Fine Arts: Japanese Painting

Japanese Painting “Nihonga” techniques utilize mineral pigments, shell white and other materials made from living nature. This type of painting is rich in a traditional beauty handed down from antiquity. The Nihonga course includes sketching trips, the preparation of mineral pigments from actual hard natural rocks, and subject matter drawn from the course’s own fields filled with plants, wildflowers and other natural delights. This course honors the visually acute spirit that lies at the depths of Nihonga, the root of depicting nature. The beautiful landscapes are evoked by the clearly defined four seasons, with trees whose vibrant life force stands in dialogue with the wind and the sun. Students will be taught an even greater awareness of Yamagata’s great natural resources, encompassing the wonder of being able to depict that nature. The faculty also includes an impressive line-up renowned in the Nihonga painting world. Teacher-student and student-student relationships are close, providing an ongoing and effective stimulus. The course is renowned for its accomplished students, many of whom while still studying had their works accepted for display in such influential exhibitions as the Inten, Sogaten and Ueno no Mori Art Museum Prize Exhibition.

Observing and Sketching Plants from Life

During the first term of their first year, Nihonga course students observe and sketch plants in the school’s own fields. This exercise involves tilling the field, cultivating plants they would like to sketch, and then observing and sketching those plants as they live and grow. The experience gained and the sketches made in this course are then carried over to the botanical drawing course in the second term.

Preparation of Mineral-based Pigments

The mineral pigments used in the production of Nihonga paintings can be made from the rocks found along the roads in the area. The beauty of natural colors, the innate feel of their components, their effect as paint pigments, all of these are experienced through the five senses as students learn the characteristics of a variety of Nihonga painting materials. While taking painting materials as a starting point, the historical background and other factors of these pigments are introduced as the reason behind their use.

Overseas Study Trips

In addition to sketching trips within Japan, those who wish to participate further can make overseas study trips. Previous trips have included such destinations as India and China, Tibet and Dunhuang, sites difficult to access if traveling alone. These trips bring students in contact with overseas scenes and culture, thus broadening their visual awareness.

Metallic Leaf Lecture class

Professor Tsukioka’s paintings have spread the art of metallic leaf technique throughout Japan. This course will offer students practical experience in this expressive technique that is almost synonymous with Nihonga painting methods. It is extremely difficult to handle the micron-thin, delicate leaves of gold, silver and other metals, as indeed, they dance away at the slightest breeze or breath. Being able to handle metallic leaf might even be seen as signaling a student’s maturation as a professional painter. Students also learn how to employ the classical techniques of cut gold leaf and its many forms.