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peterson interview continued on page 40
Life is learning every day . . . Whatever you enjoy doing, you can always
learn to do it better.
Toshi Peterson was born in Japan and came to the United States with her
American husband in the early 1950s. As a child she had dreamed of becoming
an artist, despite the challenges of life in war-time Tokyo. Her father, who
raised his 4 children alone, after the death of Toshi's mother, was an electrical
engineer as well as a talented musician and calligrapher. She credits her father's
encouragement to develop her skills and his wisdom in facing life's challenges.
We asked her about those challenges . . .
A friend had introduced me to my husband,
who was in the Army
in Tokyo. When we
wanted to marry, my
father was against it.
He said that we would
have to face a lot of
prejudice when we
came to America and
he was right! He told
me "somethings you
will not forget, but it is
important, nevertheless,
to forgive." My husband
re-enlisted in the
Army after World War
II and we were posted
to many places in this
country and to
Formosa, where my
husband was an
advisor to Chiang
Kai-shek. After he
retired from the
military, we settled in
Akron, Ohio, and I
began to study Sumi-e painting. In Japan,
my father's older brother was a well respected
Sumi-e artist and I wanted to study it too.
My teacher was one of the few women
Sumi-e masters in Japan.
What is Sumi-e painting?
It is a style of painting that was borrowed
from the Chinese, painting on rice paper
with black ink and a brush. You have to
concentrate to master the brush strokes to
accurately depict what is in
nature. It is a combination
of developing your skill and
meditation. The basic
strokes that you have to
practice are called The Four
Gentlemen Strokes: orchid,
bamboo, chrysanthemum
and plum blossom. I studied
for nine years and my master
awarded me my chop, which
is a signature or seal that I can put on all
my work to signify that I have achieved
the mastery of my art.
In addition to your Sumi-e paintings,
you work in other media. When did
you begin to work with watercolors?
After our six children were grown, we
moved to Maryland. I began to study at
the community college and worked with
Fredric Schuler Briggs, from the Schuler
School of Fine Arts. I also studied with
Rita Cooper, who encouraged me to try
oil painting as well as pastels and watercolors.
I like working with oil paints because you
can easily correct mistakes. But I also like
to work with watercolors because it is much
more delicate.
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