Wabi-sabi drawing

by Joshua Korenblat

"Wabi-sabi is the quintessential Japanese aesthetic. It is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete. It is a beauty of things modest and humble. It is a beauty of things unconventional." —Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

Ever since I encountered a ceramic vase, unpainted and misshapen, presented amidst gilded, paper-smooth folding screens at the Sackler Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, I've been fascinated by the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi. This ancient aesthetic finds beauty in the rustic weathering of time on humble objects. Today, Wabi-sabi suggests a rough-hewn antidote to packaged, shiny goods, and the sleekness of modern minimalism.

I had trouble explaining the concept of Wabi-sabi to a prescient person I admire, who immediately suggested, "Wabi-sabi means finding the soul in things." When I walk outside, I give attention to the overlooked, quiet actions of nature on creatures and objects alike, and the inner-nature inherent in all things; when I draw, I keep Wabi-sabi in mind, not overworking the drawings, responding to the essential simplicity of ink on paper.