J. Kevin Byrne
Sketching Scholar's Stone and Skyline, White charcoal and Conte pencils on laid-black sketchbook stock

Inspired by:

Mia’s northfacing terrace at ground level, a couple skyscrapers peak through. What’s there is an assembly of a limestone know by the names of taihu stone, gongshi, or scholar’s rocks. It is found and collected within the drainage area of Lake Tai (Suzhou, China), becoming over centuries as a material known to be much preferred by Chinese gentry for rocks they artfully display in their inside gardens.

What does inspiration mean to you?

Raw material emerging from nature without human intervention can serve to inspire. Important attributes of scholar’s rocks are wrinkling (zhou), thinness (shou), openness (tou), and pores and perforations (lou). (Its lou is derived from millennia of erosion by water and waves.) It is also remarkable for having an aesthetic look-and-feel that is asymmetric, glossy-surfaced, resonant or ringing when struck, and appearing as haunting “mountainscapes in miniature.” (There is Chinese cultural lore that scholar’s rocks are inhabited by immortal beings.) I sketched in white onto black stock in order to dramatize the somber mood conveyed by the material itself.

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