Tsukubai Painting: Creating Solace

I’ve had such a fascination with the tsukubai lately. That is the beautiful Japanese water urn, usually with a ladle, found in gardens and temples and is meant for purifying the hands and mouth before entering the temple or before a tea ceremony.

I’d already painted one before and was really pleased with the results:

Sitting in Silence, by Amy Tanathorn 16x20 acrylic and tea papers on gallery canvas.

I loved the way the tea papers made the stone look, and was eager to try more, especially with round tea bags that I’d collected.

So I found a beautiful reference photo and got to work with a 30×24 inch canvas. I always paint my canvases with a brown wash or have some sort of color on it before I begin; it helps me feel encouraged.¬†Here’s what the outline looked like:


I was thinking about composing another haiku, which was the reason for the square in the upper left-hand corner. But in the end, I decided not to.



Next was to lay down the colors in the background. That meant the stone urn and the backdrop. Lots of circles in this one. The backdrop will have circles peeking through, some barely visible in the dark greenish blue. The urn has chunky color and I adhered tarnished mica fragments you see toward the bottom of the painting. The idea is to get color and texture underneath the tea papers that I will attach later on.



And here is my first mistake. I was laying down a grey wash, but the colors clumped up and messed up the smooth look I was going for over the circles. It almost looks like a little planet, doesn’t it? I went back over the circles with the original color and ditched the idea of a grey wash.



In the middle of adhering the tea bag papers. I had to put them in between all the little leaves and it was tedious careful work that took a long time. I was worried I’d get bored and not want to bother, but the focus it took for me to do it paid off. I was half way done in this photo and had to do it for the rest of the urn, too.



Here all the tea papers are laid down and I’ve painted the leaves. The background with the faded circles are done and all I have to do is some more coloring in the urn over the tea papers and color the bamboo ladle and holder.




Shading is just about done – I think I toned down the bamboo holder and made the water reflection in the pool a little better looking. I adhered origami to the background.


Solace, by Amy Tanathorn. Japanese water urn called a Tsukubai, found in Japanese Gardens. 24x30 acrylic, origami and tea papers on gallery wrapped canvas. $650 at AmyTanathorn.com

And here is the finished tsukubai painting. The origami circles are shaded with textured swirls going around it and around many of the leaves. The round tea bag papers are subtle and continue with the circle theme throughout the piece of art.

This painting is available for purchase. See more angles and buy it online for your convenience.



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