Camp Zama cherry blossom trees inspire artists during class

Saori Komura, an art instructor at the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center, demonstrates how to create a cherry blossom painting next to the Community Recreation Center at Camp Zama, Japan, March 27.
Saori Komura, an art instructor at the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center, demonstrates how to create a cherry blossom painting next to the Community Recreation Center at Camp Zama, Japan, March 27.

Camp Zama cherry blossom trees inspire artists during class

by Winifred Brown
U.S. Army Garrison - Japan

CAMP ZAMA (March 29, 2020) – Surrounded by blooming cherry blossom trees, participants in the outdoor cherry blossom painting class here March 27 did not have to look far for inspiration.

Tyler Hudson, for example, simply looked down while organizing her art supplies and immediately saw how to add texture to her painting: She would incorporate cherry blossom petals that had fallen from nearby trees.

“If you set petals on top of wet paint, it will stick like glue,” said Hudson, who learned to paint with her grandmother about 10 years ago. She gathered a handful of petals, wrapped them in paper and saved them until she was ready.

Sabrina Tsai, manager of the Camp Zama Arts and Crafts Center, and Saori Komura, an art instructor there, taught the class in the amphitheater next to the Community Recreation Center. They provided an example scene that included the nearby torii gate and gazebo, but told students they did not have to follow it.

“I always encourage people: ‘Do your own painting,’” Tsai said. “Don’t follow our sample, because everybody’s [will be] totally different.”

Tsai was correct. Of the 10 paintings participants created, they all had significant differences, and students said they appreciated the fact that they had creative freedom.

“It was fun,” said Kyerra Will, 11. “There was something that we could copy, but you could also put your own twist on it.”

Kyerra said she followed the instructors’ example to a certain extent, but only included half of the torii gate at the edge of the picture and added cherry blossoms and petals falling from the cherry blossom tree.

Jackie Clark, meanwhile, said she began painting as a hobby during the pandemic, and was happy to have the opportunity to paint outside on a beautiful day.

“I like seeing what other people do too and how it ends up looking different,” Clark said.

Clark said this is her first cherry blossom season in Japan, and although she moved here from Washington, D.C., and saw the cherry blossom trees in bloom there, it was great to see them in Japan.

“This is their natural habitat, so that’s just really, really cool,” Clark said. Japan gifted Washington, D.C., with 3,020 cherry blossom trees in 1912, according to the National Park Service.

Similarly, Hudson said she signed up for the class because she wanted to take the class with her husband, Cody, and just get outside and paint.

“I’ve been to a few classes here and I thought this one was pretty good,” Hudson said. “I like that it’s a little more freeform. You’re not quite expected to do exactly what it is [the instructors] were doing.”

Tsai said this was the first time the center has hosted an outside cherry blossom painting class, and it went well.

The students painted with tempura paint, which dries quickly in an outside environment, Tsai said, so they did not have to wait long for layers of paint to dry.

“The weather is nice and the cherry blossom season is not very long, so it’s good that we just come out and sit under the tree and paint the cherry blossoms,” Tsai said.

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