Yin & Yang Principles In Fine Art
Do you know anything about Shiatsu?
It’s a massage technique developed in the 20th century in Japan by Tokujiro Namakoshi, but it has its roots in a much older technique from the 700s ad.
I studied the art in 1995, and a big part of it was learning about the yin & yang sign. This was a symbol I had seen all over the place, but never really understood it.
One of the most important elements of the yin & yang symbol is the idea that there is no light without darkness, and no darkness without light. Light is the absence of darkness, and darkness the absence of light. It’s a harmonious dance – the two form a pair.
There are many harmonious pairs like this you can find. There can be no sky without the ground, no happy without sad, no peace without conflict, no speed without stillness, no good without evil. Each of these is a part of its partner and can’t exist on its own.
At the same time, it’s not just a hard line split down the middle. It’s a curved line, showing that the difference between light and dark isn’t always clearly defined. There’s also a dot of white in the black, and black in the white. This is to remind us that we need a bit of everything in our body, soul, and mind. At its most ecstatic peaks, your life is not without sadness, and in your darkest moments there are always bits of joy to be found. You can never be 100% rid of one side or the other – and you wouldn’t want to. They’re both necessary in order to live.
I found this concept profound in its simplicity, and when I create art I try and keep it in mind. Take this illustration below, of a bike done in ink brush.
The first thing you might notice is that there’s a lot missing from this painting. You may not even notice right away what this painting is supposed to be. But your mind fills in the blanks, pulling the missing pieces out of your memory and piecing together what this person riding a bike should look like.
What I like most about illustrations like this is where your mind goes when you try to invent this bike rider which you’ve never seen before. This man with a thick moustache and hat – who is he, what does he look like? Is he Japanese, Italian, Spanish? Is he tall, short? Young, old?
What did I have in mind when I created this piece? It doesn’t matter. You can look at this illustration and see someone completely different than I did. That’s what makes art like this unique and personal.
The lesson here, I think, is to trust your instinct. It can take you to a place you’ve never been before, and allow you to fill in the missing shadow pieces with something familiar to take you to the next step. But at the same time, remember that that bit of darkness is an essential part of every tranquil moment.
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Until next time,