Photos: Asian Brush painting all about capturing the soul

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Artist Judith Sutton-Fagan of Bayport (right) demonstrates the brush strokes used to paint a chrysanthemum flower to students Vivian Eyre of Southold (left) and Margie Bowen of East Quogue during the workshop in the East End Arts Carriage House Saturday morning.

Artist Judith Sutton-Fagan of Bayport has been teaching Asian Brush painting for more than 30 years. She called it the “art of being unperfect” like a crack in a vase or a dandelion growing in a crack in the cement.

This style of ink wash painting is also called Sumi-e painting, a 2,000-year-old art form which is rooted in Zen Buddhism.

She began a five-hour workshop in the East End Arts Carriage house with some returning students and a couple of new ones Saturday morning.

The technique uses brushes that are similar to those used for calligraphy — bamboo with brush hairs that are tapered to a fine point and made with goat, horse, badger, boar, rabbit and wolf hair. The black ink is derived from pine soot and charcoal and is used in various concentrations and painted on various thickness of rice paper. It is thought to be developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The goal in the painting is not to reproduce the appearance of something but to capture its soul or energy — the chi.

The brush strokes she taught to the students were the orchid, the chrysanthemum and the dragon fly. She said she encourages her students to embrace nature, to show the energy of it and if it is too perfect, it won’t show the chi. Her advice to them was “be free and calm to get it out on paper. You want to learn the set of brash strokes but remember there is no wrong. Have the freedom to enjoy this. An artist is someone who lives in the moment.”

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