign and knocking on the door), Spinner displayed her true colors, a rich deep black (with a tiny patch of white hairs over her breastbone) soon after she came home with us and began eating cat food–it seems that her previous (vegetarian–not that there’s anything wrong with that) owners had been feeding her a meatless diet. Mostly oatmeal.

Spinner came home with us to help us celebrate First Child’s 2nd birthday, and though she has been loving with all of us, she was His Cat, and she (and he) knew it. She earned her name within moments of arriving at our house, by hopping onto the treadle of my spinning wheel and riding up and down for a few turns. Though she never did that again, she was instantly christened Spinner, and the name stuck.

I hadn’t realized until today that Spinner was far too civilized and self-contained to court or even tolerate the paparazzi. In my thousands of photos, there is not one good photo of Spinner. Perhaps it will do to post here three images of this lovely but disappearing cat that I painted last spring as an art assignment.

Spinner died this morning at the ripe old kitty age of 18, having lived her years fully and happily, being completely herself at every moment. In the words of the gatha, let me respectfully remind you that life and death are of supreme importance . . . do not squander your life.