Poem & Painting Squirrels

“But at my back I always hear
Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.”

—“To His Coy Mistress,” by Andrew Marvell

This excerpt from a well known poem, written 5 centuries ago by English poet Andrew Marvell, speaks admiringly about the various physical attributes of a coy young female acquaintance. The 2nd stanza quoted here are the best known lines as the poet realizes the sudden imposition of time and death negate all his life’s passions and longing. The poet concludes that we need to express our passions, while we are able. He hopes his feelings are shared by his mistress.

In East Asian culture, refined scholars in the upper classes of society seek to hone their skills in calligraphy, painting and poetry. These three themes are the mark of the complete gentleman. Of the three, poetry is my least explored skill. Many Asian calligraphers and painters copy the poetry they admire. Copying is an acceptable norm in this culture. Likewise in Western culture, we like to quote the verses we admire and that resonate in our lives. I quoted these lines from Andrew Marvel in a library report while head librarian at a dental school library in the Mission district of San Francisco in 1965. The College of Physicians and Surgeon’s Dental School, Univ. of the Pacific, was moving to a newly built location on Webster St. and we faced many decisions about what to take and what to discard prior to the move. It took a year of massive discarding, selling of excess journals, and outdated books, before we were ready to move what remained. Major shifts in information collection have occurred since 1965 which has seen the dawn of automation and computer technology. I was part of this transition in the library profession from card catalogs to computers until my retirement in 2001.

Today, I am more aware of how little time I have left on this earth and wonder what imprint or legacy I will have in the future. Andrew Marvell’s legacy is his poetry which still resonate today. What will mine be? What will yours be? What is beyond our time on this earth? We can only live in the present, remember the past and speculate on what’s beyond.


What’s Perfect?

Have you ever been told that you or what you created is perfect? Actually, artists like me tend to be very insecure and view their own creations as far from what is our ideal.  It’s  reassuring to know that any fears and negativism I am experience are covered by God’s overarching love and care. The only perfect  human example  is Jesus Christ.  I can place my fears and cares on Him, the only One who can make  what is imperfect, perfect by his grace and power.

I now have several art mentors to encourage me in my pursuit of artistic & professional excellence.  Today, one of my mentors, Brainard Carey, spoke about artists’ fears of being less than perfect in their craft and careers. But as Salvador Dali notes, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.” So it’s best to just keep doing with practice, production, affirmations and encouragement from those who’ve experienced these insecurities in this creative journey.  Jesus’ perfection is unique and we only need to trust and obey Him and take Him at his Word. LORD may it be so. Amen.

P.S. Check out  mynew website: AmericanSumie.com



Being Authentic

After I became a Christian, I sometimes tell people that I became more authentically myself.  My husband and I were baptised at Downers Grove Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Downers Grove, Illinois in the late 1970s, shortly before moving back to California where my husband and I met at the University of California, Berkeley in 1964.

Being a follower of Christ and letting Him direct me doesn’t mean I’ve become more self-centered. Rather, when we choose to follow Him, we also let him direct us.  Lately a lot of my decisions seem to be made using intuitive rather than logic.  I like to think the Holy Spirit is directing me to hone my abilities, personality, and character to bring honor and glory to Him. For some reason, this feels right,  to resume my former dream of becoming artist.  I started this blog to promote my love of Sumie art. But what I’ve written in this blog sees to be ‘other’ directed, as it wasn’t my intention to write about my religious faith at all.  Is this God’s directive?

The image I posted here was used for a teaching project for a Sumi-e class. The grove of trees, and the little red seal both say the same thing. They are visual images of my Chinese maiden surname, Lin, which means forest, or grove of trees.  What could be more authentically me than this? Praise God for guiding me to become my authentic self so that He can be lifted up and glorified.



Tiger, Tiger

Asian belief systems often refer to the duality of nature, such as Yin and Yang, light and dark. William Blake’s poem, Tyger, Tyger (original spelling) comes from a collection of poems called the Songs of Experience. The Tiger is described here as a ferocious creature, powerful and the symbol of supreme strength. By contrast we are given a meek and childlike image of the Lamb of God, who is also the focus of one of poems from in Blake’s earlier Songs of Innocence collection.

Both and we are all made by God and all of us have a reason for hope and a purpose to declare the One who someday all heaven and earth will proclaim , “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelations 5:12 NIV)

God has chosen the weak things [like me] of the world to shame the things that are strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27 NASB).

Both the Tiger, the Lamb and we are all made by God. We all have a reason for hope and a purpose.In our case, that is, to proclaim the One who someday all heaven and earth will proclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelations 5:12 NIV)


The Word Eternal

The Chinese word “Eternal” is the best first word to practice beautiful writing, or calligraphy. Shown today’s practice with reference book, Brush with Life, by Martha Dahlen,et al.

Eternal life is also the one concept that we as Christians, and people of faith, are supposed to concentrate on, not the short temporal living of this world. May our lives point to that eternity. Muhammed Ali expressed this sentiment about what he still valued after he lost so much of his earlier achievements and skills. May we know what we value, keeps us going, and what leads to eternal life.
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Sumi-e and my Christian faith

May 30, 2016

While visiting the Japanese emperor’s place in Tokyo in 2005 with my husband Kim, I saw my first kingfisher,a small iridescent bird flitting about in the royal family’s garden. That image has alway stayed with me.  I created this art piece with that image in mind.

It’s always my intention to share my Christian faith while being authentically myself as an artist. This artwork was created for the 2014 NAPAD Convocation in Chicago IL. NAPAD is the North American Pacific Asian Disciples Ministry of the Christian Church Disciples of Christ.  I currently serve on the NAPAD Executive Board of Directors.  It was not part of an official marketing outreach but my own way to share both my faith and art.

The image here shows a kingfisher catching a tiny fish in its beak which is the image of Christ who calls us to be “fishers of men” and to be like Him: humble, gentle, respectful, loving.

My apologies for poor quality of quickly taken photo using my cell phone –will try to use better quality camera and setting soon.

Peace & God’s blessings, Shirley Lin Kinoshita

Sumi-e Artist & Instructor