Nihonga Master Class for Visually Impaired -Touching and Creating –

Nihonga Master Class for Visually Impaired

-Touching and Creating –

November, 2016


  1. Outline

n  The master class for visually impaired to learn the Nihonga paintings:

Ø  with touching/ feeling with their hands the unique texture specific to the character of Nihonga materials

Ø  with creating their own works using Nihonga materials


  1. Background and the Purpose

n  Previously, for the visually impaired, the forms of artistic expression were focused mostly on literature, music and 3-dimensional works and as for the painting, due to its difficulty in identifying the colors and drawing lines/details, it was assumed to be unsuitable to appreciate or to create one.

n  However, in the Japanese culture appreciating various textures have been naturally practiced in not only paintings, but in ceramics, papers, etc., therefore, it has not been an obstacle for the visually impaired to feel or create the texture.

n  With this master class I would hope that they will not only understand the Nihonga paintings by touching with their hands, but also learn the artistic expression from creating the works by themselves.


  1. Characteristics of Nihonga

Unique Materials

The traditional Nihonga materials, such as Washi (Japanese hand-made paper), white Gofun paint (made from oyster and clam shells), Iwa-Enogu paints* (mineral paints made from natural stones such as azurite, lapis-lazuli, or shells like coral) and metal leaf, all possess unique textures which one can sense by the touch, the sound or the scent.

*Iwa-enogu paints are made from ground stones with the particles separated into 16 sizes to create different shades.



The concept of Nihonga, at its heart, places importance in free expression of one’s idea and creativity not restricting to capture the subjects in realistic form, and abstract expression has been practiced in many art works including national treasure pieces since several hundred years ago, and there are works created by an artist who lost sight using traditional painting techniques.


  1. Master Class Process

①     First, participants will tear sample paper similar to the Washi paper to learn the strength of the paper and to feel the paper fiber of the torn paper edges, and at the same time they will be asked to get inspirations to form the image how they can use the torn paper pieces into works of art.

②     The participants then use the Washi paper pre-coated with Gofun white paint on one side. They will start by touching the coated paper to confirm its size and the texture then proceed on to ball up the flat piece of paper slowly.

By doing this, some of the Gofun paint coat on the crease will come off the Washi paper creating a certain pattern on the paper. According to the image each participant will want to present, this process will be carefully handled step by step.

③     When the above process is finished, the paper will be stretched back into flat form and each participant, with assistance from one-by-one support member, will paste the paper onto the provided board material.

④     Now the Washi paper base pasted on the board has a certain pattern on the surface, the next step is to paste/place other Nihonga paint materials with different textures such as silver-color metal leaf (specially-made aluminum leaf), iwa-enogu (mineral paints), Gofun flakes, torn pieces of paper, etc. using special adhesive material, and complete the works.


  1. Observation

I have conducted master class at a school for the visually impaired in Japan and at a museum in Russia inviting the visually impaired. I was excited to see they were enjoying the whole experience – to touch and feel the Nihonga paintings or to create their own works following above process -, but, what impressed me even more was that their finished works were truly beautiful and they seemed to shine in this society as the irreplaceable modern art pieces.

There were also other positive aspects from the master class. The volunteer members who assisted the participants were inspired with new insights themselves from the experience, and the families of the participants were absolutely delighted to see the works as well.

I felt strongly that indeed art can serve as hope for everyone and believe it is the great asset for humanity as it can form a connection among people.


Yukio Kondo

Nihonga artist

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