Birds Of A Feather

By and for Bird-People

Exploring your kintype with sumi-e

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Exploring your kintype with sumi-e

The other day, I went shopping for antiques with a friend, because I wanted a small item for photography and I thought I could find it at the antique mall. It’s always a very mixed experience, going there… the items of the older generation in America are filled with even more cultural appropriation than the things made now, but also, you see a lot of really beautiful things. And, there are always lots of swans. I guess swans were a big theme for decoration, in previous time… I see many more at the antique mall than I see anywhere else. There’s always some nice swan statue to look at.

Though sometimes it might seem like this, I actually don’t get wide-eyed over everything that looks like a swan. There are good swan figures/paintings, and bad ones. The difference is whether they capture something about the spirit of the swan, the natural movement, the energy or personality. It’s possible to make something that looks like a swan, but doesn’t feel like one. It feels dead. With animals, and birds particularly, the challenge is making them feel like they are moving and alive. Birds are not often still.

As I arrived at the end of the store, I saw three amazing swan sculptures that I thought, really did capture that spirit of the swan. I only got one good photograph of any of them, and, it’s not perfect, but it gives an idea:

What I really like about this sculpture (and the other ones that were there), is that it uses just a few simple lines of the body, to give the idea of the swan. But, the idea that comes through is very powerful. The design is not complicated, it is very smooth, but, out of that smooth and simple shape comes something that has energy, and movement.

It reminds me of the sumi-e style of painting. The idea of this painting is to create as few lines on the paper as possible, and each line you draw should have a strong meaning. The area to develop skill is that, with a few lines, you should be able to bring out the spirit of a thing. And, actually, I have been meaning to write about this style, from a therian perspective.

I think sumi-e is a good painting style to use, if you are trying to understand your kintype. Even if you think you understand, it might reveal subconscious things that you didn’t know about. When you are asked to paint a creature with as few lines as possible, all your lines must capture something that you think is important about this creature. The lines that you choose to focus on to create the creature, says something about how you see them… what you think is important, in expressing their spirit.

In this sculpture, the creator thought that the tension of movement, and the balance of weight, was important to capture. The swan’s wings pushing back, and the neck pushing forward – not in a sharp curve like swans at rest, but clearly reaching for flight – carries the emotion of a bird about to take off. This sculpture is all about the powerful neck and the powerful wings. The bottom half of the swan is not really there, and the feet are not there at all. And, so, it captures the intense and aggressive energy of the swan well, even while showing grace. This is not a bird who is content to sit on a pond. This swan is about pushing out into the world.

What kind of hidden things come out, when you paint your kintype? If you had to describe your self, your spirit, in a few lines, where would you focus? It’s an interesting thing to find out.

One Comment

  1. A truly interesting perspective; I have to admit I knew nothing about the ‘sumi-e’ painting style before reading your article – but now I really want to try it. When I think about it, I’m not sure what meanings I would find in drawing my crowside, but perhaps, something knowing, something curious and I’m not sure why strength comes to mind, haha. I should try paining tomorrow if I get the chance!

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