The Japanese have a gift for the pursuit of Beauty. It is apparent in their art, their fashion, their gardening, their tea ceremony. The Japanese culture is one of quiet, precise, poetic movement, colored by a love of simplicity and a desire for perfection.
Today in Elementary Art Camp we read the Japanese fairytale “Momotaro” or “Peach Boy”. Momotaro
is well known in Japan as a divine child, sent from Heaven inside of a peach to childless parents, who grows up to overthrow an island full of ogres and take back the treasure they stole.
We made our own ogre’s treasure, painting golden coins with Japanese calligraphy, but first we learned about the technique of Japanese Ink
painting (Sumi-e). For a group of six to nine year olds, much of the challenge was in learning to hold the brush gently, knowing when to apply pressure, when to use the flat of the brush and when to use the tip. In Sumi-e, the love of beauty is meant to come from the heart and travel down the arm and through the brush; the way you hold your arm & your hand is significant as you attempt to convey much in just a few perfectly placed strokes.
I was very impressed with the children, doing this for the first time, despite their struggles and questions. More important than the calligraphy or bamboo we painted, though, was becoming familiar with the quest for beauty and simplicity that we can all pursue, even in midst of our generally bustling, screen-oriented culture in the United States.