Mina Horner: Sumi-e Lessons

For my CIP I chose to take sumi-e lessons at アトリエ喜心. I knew from the start that I wanted my CIP to be art related, and I wanted to learn about something I wouldn’t get the chance to in America. I also wanted to do something I’ve never done before, and since I’ve mostly done pencil or digital art, working with ink was a completely new experience for me. 

Every week, I had two-hour lessons held at my teacher’s atelier. There were usually two or three other students as well, but they would filter in and out at their own pace. It seemed like many of the students had been going there for a long time and seemed to mostly use it as a workspace and for the materials. For my first lesson, the teacher had me paint only straight lines for two hours, which might seem menial but was actually very helpful in getting familiar with the brush and ink. I’m used to having the ability to erase or undo my mistakes, so working with a permanent medium like ink forced me to be more careful with my strokes and made me learn how to work with the mistakes I’ve made. The lessons usually consisted of choosing a sumi-e painting I liked and recreating it while receiving advice from the teacher. He would usually do a demo for me at the start, and since he would actually paint what he was explaining, it was very easy to follow along. I was also able to pick up some sumi-e and art related words. It was rewarding to see my own progress and how much more natural my strokes had become compared to the awkward, jagged lines I had made during my first lesson. 

lass. There were actually a few times where I lost track of time and stayed past my lesson time. Since starting college, I haven’t had much time to do art, so it was nice that I had a scheduled time every week to paint. However, I unfortunately didn’t get many chances to speak Japanese during my lessons, since the atelier was almost always completely silent, and it was hard to start a conversation. I spoke a little with my teacher, but it was mostly just him giving guidance on what I was working on. I somewhat regret not choosing a CIP where I could talk more with other Japanese people, as a major reason why I wanted to study abroad was to improve my speaking ability. However, I’m sure a big part of the reason why I wasn’t able to talk a lot was my own shyness. 

Overall, I really enjoyed my experience with taking sumi-e lessons. It was something I’ve never done before, and something I would have had trouble doing outside of Japan. However, if I could do it over, I think I would have chosen a CIP that would have given me more opportunities to speak and integrated me more into Japanese society. 

6 thoughts on “Mina Horner: Sumi-e Lessons

  1. Hi Mina, I’m glad you had a relaxing time at your CIP and I’m sure you would have been able to talk more if given more chances to go. Did you get to take home any of your paintings? If so, please share :DDD

    • Hi Christine! It really was a shame that I couldn’t go to more lessons! Unfortunately my teacher was holding all of my paintings until my last day, but since I had to go home in a rush I didn’t get a chance to grab them. But the experience was definitely more important than the paintings themselves!

  2. Hey Mina, it was really interesting reading about your experience. Since I was originally considering taking shodō lessons, reading your post helped me imagine what CIP would have been like had I taken a class in the arts. I’m glad you were able to take some time out of academics to relax and focus on painting. Looking back, I feel I would have also benefitted from participating in an activity where I could slow down and give myself a mental break from our packed schedules. Considering your hobbies seem to lie in the arts, would sumi-e be an activity you would like to continue engaging in after your time at KCJS, provided it is available elsewhere?

    • Hi Sarah! It’s great that my report let you imagine what an art-related CIP would have been! I’m not sure I’ll be continuing sumi-e, but taking the lessons has definitely made me more willing to get out of my comfort zone, and I’ve been thinking I want to try out other mediums too!

  3. Your CIP sounds really interesting. Only painting straight lines for the first lesson seems really discouraging but it’s cool that you stuck with it. Do you think you’ll continue sumi-e in the future?

    • Hi Christof! I was actually surprised by how much concentration it took to paint all of those straight lines! I don’t think I’ll continue doing sumi-e after this, but I definitely want to try out different mediums since ink was so fun to use for the first time!