Growing up I was never very good at painting, or art for that matter. So, upon hearing about the above video, I figured, “Cool. Okay, one stroke — even I can do this.”
But these types of paintings, called Hitofude Ryuu (Japanese for “dragon with one stroke”), entail a very special and sophisticated “stroking” technique. It’s so much more than just slapping a brush onto an empty canvas. It also turns out the art form is part of a long and rich Japanese tradition.
According to Japanese culture blog Iromegane, the paintings are called Hitofude Ryuu (Dragon with one stroke), and the ones shown here originate from a small studio called Kousyuuya in Nikko, Japan. The studio has seen four generations of master painters who have been creating these stylized dragons for decades.
The process involves carefully painting an ornate dragon head with various flourishes, and then finishing the piece using a giant sumi brush in a carefully orchestrated stroke. The process has much in common with both ink wash painting and calligraphy, and similar to letterforms, the images are often repeated.
Here are more videos of this fascinating artwork: