Wabi Sabi: Imperfection

Ring the Bells that still can ring

Forget your perfect offering

There is a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.

-Leonard Cohen


Inks and gesso on 10 X 10″ w/c paper

Today I immersed myself in a contemplation of the Japanese esthetic of wabi sabi. In particular, the beauty of imperfect things, like cracked pottery and gnarled old trees.

My instructions to myself read something like: Strive for simplicity. Get in and out of the painting in 15-30 minutes. Allow the murky and undefined, the random and the clunky. Breathe deep and try not to overthink it.


I had fun dripping inks on this gesso textured surface.


and scraping out and toweling off and rolling on, with a bit of charcoal line suggestion. The title of this one will be “What is that growing on your roof?”


And when I was done, I had such a lovely torn piece of paper towel. In celebration of imperfect beauty I glued it onto another piece of paper for another start. I might break the 15 minute rule and play with this one some more. These “cracks” are letting a lot of light in!

If you’d like to join me in this pursuit of wabi sabi, on June 25 and 26 I’ll be teaching a weekend painting workshop at Sebastopol Center for the Arts in Sebastopol, California titled “The Visual Poetry of Wabi Sabi”.  For more information and to contact me, visit my website.


  1. Susan – I reall admire your works but especially these groupings…the pieces resemble cold wax and oil that I enjoy working with. Thx for your blogging with such


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