Watch This Artist Paint a Dragon's Body With One Soothing Stroke

Japanese artists have been painting in the Hitofude-ryuu tradition, using as few strokes as possible, since the early 1600s.

This Hitofude-ryuu artist can paint an entire dragon’s torso with only one brushstroke.

The traditional Japanese art technique began during the Edo period in Japan from 1603 to 1867. It’s a form of sumi-e, a painting style that involves an ink wash and brush similar to what’s used in calligraphy, and some artists pass the skill down through their families for generations.

The technique involves a mesmerizing balance between hard and soft brush pressure. The artist draws the brush along the canvas in one movement but alternately presses strongly and lightly against the page. These small movements create the scales on the dragon’s torso. The beauty and majesty of the single brushstroke is supposed to capture the spirit of the dragon it portrays.

The single stroke is also thought to protect or bring good financial and romantic luck to customers who request the paintings. An upward-facing dragon is said to bring luck, while downward-facing dragons are said to offer protection.

When creating the dragon, the artist will add personalized characters called bonji that resemble a particular god, often related to the customer’s professional or personal needs. The bonji of a healing god might be added for a customer wishing for better health, for instance.

The artist in the video above has a studio in Kyoto and paints every day. Hitofude-ryuu requires an extreme amount of focus and lots of detailed work, so he usually completes only three to five images a day. He gets online orders from all over the world and has traveled abroad to Florida, Mongolia, and the Philippines for small exhibits of his work.

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