I admit I don’t know very much about Japanese culture other than what I remember from “The Last Samurai” and what goes into the rainbow roll I had yesterday for lunch. So I was pretty eager to attend last Sunday’s Sumi-e workshop at the Art A Fair, led by Master Toyokuni Honda.
Walking into the beautiful gazebo where the workshop was held, I immediately noticed Honda’s artwork filling up nearly every inch of the perimeter. Intricate designs on long white cloth and colorful masterpieces on small display easels surrounded the workshop table. As people sat and waited for the workshop to begin, I talked with Honda and his interpreter, Takuei Yoshida, about the artwork on display and Honda’s journey to Laguna.
What caught me by surprise was that Honda had not been learning and creating Sumi-e artwork his whole life. In fact, between the ages of 18 and 30 Honda painted only Western-style art. His work was primarily abstract and done in oil and acrylic — vastly different from the style he is known for today. It wasn’t until 1971, when Honda visited the ancient Buddhist temples of Mongolia, that he became inspired to pave a new path for his artistic career.