Simple Black Lines

I’ve always been fascinated by Sumi-e painting.   It’s gorgeous.  The paintings are elegant in their simplicity with a minimum of black lines used to depict animals, trees, birds, fish, and mountains.   These paintings take me to a land of tranquility where I can breathe and feel body, mind, and spirit come back into alignment.  A peace settles over me whenever I see this art. 

Someone gave me a Sumi-e kit many years ago. It contained a booklet that showed basic examples of the art, a black block, a stone, and a brush.  The kit didn’t have any directions  so I didn’t realize that black block was ink, and I was supposed to use the enclosed stone to grind the ink and mix it with water to create my painting medium. 

The day that I pulled out the kit to use it, I was so stressed out, I probably wouldn’t have read the directions even if they had been there (or maybe they were there and I missed them!).  I wanted a respite from my crazy world; I needed some peace. 

While my approach and the end result were not anything close to what a Sumi-e artist would create, I wanted to put black lines on paper.  I looked at the enclosed booklet, chose a few examples to imitate and grabbed a tube of black acrylic paint.  I dipped my brush in the paint and tried to re-create the examples in the booklet.  The first few drawings sort of looked like something recognizable, but then I abandoned trying to copy a picture.  That wasn’t the point of painting that night.  I needed to draw simple black lines – looping, arching, sweeping across the page.

I got lost in those lines, and they made me so happy.  The stress slipped away from me like water droplets dripping from a leaf.  I have no idea how long I played with brush and paint, except that I filled many pages.  I didn’t keep those pages.  I didn’t need to; they had worked their magic.   I felt my spirit lift and my body relax as my mind focused on the singular beauty of those simple black lines.

© Lynn Wyvill 2011

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