The Four Gentlemen

In May, after meeting a retired Japanese man in NYC who befriended me, one thing led to another...he showed me his artwork and my interest in this style of work was reawakened! I had taken a class many years ago in Vermont, gaining some basic techniques at that time. I found myself buying supplies at a Japanese bookstore, did some reading and research at the Japan Society library and enjoyed returning to ink painting.

This diversion from my normal style of artwork was simply wonderful. A real mental break. I absolutely loved working on these! Drawing was my hobby as a child, and it is so very easy to use just black ink, compared to the concentration required in color-mixing for watercolor. Rice paper - while unforgiving - makes subtle suggestions for the eye, relieving the artist of painting in huge detail.

My photography is poor, but these little pieces were such a joy to create. I hope you will enjoy viewing what is a very different painting genre for me!

                                                                                                                                      ~ Elise

"Sumi-e is a style of painting that is characteristically Asian, and has been practiced for well over a thousand years. Literally ink painting, it is an art form that strives to distill the essence of an object or scene in the fewest possible strokes."

The Four Gentleman or The Four Seasons:
(Bamboo, Chrysanthemum, Plum Blossom, Orchid)

    Traditionally, artists learned the techniques and principles of Chinese and Japanese painting by copying works of masters.   In this way the knowledge was passed from one generation to the next.  It is also customary for scholars to practice painting subjects known as The Four Gentleman or The Four Seasons ~ Bamboo, Chrysanthemum, Plum Blossom, and Orchid.  By doing so the artists refined their skills while they cultivated admirable qualities of character.






Bamboo - Gentle Strength (Summer)
A bamboo stands upright.  It is flexible, bends with the wind, and maintains an upright position.  It bounces back with the weight of snow but does not break.  A bamboo remains strong, honest, and true to its principles.  The bamboo represents summer, since it is abundant with growth during this season.  It also symbolizes energy, vitality, nobility, and gentleness.  The inside of a bamboo is hollow - conveying the tranquility of inner peace.

The Bamboo illustrates all the Chinese principles of composition in the simplest form.  It can be on of the most difficult subjects to master and the most rewarding.



Chrysanthemum - Courage (Autumn)

Chrysanthemums are one of the last flowers to bloom each year.  They maintain courage in face of cold winds and early snows and defiantly bloom in full color glory.  The chrysanthemum reminds us that it is possible to triumph when the going gets tough and to be brave when faced with adversity.





Plum Blossom - Hope, Faith, and Undying Love (Winter)

A plum tree may live for over 100 years.  A plum tree has a very old rugged trunk that resembles a dragon contrasted with delicate soft young blossoms.  Plum trees consistently blossom each year, it is the first flower to bloom.  In the winter, when there is snow on the ground, the plum tree defies winter and blooms, symbolizing hope and faith for the return of spring.  Faithfully each year, the plum tree displays its blossoms like a peacock parading its feathers to attract a mate, and therefore symbolizes undying love.






Orchid - Modesty, Beauty, and Purity (Spring)
Orchids were originally a somewhat secretive plant that grew in remote locations and hid behind rocks.  Today in China and Japan, orchids are cultivated into over 100 varieties.  Orchids have small bright beautiful flowers almost hidden among the blade-like leaves.  Orchids symbolized modesty, beauty, joy and purity.

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