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Hunting Art Impetus with Soy Sauce and Sumi-e

Updated on November 8, 2011
Soy as ink
Soy as ink | Source

I stab at the spilled soy with my Fude ...

I am no monk, that’s for damn sure, no peaceful Buddhist or fish-multiplying Jesus. I am mostly a man full of rage and contempt, for myself, for humanity, even for art. But I hold that in, I pressure cap it off with books and television, with diverting my eyes towards the blue sky and clouds. Luckily when I was a boy, I was introduced to the strength in forgiveness and that motive has kept me and others’ alive.

I am a sumi-e artist. I make my own ink, I make my own paper, I make my own brushes and I make my own subject. This art form chose me I believe, because of it’s clarity of purpose, its’ black and white delineation conforms to my rampant over analysis. Sumi-e keeps me sane you see, keeps my fiery fists at bay.

But today is a bad day, someone left the cap off the soy sauce in the refrigerator and spilled it everywhere and I’m pissed because I have to clean it up. No infinitely long Bushido meditation can cleanse me of my anger at this pooled liquid. I am not mad at my roommates for not fessing up to the deed. I am just mad.

When I first saw the soy I shouted, “Who left the cap off the soy sauce?”

The only roommate that was home responded from down the hall, “It wasn’t me, I can’t remember the last time I used the soy sauce.”

At that response I felt my lips curl towards my nose, my beard becoming itchy.

To overcome this malformation in my environment, I will have to get out the big brush, the Mater Fude. I created this brush on my own. When I was a young man I stole into the night with my ten inch steel knife and crept up behind a large buck feeding beside a huge black walnut tree. I grabbed the buck by the antlers it turned and gouged me in the cheek spilling my blood onto the leaves at my naked feet. Quickly I tore into its’ neck with my sharpened metal and felled the beast to the ground. I expediently eviscerated this earth brother and ate his beating heart. I took his body home and made moccasins, sinew and I used the longest hairs on its’ body to complete the Mater Fude. It was made from the fur of ten animals all of which were consumed to the fullest: a deer, a weasel, a beaver, an opossum, a fox, a black bear, a ferret, a flying squirrel, a raccoon and a tatanka.

Any artist will tell you about the dangerousness of the precipice of creation. Like a diesel engine, once it is started no problem, you can keep it on and on and on making art as if there were no days at all. But to get it started, to dip the brush into the ink, to apply the ink to the rice paper, well that is a beast not so easily dispatched at midnight. There are dishes to be put away, there are bills to pay, there are appointments to keep, phone calls to be made, clothes to be washed, conversations to be had, food to eat, songs to listen to, television to watch, muscles to be stretched. Making art can be the most cathartic experience one may ever have, but first you have to find a way to begin to wretch that newness from within, and no metaphorical finger down your throat will bring it up, no button can be pushed to begin the process, no toggle can be switched to get your generator humming. What is at the essence of impetus for creating art? What is it that motivates an artist to overcome the mundane routine of life, to hurdle all the obligations and instead reach for the torch that has been handed down blissfully from one creator to another and light still one more unique fire in his heart?

I know the answer to this question, but I forget it often somehow. Like our true manitous, there is no real definition for it, no verbiage that can cage it properly, only a feeling, an ephemeral, ethereal, visceral feeling that is lubricated by all the i’s one has to dot in his life.

“I have you now!” I scream at the mouth of the refrigerator. It stares back at me menacingly. I scream, “Banzai!”

I stab at the spilled soy with my Fude and load the brush with bean sauce. I reach over to the brown paper I had gathered for this hunt. I slash with one mark at the fiber, and leave an amber mark pulsing on the page, the sweet and salty smell of sauce lingering in the air. I devour the paper immediately and rush to my room to take a nap. I curl up under my blanket and smile, my belly full of paper, soy and art.

Spilt soy sauce, the menace...
Spilt soy sauce, the menace... | Source


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    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for noticing htodd!

    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks mackyi, I'm glad it shows, I try hard to make it my life though sometimes other parts of my life get the upper hand over my art.


    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thank you Sheila what a wonderful thing to say, I'm flattered. The struggle is true to the way I feel about approaching art.


    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      Great post...Thanks

    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Green Lotus for your kind compliment, they can't all be masterpieces but I'm keen on this one too!


    • mackyi profile image

      I.W. McFarlane 

      7 years ago from Philadelphia

      I like the way you express yourself...Your colorful words of expression confirm that you are indeed an artist. Voted up interesting bro!

    • Sheila Wilson profile image

      Sheila Wilson 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Love this! So many pieces about creating fall flat on the page. This captures the spirit of the process without being cliche. Well done!

    • Green Lotus profile image


      7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This whole Hub is a work of art! Great stuff.

    • Ben Zoltak profile imageAUTHOR

      Ben Zoltak 

      7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thank you Peggy for your generous praise. It's been a few years since I've picked up my quills and brushes but I have enjoyed putting sumi-e ink to paper before. This is my first entry for the hubpages creative writing contest this month, I had to clarify to my wife that this was a work of fiction!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas are an artist with words as well as an artist with brushes, paper and other mediums. This is evident from reading this hub. Voted up and useful.


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