Long Distance Sumi-E


I have been asked to teach sumi-e over the internet.
The answer is : no.
Am I cruel, or just stupid in an old-fashioned way? I don't think so.

Let me tell you how I learned sumi-e:
I would go to the house of my teacher, he would pick a book from a shelf, open it at some illustration, and say "paint this." Then he would disappear into the kitchen and drink tea. Occasionally he would return and clap his hands, really loud, behind me.

A Lesson:  "This is not a good eye you painted," he said, "give me a piece of paper. I'll show you how to paint the eye of a bird."
(Since he only wants to demonstrate a bird's eye, I give him a paper that somehow got a tiny dot of ink on it.) He takes the brush and paints a bird around the dot, in such a way, that the dot turns out to be the eye of the bird.

Sometimes he would paint something; but frankly, I don't remember a single technicality he might have taught. I do remember that something noble was going on, even sacred. We hardly ever talked. And quite naturally I felt that the accomplishments of the last thousand years were within my grasp.

After three years he gave me his japanese students and made me sensei, teacher.
"What shall I do?" I asked.
"Participate," he said.
One word. To teach students that had studied with the master longer than I had. Also, they didn't speak English; and since I don't speak Japanese we understood each other perfectly.