Thursday, March 29, 2018

Rock and Mineral Show

Oni-chan, 2018.  Pigment on shikishi board.
I've been hinting at the fact that I would soon write about my current painting endeavors basically since I started taking Nihonga lessons.  I actually kind of hoped I would put it off a little later by writing about the art scene in Mongolia.  Then I tried to actually revisit the art scene here, and it wrecked me.  Sunday I went to the Union of Mongolian artists, where they were taking down a show they'd just closed.  Best Gallery, in the same building, was open, but their work failed to move me.  Tuesday I decided I should try not to spend the whole day hanging out in Engrish's office, so about lunchtime I walked down to Zaisan Square, hoping to see what Articour had.  They were gone.  Yesterday I had plans to meet Wild Ass for lunch.  When she asked to reschedule for 3:20, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to check out the downtown galleries, starting with the Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery.  Closed for renovations.  Onward I marched to Blue Moon, where they were getting ready to open a show of photographs from Pyeongchang.  So I attempted a new gallery, the UB Art Gallery.  Closed, maybe for good.  I hadn't originally planned to make it to Ongi Gallery, but at that point I was getting desperate, so I trekked even further off the beaten path,  until I had the ger district in my line of vision.  I'm still not convinced that Google maps wasn't trolling me, but I found out where it was supposed to be.  Feeling somewhat defeated, I took a taxi back downtown, looking for the new location of the 976 Gallery.  And I found it...but it too was closed.  At that point I began to think that maybe I was just cursed.
Oni-chan, 2018.  Detail.
So, right, Nihonga.  I think the first time I heard of it was in conjunction with Murakami Takashi, and I was interested in doing it, but hadn't seen anyone advertising English speaking lessons until January, when I came across an article in Tokyo Weekender about my sensei, Maria.  Since wrapping up my painting course in December I hadn't been able to get myself working again, and given that I'd been working with Japanese subject matter, this seemed like a good way to move forward.  I got in touch and booked my first set of 5 lessons for 20,000 yen.  Since my first lesson took place on Setsubun, I chose to make a demon my subject.  It went pretty smoothly for the most part - I was especially pleased with the way the hair turned out - although I did have an issue at the very end when the whites of the eyes cracked.
Just getting started and knowing a little about the process made me want to know more, so a week later I used my day off for National Foundation Day to visit the Yamatane Museum.  They specialize in Nihonga paintings, and even though the museum wasn't big, and the exhibition focused primarily on one artist, Yokoyama Taikan, I enjoyed being able to see examples beyond mine and Maria's.
I also went shopping, although it took me a while before I actually bought anything.  Maria's studio is close to Uematsu, one of the art supply stores that specialize in selling pigment.  She had mentioned there was another in Yokohama, owned by the same people but called Sankichi.  When I figured out where it was (and that I'd already been there) I went back so I could actually appreciate what I was seeing - rows upon rows of color.

See, what makes Nihonga different from the painting I've done my whole life is that you mix your paints, adding nikawa, a kind of glue made from fish, to finely ground minerals, and then thin it a little with water.  Unlike oil, watercolor, acrylic, or pretty much any other kind of paint, you can't mix colors to create new ones.  If you want to use orange, you have to buy orange pigment.  You can't blend your red and yellow.  The pigments come in different grain sizes and each mineral has a different density, something I didn't figure out until my second week, when I was wondering why the color I was using didn't mix up like the ones I used the week before.

Most famous of all these shops is PIGMENT, which I read about even before I came to Japan on This is Colossal.  When my shrine hunt (post for another day) took me close to Tennozu Isle I took the opportunity to finally check it out.  Their selection was incredible - they had seemingly everything - but I resisted the temptation to buy ALL THE COLORS!  I've decided there has to be a method to my madness, and am attempting to act accordingly.  I figure if I buy the colors I'm going to use when I need them, eventually I'll end up with a wide range of colors over time without breaking my budget in any given month.
I put this idea into practice a few weeks back when I bought grey, brown, purple, and green pigment for the branch as well as a tissue thin purple iridescent foil for the blossoms.  Although I'm still working on my ume painting it's getting much closer to being finished, and I'm really excited about the progress I've made with it.  I'm still struggling to get all of the effects that I'd like out of my new media, but by far it's the most exciting part of my week, and I've already got my next idea ready to roll out when I finally do finish this one.

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