Ink Drawing Series & Artist Books

“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization. Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simple won’t see it. It is, as Ruskin says, “not merely unnoticed, but in the full, clear sense of the word, unseen.” …When I see this way I analyze and pry.

But there is another kind of seeing that involves a letting go. When I see this way I sway transfixed and emptied. The difference between the two ways of seeing is the difference between walking with and without a camera. When I walk with a camera I walk from shot to shot, reading the light. When I walk without a camera, my own shutter opens, and the moment’s light prints on my own silver gut. When I see this second way I am above all an unscrupulous observer…

When I see this way I see truly. As Thoreau says, “I return to my senses.” – From Seeing, an essay by Annie Dillard

Following a life-changing visit to Japan in Spring 2023, which saw me spending time and drawing in Japanese Zen gardens in Osaka, Nara, Kyoto and Matsue, a new body of work has been gradually emerging, through which I sense that I am moving away from the first type of seeing described above by American essayist and nature writer Annie Dillard, towards a deeper kind of seeing, closer to Thoreau’s “return to my senses”. 

Absorbing influences of shodō, ink art, shakkei, ‘borrowed landscape’ along with Kintsugi – a process of repair, made by a highlighting of flaws or breaks using real gold, in order to more fully understand the nature of existence – has been bringing me to a new place in my work being made ‘en plein air’ attuning the unique atmosphere of Japanese gardens, both in Japan and in Ireland – each connected with the writer Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), who spent time as a child in Ireland and, as a adult, spent much of his later life in Japan, creating a beautiful garden in Matsue – and also responding to the landscape that can be viewed from a garden, returning to Dr. Neil’s Garden, nestled, almost secretly, on the shores of Duddingston Loch, in Edinburgh.

Having been Artist in Residence for a year at Dr.Neil’s Garden and consciously sheltering in this magical setting – at the same time maintaining a connection to my hometown in Tramore, Ireland by returning regularly to draw in The Lafcadio Hearn Japanese Gardens there –  and following a period of much loss, I am now finding a welcome deepening of my creative process to be accompanied by what feel to be significant developments in my work.

As I continue to draw regularly in these gardens in Edinburgh and Ireland, I have a growing awareness of ways in which this way of working is in fact a process of rewilding myself, within the community of these two places, both of which is my home. By spending extended time being engaged in this way an opportunity becomes revealed, to begin to unlearn, relearn, and establish completely new ways of seeing, being, thinking and doing. I brought back with me from Japan something called a Rakkan-in – what feels to be symbolic name stamp, for marking as a personal seal or stamp on artwork – which can be glimpsed in the photographs which you can see in the photos (with kind permission from Colin Hattersley Photography) of me at work, back in my studio in Edinburgh.

As well as a concertina book made in-situ in Japan and Ireland and a series of ink drawings, made into a series of Artist’s Books, this body of new work also includes a series of larger drawings which, when viewed together, form a panoramic – though not a perfect one – view of the edges of the garden as they meet the surrounding landscape, both near and far, or ‘borrowed’, and a small space thus opens towards the vastness, to its utopian potential…

Photo: Beth Mollison Photography

All other photography by Colin Hattersley Photography and Beth Mollison Photography

Ink Drawings from Japan and Ireland


 Large Ink Drawings


 Artist’s Book Series