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”If I paint their eyes, they would fly away.” 

The legendary Chinese artist Zhang Sengyou 張僧繇 was asked to paint a mural in a temple. He painted four dragons but left out the pupils in their eyes.

When the people asked him why Zhang explained that if he painted the pupils, the dragons would come alive.

When the on-lookers shook their heads in disbelief Zhang proceeded to paint the dragons eyes. As soon as he finished,  the dragon roared to life and flew away in a thunderous flash of lightning!

This story embodies the philosophy of  sumi-e. The goal is not simply to reproduce the appearance of a subject, but to capture its soul. To paint a horse, the artist must understand its temperament better than its muscles and bones.

To paint a flower, there is no need to perfectly match its petals and colors, but it is essential to convey its liveliness and fragrance.

So when I paint urban life, I try to capture the atmosphere and magnetism of a big city. Feel the story behind each building and citizen.

David Öqvist

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