Enso Wall Art

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I think I made a bunch of ensō art by accident.

Let’s back up for a second. I’ve had a Japanese sumi-e kit in my possession for some time, but only dabbled in this messy and uniquely challenging art form. A little less perilous than oils, but far more finicky than watercolors, sumi-e was easy to shelve until the Covid19 days of “so much room for activities”.

During lockdown I was feverishly in the middle of an abstract expressionist phase, and I found inking real-world objects frustrating. Traditional bamboo and leaves weren’t holding my attention, and my “circle” phase compelled me to favor geometry.

So I painted free form circles, working on simplicity, subtlety and space. Then it clicked, hadn’t I seen this before? Hadn’t I seen it all the time? A few Google clicks later and I discovered that I had, quite by accident, been inking ensō paintings.

From Wikipedia: Enso is a circular artform that is hand-drawn in one or two uninhibited brushstrokes to express a moment when the mind is free to let the body create. Enso paintings are also supposed to be very intimate and personal to the creator: their hands, their inks, their strokes, their pauses, their nuances… there are many circles, but this one is mine.

These enso paintings were made with traditional brushes, but I also infused Cadmium and Ultramarine into the standard black ink in my color lab. I had enough rice paper for a short practice run and eventually settled on the best 4, which were then transferred to slatted calligraphy paper. My signature, much like the zen enso circle itself, is a paradox. It’s humble in that it doesn’t have any signature of mine, and vain-as-hell in that nobody has a signature quite like it.

These enso paintings were created spontaneously, but I’ve titled and themed them after the life cycle of a star: birth, life, entropy, and annihilation.


  • 2020 . Industrial Age
  • Sumi-e, Cadmium & Ultramarine Watercolor Ink on Rice Paper
  • Photoshop