The Japanese Potter, the Art and Process
“Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands.” (1)
My work involves painting the Japanese potter in action as their hands transform a clump of dirt into its new form; a vessel. The use of natural resources and connection to nature affects the Japanese potter's work from start to finish. I paint the Japanese people and their progress through their work because I am interested in the ancient and current pottery culture of Japan. During my first years in Japan I studied pottery with a local potter. Since then I continue to explore the art vicariously through my paintings of the potters. Painting the figure has become my handiwork.
My paintings focus on the figure(s) in action within their environment such as in Akashi San, where the potter is forming a pot on the wheel. The light and posture in the painting pulls the attention to the hands which are producing the action. The extra finished plates and water bowl give environmental context.
Most tourists, foreigners, and non-potter countrymen only see the end result: the tea bowl, nabe pot, vase, or pot for bonsai. Seeing and painting what is involved in making these pots is a documentation of the potter's work that is poured into each of these vessels. Having the opportunity to spend significant time in Japan has exposed me to the specific practices involved in their production.
As I paint, I use a painterly approach with an expressive brushstroke to explore elements of atmosphere and light and shadow effects. I explore schemes that involve value shifts, temperature shifts, and harmonies to further enhance the subject. Ultimately I am looking for a balance between the expressive brushstroke and a complete statement of reality. Exploring the subject through 2-3 small complete oil paintings in the studio, I then translate my ideas and design onto the final substrate.
Japanese art is prized for its unique, individual and perfect representation of nature. Likewise, I hope to share the individual people of this culture in my paintings through unique and clear depictions paired with visible brushwork. My goal is to document through oil paintings one aspect of the Japanese people and their love of nature and its beauty: as seen through the production of their pottery.
(1) Isaiah 64:8 Holman Christian Standard Bible