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Mesmerizing Dragon Paintings Created With a Single Winding Brushstroke

 one stroke painting dragon ippitsuryu sumi-e painting

The one stroke painting technique is a mesmerizing feat to behold, requiring a deft hand that slides across the page. In the Nikko region of Japan, just outside Tokyo, one family has been honing their unique craft for generations. In the Takase family, there exists only one subject for their special artistic gift—the lucky dragon.

For centuries, dragons have been signs of good fortune in Japanese culture. Thus was born a special form of sumi-e called ippitsuryu.  Ippitsu—or sometimes referred to as hitofude—means dragon, while ryu means single stroke. The current head of the workshop, Fumiko Takase, is the third generation to carry on the tradition. Her siblings also practice the art form, and she is training her son.

As with all forms of sumi-e, an ink wash and brush that is similar to what is used in calligraphy are the main tools. Here, the emphasis is on the beauty of the brushstroke. The stroke should capture the essence and spirit of the painted subject, with a single stroke adding to its majesty.

Hitofude Ryuu single stroke painting dragon ippitsuryu sumi-e painting

By varying pressure and brush position, never lifting from the page, the ink wash takes form. Carefully, she moves her hand, snaking around to form the twisting body of the dragon. It's a skill that takes incredible precision and patience. Small details, such as whiskers and claws, are added later.

But, the practice is not without controversy. According to the Takase family, their technique was stolen by a rival studio run by the neighboring Kousyu family. With workshops steps from each other, it certainly makes for an interesting twist on the single-stroke dragon.

one stroke painting dragon ippitsuryu sumi-e painting

Hitofude Ryuu one stroke painting dragon ippitsuryu sumi-e painting

one stroke painting dragon ippitsuryu sumi-e painting

Watch Fumiko Takase perform her incredible one stroke painting technique.

The rival Kousyu family also have many ippitsuryu videos. Which do you prefer?

h/t: [Spoon & Tamago]

All images via the Takase family.

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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