We didn’t have to look too far to meet our next Artist of the Month: Esteban Martinez. How close? How about a next door neighbor! Rhode Island has a reputation for being small, where there exist three degrees of separation, with those degrees going down as the art scene in the Ocean State only gets stronger. As Mr. Martinez answers our famous questions, perhaps you can think of reaching out to a neighbor, business or otherwise, and see what kind of connections you can make: it’s amazing how much in common we have, simply by asking.
PCI: Tell us a little about yourself and your work, Esteban. What kind of artwork do you do? What or who influenced and inspired you?
EM: Shodo, Japanese calligraphy. My main inspiration was my late Aikido teacher Fumio Toyoda Shihan. I also get inspiration from classical Zen calligraphers and martial artists.
PCI: What attracts you to working with paper?
EM: Well, 50% of good Shodo is having good paper. The other 50% is skill and ink. So paper is important. How paper reacts to ink, quality, size, texture…it will all affect the end result.
PCI: What do you like best about working with paper?
EM: How it reacts to the ink, and the effect it produces, whether it is dry or wet spots. It all gives the calligraphy a unique feel.
PCI: In turn, which your pieces manifest. How did you hear about Paper Connection International?
EM: Lauren is my next door neighbor!
PCI: So who says good fences make good neighbors?
How much knowledge did you have of washi before using our papers?
EM: Just the basics of Japanese “rice” paper for calligraphy. I didn’t really got my hands on real handmade until Lauren gave me a piece of a beautiful paper called Kihosen Kana.
PCI: A popular misnomer that Asian papers are made of “rice” materials. We are so glad you were introduced to that gorgeous paper, made out of kozo, or Japanese mulberry. How did Paper Connection help navigate and inform you about Japanese paper?
EM: Through Lauren I have been learning the differences between machine made and hand made paper, and why handmade quality paper is so much better.
PCI: So what papers do you use of ours and for what process?
EM: I got a whole block of Kihosen Kana handmade paper.
PCI: What did you like about those papers that enhanced your creative and technical process?
EM: The sumi ink flows beautifully in it and I really like how the calligraphy looks on it.
PCI: Please explain some of the differences you have discovered between our papers and others you have worked with.
EM: You can tell that the paper from PCI has been carefully sourced from the best places. The rest feels generic and poor quality.
PCI: Based on your experience so far, what papers would you recommend to a fellow Shodo artist?
EM: I like Kihonsen Kana paper for Shodo or Sumi-e because it has a beautiful texture and the sumi_ ink flows perfectly on it.
PCI: I can envision the tranquility of each brushstroke as you describe that. Our famous bonus question: If you could have a conversation with any artist present or past, who would it be? And would you talk about paper?
EM: I would like to have a conversation with Yamaoka Tesshu. He was a master swordsman and Japanese calligrapher. I would ask him how did he choose his paper and how he mounted them on scrolls.
PCI: What a combination of skills! Surely that would be an enlightening conversation. Thank you so much, Esteban, for your time, and your support of Paper Connection International. We really appreciate it. And thank you for being such a nice neighbor!
To find out more about Esteban Martinez, please visit his website: Gohitsu Shodo Studio, where you can also fan his Facebook page and see what he’s up to on YouTube. I totally chilled to the background music while watching him at work. A great way to get inspired!