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Landscapes with Hiroshi Yamamoto - April 16th, 2005

In Western art, the starring role is the historical, religious, or mythical human. In Eastern art, landscape is the preferred and even revered subject. The human figure appears in a minor and even insignificant role, or not at all. Hiroshi Yamamoto, sumi-e painting instructor at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre, led us in a workshop on landscapes, which also included a demonstration of mounting paintings and applying gold flakes for effect.

Hiroshi began by showing us how he gets ideas for paintings. He typically looks at his sketches, which he draws whenever he has the chance. 

Hiroshi turns to his sketches for subjects to paint

He opened a number of notebooks and suggested to the participants of the workshop that they also regularly sketch. Hiroshi uses colored pencils when he sketches.

Sketch books contain ideas for paintings

He then began his painting for the workshop, initially using charcoal and faint brush strokes to layout the structure of the painting, which was some rolling hills as seen in the moonlight.

Structure and opening brush strokes   

More strokes followed and the hills began to appear. Hiroshi emphasized that we use a dry brush initially and start with light ink. Dark black ink can always be added later for dramatic effect.

Painting begins to be filled in with details

When it came time for the moon, Hiroshi showed us a tip: use a jar.

A jar creates a perfect moon

Taking the jar away revealed a perfectly round moon.

A round moon is revealed

Hiroshi then sprayed the painting with water. He uses thick paper, which is necessary because the painting became quite wet.

Spraying considerable water blends the ink 

At this point, Hiroshi added more strokes to refine the painting.

More touches are added

Some clouds were drawn across the moon.

Clouds drifting across the moon are added

Hiroshi completed the painting and had the participants in the workshop try their hands at producing a similar painting, while he offered advice to each person. 

Completed landscape painting

After we had drawn our own version of the painting, he returned to the front of the class to show us how he mounts paintings and how he uses gold flakes on paintings for artistic effect.

Glue for mounting is derived from flour

A wide brush is used to spread the glue and it is always started from the center of the painting and then worked toward the edges. The glue is made from flour.

Mounting glue is spread from the center to the edges 

Afterwards, the glue on the back of the painting is examined carefully for wrinkles and hairs. Before mounting, the back of the painting must be smooth and have no dust, particles or wrinkles.

Slight wrinkles and particles are removed 

The painting is mounted and Hiroshi flipped the painting back to its front.

Painting  mounted and returned to its front

The wide brush again was used to smooth the work out, this time from the front.

Final touches to smooth out the mounted painting

Next Hiroshi showed us the technique to add gold flakes for dramatic, artistic effect. He began by blowing some glue on a section we wanted to add gold flakes to.

Blowing glue on a section to have gold flakes

Hiroshi used bamboo tubes with screens inside to control the gold flakes added to the picture.

Bamboo containers used to spread gold flakes

The gold flakes were added through the bamboo tube. The gold is real 24-caret gold, however, imitation gold flakes can also be used. Hiroshi told us that in Japan, imitation gold is called Western gold.

Gold flakes added to the painting

Excess glue and flakes were removed by applying an absorbent paper towel.

Excessive glue removed

Hiroshi used the technique again on another section of the painting.

Another section has gold flakes added

Hiroshi showed us the complete work, mounted and with gold flakes. The shimmer of the gold flakes will appear once the work has dried.

Completed work, mounted and with gold flakes

Hiroshi brought some of his work to show in addition to the piece he created. The work included this version of the same painting.

Similar painting created earlier 

Another painting on display used silver flakes (aluminum, actually,which Hiroshi told us is more silvery than silver). Silver can be used effectively in winter scenes.