There is an age old methodology for learning, increasing technical skill and finding creative inspiration that has proven by its use that it can effectively stand the test of time and consistently achieve great results. That methodology is studying the masters. In this article, we will look at how you can use the process of studying the masters as a way to find creative inspiration.
Masters studies have been informing and teaching artists not only for centuries, but for at least a millennium. If you were to sit down and write out an exhaustive list of all of your favourite artists from any time period, you can be certain that at some point in their lives, they have studied a master and learned something from that study that has informed their own work.
I decided to kick this new year off by diving straight back into the Geisha theme that I’ve been working around over the past year. The first UK lockdown gave me the chance to really delve into Japanese culture and pore over various books, articles, blogs, etc. Studying the art, culture and history of Japan and much of Asia has well and truly captured my attention, and my imagination.
It felt like high time to get back onto the blog and post a new artwork.
This Cormorant Fisherman is one of the first of many to come; I’m currently working on a series throughout which I intend to work with different styles media, exploring the life and traditions of the dying trade of Cormorant fishing.
Cormorant fishing is a traditional fishing method in which fishermen use trained cormorants to fish in rivers. Historically, cormorant fishing has taken place in Japan and China.
It is first attested as a method used by the ancient Japanese in the Book of Sui, the official history of the Sui Dynasty of China, completed in 636 CE.
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In light of getting myself stuck into Japanese culture and history as of late, working on my Geisha art project and working part time as a Sushi chef; I decided to venture into another area of Japanese tradition.
Sumi-e is the name given to a style of East Asian brush painting that uses black ink; this method was commonly employed by the master artists of the past in East Asian traditions to create calligraphy and landscapes drawings/paintings.
I absolutely love the look and feel of sumi-e landscape paintings and the atmosphere they evoke; I also love working with charcoal. That was enough reason for me to fuse the two things and work at creating a Japanese landscape piece that has a sumi-e look to it but the smoky, soft magic of a charcoal drawing.
So in my cultural explorations and world travels via my drawing materials I found myself on a brief visit to the Indonesian island of Bali. The Balinese are fascinating people to study and learn about and although there have been many cultural changes to the island in the past century, there is also a strong presence of the ancestral forefathers of the island.
One industry that is a great platform for cultural exploration anywhere in the world is farming. Farming is an industry that despite the invent of machinery and industrial growth, still holds many roots in the distant past, whether you are in the rice paddies of Vietnam or the corn fields of Indiana.
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Whilst it’s true that there are no ochaya (tea houses) underwater that are operating and hiring Geisha, there is always room in the imagination to invent some. I’ve been working on a series of Geisha artworks and then suddenly, Mermay 2020 was upon me.
Mermay is described by its founders as a month-long celebration of creativity, community and above all… MERMAIDS. People use this month to create a variety of Mermaid illustrations, many people creating one for each day of the event. I’ve never partook in this particular ‘drawing challenge’ so this time around, I made a point to throw out at least one piece.
Continuing on with my Legend of Zelda miniseries, I decided to add a piece into the mix with more of a fine art vibe to it. So far I’ve worked up a few ink and watercolour illustrations with a few more planned, this piece however is a charcoal drawing; with the intention of later being an oil painting.
Art depicting Geisha and Maiko is something that has drawn me in from the bustling county of Essex on the outskirts of London in the UK to explore the historical traditions of South-east Asia, Kyoto in Japan in particular. This oil painting is testament to that exploration and shows a rear-view portrait of a Maiko with emphasis on the hair and make-up.