starla probeert uit - zen painting

Ik schuif aan de (werk)tafel bij de makers. Om mee te doen. Uit nieuwsgierigheid naar de persoon achter het werk, de discipline, werkwijze, techniek en de manier waarop ze hun atelier/ruimte inrichten. Of ze in stilte werken of met groot kabaal. De mouwen opstropen en ervaren hoe dat is, een maker in het dagelijks leven. Mijn eerste huisbezoek is bij Ane Baztarrika, textiel designer. Ik dook in de techniek sumi-e, ofwel Zen Painting! 


The weather is a little robustious this sunday afternoon as I travel to Delft, where I'm going to join Ane Baztarrika. Ane is a textile designer with a big fascination for Japan and minimal expressive art. When I arrive she makes a cup of 'weerstand' herb tea because she is recovering from a flu and we talk about a new project she is involved with: a pop up shop in Delft called 'Creative Lifestyle'. She will sell her work here: bags, vases, cards and prints. Ane is very considerate with the way she presents her work and I can see that she has put a lot of care in the presentation here also.  Then she shows me the new bags that just came in, all from a organic brand. She is going to make a rider range of hand painted bags, for different occasions and budgets. Then it's time to get everything ready. We head up to the 'messy' room to get the materials. Brushes in all sizes, pots, saucers, paper... When we have everything we spread it on the tabel in the livingroom. First a black felt fabric. This is ideal, Ane tells me, because it's creates a soft underground so the painting goes well, plus you can't see any spots or stains on it.

We are going to be Zen painting today. The reason she started with this technique was because she felt she was putting to much pressure on herself when she wanted to create or paint. 'I was suffering anxiety from something I was very passionate about and decided that I had to face the problem somehow. I thought that learning more about drawing techniques could help so I started the drawing lessons. One day my teacher, Eluska Kortajarena, who also just attended a zen painting master class, told me that maybe zen painting would really help me in my process to relax. And voilà! From the very first minute I was fascinated by the process and the way it made me feel.' That sounds promising!

The tools which are essential for sumi-e (Japanese word for Black Ink Painting) are called the Four Treasures. These are: the ink stick, ink stone (the stone where you blend the ink stick with water), brush and paper. When everything is on the table, a ritual on itself, Ane tells me we are going to paint bamboos. With this meditative technique it's important to have the right posture. We are sitting straight up on the chair, with our feet on the ground to get connected to the earth. We are going to paint with our whole body, instead of just from the wrist. The way we hold the pencil is also different, the four fingers hold the pencil and the thumb holds it underneath. Pretty tricky, I tend to hold it the old fashion way of holding a pen as I learned at school. Luckely Ane is a patient teacher and she gently guides me to get the technique right. 
We start of with the bamboo leaf stalk. The brush is flat on the paper, I go up a little with the brush and then down and when I'm at the end of the stalk I go a little up again. This is how you create the 'knockles' of the stalk. When Ane does this, it looks so effortless. ' I haven't done this in a while' she says. Maybe it's like riding a bike...

In between the practise we talk about the materials Ane uses. She is very aware of what she uses and consumes. Were it's possible she works with organic materials and she is a little bummed about some materials that aren't organic, like the plastic she uses around her cards to keep them clean and is looking for ways to make a change there too. She also tries to create as little waste as possible, for example, she uses the paper she practise on as wrapping gift paper.

After drawing the bamboo-stalks we are moving on to the leafs. While we practise this technique I feel a flow coming up. Brush on the paper and swoosh a sweep to the side. Brush on paper and swoosh. Swoosh, swoosh. My thoughts are drifting away while I sip on some tea. Hello Zen. When the paper is filled with the leaves, it starts to look like a school of fish, we are ready to connect the leafs to the bamboo-stalks.

We are going to draw little stripes starting between the gaps in the bamboo-stalks.  The leafs will be painted on the ends. A little stripe, a curve  and then swoosh, the leave on there. Not to easy. Ane: 'We are just practising, it doesn't matter what comes out'. Ah right, it doesn't have to become a perfect artwork. Even though we are zen painting, it's good that she points this out to get out of the result-minded thinking. After a while of drawing leaves and trying it over and over again I start to get a little rebellish. Drawing different directions or giving the bamboos some hairy stripes seems so freeing all of a sudden. Ane tells me she also likes to experiment and not hold on to the authentic technique too much.

We are putting this in practise because we are going to play with her collection of brushes! It's nice to hear Ane talk about her brushes, she obviously has a weakness for all of them and talks about them in a passionate way. I get a wide brush and start making rounds, perky swings and try different ways. We are going all out. Layer over layer the paper get's fuller and fuller. Each brush can be used in so many ways. Ane tries out this thing she found in a toko. Sort of a brush but with little sticks where normally would be hair (ahuh). Her boyfriend, photographer Ivar Teunissen, comes in and we talk about an art-project they are starting together where Ane will draw on photographs he makes. They will take these illustrated photographs to a festival in San Pedro. Artists from all over the world will bring a piece of art with the exact size of 12 by 12cm. From the 18th of december till 17th of january . More informatie: 12cm.

Time flies by while we talk and paint and when it getting dark outside I'm heading back to Rotterdam. Thank you Ane for this lovely afternoon and explaining this very interesting, easing way of painting. Would you like to know more about sumi-e? Ane provides us with some tips:

http://www.sumiesociety.org/whatissumie.php
http://www.silverdragonstudio.com/sumi-e/pntg.html

Would you like to know more about Ane's work? Check out her profile here!

Next time I will dive into the 'gouache' technique and visit illustrator Chiara Arkesteijn