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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Cordova

The Art of Wabi Sabi...

“Wabi Sabi brings you back to the essence of what it means to be human, and to your relationship with natural processes, and the journey that you are on- how quickly life sneaks up on you, and how important it is to count your blessings.”

~ Erin Niemi Longhurst A Little Book of Japanese Contentments

Throughout my creative life I’ve been attracted to thoughts, processes, and philosophies before I knew, or understood why. When the time is right, the reasons for being drawn to a certain thought process, or philosophy reveals itself to me, the pieces fall into place, and I discover why I’d been attracted to that something to begin with.

Once, decades ago, I purchased a small book on Sumi-e, the Art of Japanese Ink & Brush Painting. Over the years, I collected books on the subject of Sumi-e, building quite a library on the subject. The seeds of desire to use the liquid black ink in my art-making practice were planted, but still I did not actively use Sumi-e in my process.

After I saw another artist use the liquid black ink in a very practical way for more of a sketching approach, the inspiration and timing became right for me to take the dive into ink and brush painting. I purchased Sumi ink, and finally put ink and brush to paper. Now, Sumi-e is an integral part of my art-making practice, and I have taught liquid ink painting many times over the years. The joy of turning other artists onto the skills of ink and brush painting is one of the most rewarding of my creative career.

Yellow Up A Pole
Yellow Up A Pole

There are several more examples of me being pulled to something, yet not knowing the why of it until much delay. Because this type of thing has happened naturally for me, I believe it has to do with timing. Natural timing. Sometimes there is a glimpse at a future self, but it’s simply not the right time for it to come to fruition.

Most recently this has happened with the concept of Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy, and aesthetic of the beauty of imperfection and impermanence.

Since I first heard of it years ago, I have been drawn to the idea of Wabi Sabi. Recently, I’ve read more about the specifics on the philosophy of the beauty of imperfection and impermanence. At the same time, I also realized I was reading the Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown.

Subconsciously reading these two texts about imperfection as a positive, I realized there was a pattern to my attraction to these concepts, the depths of which I'm still discovering.

Wabi Sabi as philosophy has now trickled into my fine art teaching, and art-making practice, offering concepts of compositions being expressed in an off-balanced way. Objects in gatherings of three, floral still life (expressing the impermanance of flowers), winding roads, downtown bungalows... whatever the subject, the concept of Wabi Sabi fits nicely into the way I teach, and the expressive way in which I paint.

Accepting imperfection in myself and creating artwork that expresses the feeling rather than the exactness of a subject, plus the freedom to creatively express myself without criticism, and the joy of creating original art in general are key to the Art of Wabi Sabi.

Happy Painting!


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