From baci to brushwork

One of the few ways to play taiko. The drumsticks are called baci (pronounced ba-chi). Drawn with a disposable brush pen.

One of my pleasures these last few years has been learning taiko. It is a Japanese drumming practice which spans thousands of years. Not only are the taiko, or drums, beautifully crafted generation after generation in Japan, this style of drumming is an art. It not only requires great technique but an insight into Japanese aesthetics because taiko playing is a very visual form of music making. It is one instrument that is for the eyes as much as the ears.

So in Sydney we are lucky to have TaikOz, an established Australian taiko music company, who tours nationally and internationally performing predominantly taiko music, both original written and traditional pieces. They have student classes every week and several students are members of an off-shoot group called Taiko No Wa. It is made up of advanced students who want to take their taiko playing to the next level which includes composing music and performing publicly.

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Taiko No Wa achieved great success last year when they performed and won a taiko contest in Japan. Which is no mean feat for an Aussie team to win a traditional Japanese music contest in its land of origin. Anyway, they were invited back to Japan to perform in a “Best of” concert with other past winners. So they put on a small concert in Sydney to iron out any kinks before they headed off.

I love drawing live taiko playing, so this concert was a great opportunity to do some more. Taiko drumming isn’t always loud and frenetic, even so, it is the most exciting to draw. It’s very similar to 15-30 second life drawing exercises. They move so fast you have no time to think or get finicky with lines being in the wrong place, it allows you to capture the essence of the movement and its energy.

Very top pen is my Pentel waterbrush and below is the disposable brush (unbranded).

For my materials I grabbed a couple of brush pens. A friend gave me a couple of disposable pens from a recent trip to China. Initially I didnt take to them because they required a lightness of touch which I do not have. You only have to look at them and a line would appear on your page. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to use them. I also took a Pentel waterbrush  filled mostly with Indian ink and a touch of water. I was scared the ink would clog up so I watered it down a bit.

The disposable pen was made for this kind of drawing! They allowed my hand to flow over the page and replicate the movements of the musicians. And the flexibility of the brush going from thin to thick was great in capturing the turns and shifting of weight as they moved.

Drawn with a Pentel brush pen filled with Indian ink

The Pentel brush was good too. I’ve only ever put water in it but the ink was pretty fluid coming out. However, it did take a few days of soaking the brush section in water to get rid of all the ink residue.

Anyway, I’m not sure how many people will get the chance to draw taiko players BUT if anyone likes life drawing or drawing quick moving objects like animals for instance, I would recommend trying a pen with a brush tip. It has a very exciting feeling and result.


19 thoughts on “From baci to brushwork

  1. I hadn’t heard of taiko before and just watched a few videos on youtube after reading about it here on your blog – it’s awesome! Just as your sketches – I love your dynamic style. And I bow to your ability to catch the energy of those fast moving subjects in such an amazing way (I find it *so* difficult/distressing to draw something/someone that moves, even if slowly!). <3

    1. Thanks E*phi, yeah taiko drumming is great both to watch and play. I suppose I had an advantage because I know a lot of the moves, but there’s always that unpredictable element about it.

  2. I have done some quick sketches with India ink and a Japanese calligraphy brush. It was very freeing. I love what you have done – lots of movement.

  3. Great sketchings and lovely use of the brush pens. Your line is free, wavy and very fashionable.
    also use them I use Pentel brush and it’s great.

    I’d like to warn you about the india ink that can clog your water brush mechanism. You can use another balck japanese ink called Platinum Carbon Ink, it’s better for your waterbrush. I use it daily even in my fountain pens, it’s waterproof and you can even make color washes easily.


  4. These are absolutely stunning! Love the movement and action you convey with an economy of lines. Really neat re the pens – I’ve never done this, though I’ve seen it on the Gurney blog. I am actually yearning for that kind of line lately, so I’ll have to try it.

    Re your buildings – I can’t remember if I ever commented. I know I kept returning to your posts attempting to read them from beginning to end but kept being interrupted, so if I didn’t comment – I greatly admire your meticulous, almost scientific approach at learning the skill of drawing buildings. And many of the results are superb, even if what you term the learning stage. I have always had difficulty with the exactness required with buildings which attracts them to me as well. The challenge of it all! But I find myself being looser than ever when I do them. Go figure. Anyway, great work – keep it up!

  5. just love these! I must try the ink in the pen – I have been afraid they’d leak, which was silly as the water doesn’t leak 🙂

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