Can great artists be formed? In The Brush of the Gods, author Lenore Look retells an ancient story. 1500 years ago in China, when the artist Wu Daozi lived, his teachers believed there was a very specific way to do everything – from how you soaked your brush, to how you ground your ink, to how you held your brush. And then, when your brush finally met your parchment there was a VERY specific way to make your characters.
This was a problem for Wu Daozi. His brush could make worms, or blades of grass, or the fold at the hem of a robe or even a horse’s tale, but numbers, charactersâ€¦they were slightly problematic.
But Wu Daozi did not allow the displeasure of his teachers to distract him from his determination to let his brush create its magic. He drew on walls everywhere. People were amazed by his talent and soon they began leaving coins, bowls of rice, and even a chicken for him! Daozi gave these gifts to the monastery to feed the poor.
He continued to paint for quite some time. Finally the Emperor saw his work and he asked him to paint an entire wall at his palace. It was his greatest achievement. Legend has it that Wu Daozi never died, but merely walked into his final painting.
Wu’s 300 fresco paintings did not survive, but his belief in the power of inspiration lives on. This story is beautifully illustrated by Meilo So.