Japanese silk painting master Tetsuo Koyama will be putting on a silk-painting workshop at TOSH in September, teaching local artists the 300-year-old art form. Here is an example of some of his semi-abstract work. — Courtesy Yuko Yamamoto

Parksville Qualicum Beach artists to learn 300-year-old Japanese art form

Master silk painter Tetsuo Koyama teaching at TOSH this Sept.

One of Japan’s master silk painters is coming to Qualicum Beach to share the 300-year-old art form with local artists.

Tetsuo Koyama is a kimono fabric-making master, and an educator who’s coming to Vancouver Island for the second time to share his knowledge.

With the help of his former student, Yuko Yamamoto (a mixed-media artist based in Duncan), Koyama will be helping students to develop a design and teach them how to realize it on fabric using traditional techniques.

The basics of the technique are about 300 years old, said Yamamoto, who will be translating for Koyama during the workshop, as he does not speak English.

“We use rice-glue resist to manipulate dyes,” she said. The glue is drawn onto the fabric, but it’s eventually washed off after dye has been applied. “Rice paste started to be used around 300 years ago… (and) the material is still used by the professional artists in Japan, but the technique has been developed.”

In Japan, silk painting is used for making designs on material for kimonos. The workshop taking place at TOSH, however, will have students create a stand-alone art piece.

Part of the workshop will include a discussion between Koyama and each artist to refine each individual’s design.

This will allow Koyama to help incorporate the individual’s design with traditional styles, and to explain the limitations and requirements of the silk painting technique while still maintaining the student’s own ideas.

Koyama’s own style is abstract and semi-abstract, sometimes showing stylized landscapes, and sometimes featuring shapes and colour, said Yamamoto.

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However, Koyama is a very open-minded teacher when it comes to his students’ ideas, she noted.

“Still many masters in Japan ask their pupils to make something similar to them… we need to accept their style. We have to adjust ourselves to the master. But he is the opposite,” said Yamamoto.

While Koyama’s style is inspired by nature, Yamamoto is passionate about painting people in a more realistic style.

“He is very open to whatever I do,” said Yamamoto. “He just guides me in the way I want to go.”

Nonetheless, Yamamoto said, she feels her work isn’t surprising to Koyama as it’s in many ways still embedded in Japanese art practices. She said she’s excited for Koyama to be surprised by what his Canadian students come up with.

“I think it’s very wonderful (that Koyama is coming back to the Island to teach),” she said. “When he works with Canadian people, very unexpected things happen for him.”

For instance, in 2014, when Koyama was invited by the Cowichan Valley Arts Council to put on a solo show and intensive, five-day workshop, Yamamoto said Koyama didn’t think his students would be able to complete a piece within that time.

“In Japan, everything is very slow,” said Yamamoto. But what would have taken two weeks in Japan took five days here.

“At that moment, he was surprised because Canadian people work so efficiently,” said Yamamoto.

The silk painting workshop takes place at TOSH with an orientation on Sept. 7, and then the workshop proper on Sept. 19 and 20.

While registration for the workshop is full, those interested can contact TOSH in case of cancellations.

For more information, go to www.theoldschoolhouse.org/ClassesOverview.html.