Calligraphy, just like any other form of at, reflects the artists state of mind: what is written on a sheet of paper, cloth, or piece of wood shows the personality of the works creator. It is said, “Your writing reflects your personality.” This is why the Japanese name for calligraphy is sho do, which most directly translates as “way of writing” – in the same way that flower arranging is known as ka do ( way with flowers) and the tea ceremony is sa do (way with tea). What makws calligraphy very special is that it is an art of the moment; you can create a stroke only once and, in wanting to capture the moment, calligraphy requires special concentration. Strokes are works of art in themselves, you can never correct a mistake once it has been made. Although calligraphers through the ages have sought inspiration from the ancients, calligraphy never involves merely copying the works of old masters. For everyone who practices calligraphy, each stroke and each character us a reflection of his or her own spirit.

from The Simple Art of Japanese Calligraphy, Yoko Takenumi + Kakko  Tsuruka

…I see that I have not included more traditional looking forms of calligraphy among the following, but this was the selection that spoke to me tonight…….


“One” in kanji.   http://dialog.paulettepascarella.com



Takako Biber

…… i cant resist these big brushes………..


…..sumi-e art…..

A selection of the sumi-e paintings that sung to me today……..

Wonderful, this road to Cold Mountain —
Yet there’s no sign of horse or carriage.
In winding valleys too tortuous to trace,
On crags piled who knows how high . . . 
Han-shan (from #48 of “Cold Mountain”)



Sumi-e’ is painting what is not there!



…on zen art……sumi-e…….

Oriental artists are not interested in a photographic representation of an object but in interpreting its spirits . . . . Occidental art . . . exalts personality, is anthropocentric . . . . Oriental art . . . has been cosmocentric. It sees man as an integral part of nature . . . . The affinity between man and nature was what impressed Oriental artists rather than their contrast, as in the West. To Occidentals, the physical world was an objective reality–to be analyzed, used, mastered. To Orientals, on the contrary, it was a realm of beauty to be admired, but also of mystery and illusion to be pictured by poets, explained by mythmakers, and mollified by priestly incantations. This contrast between East and West had incalculable influence on their respective arts, as well as on their philosophies and religions. (1963:253-255).

Art in the West has developed a complex linguistic symbolism through which the artist manipulates his material to communicate something to his audience. Art as communication is basic to Western aesthetics, as is the corollary interrelationship of form and content. Music is considered a language of feeling (Hanslick 1957) and consists of”sonorous moving forms.” A landscape painting in the Western tradition is not merely an aesthetically pleasing reproduction; the artist uses his techniques of balance, perspective, and color, to express a personal reaction to the landscape–his painting is a frozen human mood. The aesthetic object is used as a link between the audience and the artist’s feelings. And the artist’s technique is used to create an illusion of the forms of reality.

The Zen artist, on the other hand, tries to suggest by the simplest possible means the inherent nature of the aesthetic object. Anything may be painted, or expressed in poetry, and any sounds may become music. The job of the artist is to suggest the essence, the eternal qualities of the object, which is in itself a work of natural art before the artist arrives on the scene. In order to achieve this, the artist must fully understand the inner nature of the aesthetic object, its Buddha nature. This is the hard part. Technique, though important, is useless without it; and the actual execution of the art work may be startlingly spontaneous, once the artist has comprehended the essence of his subject.

Belief in the superiority of spiritual mastery over technical mastery is evidenced by numerous stories of bushido matches (Japanese sword fighting) in which untrained monks defeated trained samurai because they naturally comprehended the basic nature of the bushido contest, and had no fear of death whatsoever.

A Chinese painter was once commissioned to paint the Emperor’s favorite goat. The artist asked for the goat, that he might study it. After two years the Emperor, growing impatient, asked for the return of the goat; the artist obliged. Then the Emperor asked about the painting. The artist confessed that he had not yet made one, and taking an ink brush he drew eight nonchalant strokes, creating the most perfect goat in the annals of Chinese painting.

The style of painting favored by Zen artists makes use of a horsehair brush, black ink, and either paper or silk. It is known as sumi-e. The great economy of means is necessary to express the purity and simplicity of the eternal nature of the subject, and also because it is a generalizing factor. Zen art does not try to create the illusion of reality. It abandons true to life perspective, and works with artificial space relations which make one think beyond reality into the essence of reality. This concept of essence as opposed to illusion is basic to Zen art in all phases.




I have so far found a number of strands of ikebana, the art of flower arranging.  It is a traditional japanese art with a number of schools.  It is a spiritual art form, called kado, the way of flowers.  It has a presence in the west in Shambhala  as developed by Chogram Trungpa.  So there are many roads to journey down……..

And flowers do not just include flowers, but branches, pods, seeds, the picked and the offerings, with non-traditional movements using different materials, including metals and glass.

But, in many ways, the photographs, as ever tell it all.  For the more curious, check out http://www.joandstamm.com



…..some “avant – garde” examples of ikebana….