I am always searching for new materials and exploring ways to incorporate them into my process. This, in addition to an interest in Japanese language and culture, led me to my research in ‘Nihonga’.

Literally meaning ‘Japanese painting’, Nihonga is a term that loosely refers to contemporary paintings made with traditional Japanese methods, styles or mediums. The term was coined in the late Meiji Era to distinguish native Japanese painting from Western oil painting (‘Youga’, literally meaning ‘Western painting’). A more in-depth definition of Nihonga and its history can be found here on the JAANUS online dictionary.

The mastery of Nihonga requires a skillful hand, acute knowledge of numerous painting materials and a tremendous amount of patience. Typically, Nihonga painters prepare organic and mineral pigments of various grain sizes, called ‘enogu’, with cowhide or deer glue, called ‘nikawa’, to produce paint. This process is unlike any other painting method. The glue-binding agent thinly coats pigments, allowing for intense, vibrant colors and gritty textural qualities. Rather than combining paint colors beforehand, the artist creates the desired colors by delicately building layers of pigments on the painting surface.

There are few resources in English that explain the materials and techniques used in Nihonga. My ongoing research involves the translation of Japanese-language resources, supplemented with experimentation and hands-on applications.