One-Stroke Dragon: Keisuke Teshima keeps ancient art tradition alive with dragon painted in one brushstroke

Japanese artist Keisuke Teshima is keeping a centuries-old tradition of dragon art, known as One-Stroke Dragon, alive in his homeland.

The Kyoto-based artist performs the traditional technique using a calligraphy brush to create spellbinding patterns on the dragon’s body in one single stroke.

In a country that honours the dragon for its legendary power, the single brushstroke method of the One-Stroke Dragon art form is believed to capture the spirit of the dragon it portrays and brings luck and good fortune to those who own the finished painting.

The tradition of this ancient art form began in the early 1600s during Japan’s Edo era. As its Japanese name infers, ippitsuryu (translated as ippitsu: a few lines, stroke of pen; ryu: dragon) or hitofude ryu (hitrofude: one stroke; ryu: dragon), the technique uses as few strokes as possible to create a dragon.

During Japan’s Edo era, many artists mastered the art of One-Stroke Dragon and it was present in temples and shrines throughout Japan.

This form of traditional Japanese ink painting uses an ink wash and brush, similar to calligraphy. The focus of this art form is on the beauty of the brushstroke.

Today, there are only a handful of these masterful One-Stroke Dragon artists, Keisuke Teshima being one of few remaining in Japan. Always fascinated by dragons from a young age, Keisuke Teshima trained in traditional Buddhist art techniques before working as a craftsman restoring Buddhist Temples and altars in Japan.

While restoring the temples and altars, he discovered the One-Stroke Dragon style and became fascinated, teaching himself about the history and the technique itself.

To create a One-Stroke Dragon painting, Keisuke Teshima begins with small single strokes to create the dragon’s head. Then he draws the scales of the dragon’s torso form in one stroke, moving his hand with incredible precision and patience. He finishes each dragon painting by adding small details at the end.

In One-Stroke Dragon, a dragon painted facing up is proud and symbolises ambition, while a downwards facing dragon is praying and acting as a guardian.

After three years of practicing, Keisuke Teshima had his first debut as a One-Stroke Dragon painter in 2014, holding his first solo exhibition in Ginza. As one of the few one-stroke dragon masters remaining in Japan, he has restored over 200 Buddhist temples’ artwork. His beautiful dragon masterpieces have now caught the attention of fans worldwide and are now available to purchase from his website.

Keisuke Teshima

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com

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