TWINSBURG — You start with bamboo.

Twinsburg resident Shirley Kondo gave a quick demonstration with a Sumi-E brush, deftly making ink strokes look like a stalk of bamboo. Knowing how to make the correct strokes takes a good deal of practice, Kondo said.

"Sumi-E painting , you can learn the strokes but it takes practice to get those strokes," Kondo said. "But once you get those strokes, you can do all sorts of things: animals, fish, flowers, people. But we always start with bamboo."

Kondo said she has been giving lessons on Sumi-E at the Twinsburg Senior Center for about three years now. Generally, the class meets every Tuesday from 9:30 to 11 a.m., but only met once in December. Kondo said classes will start again in January.

Sumi-E, which means "ink painting" in Japanese, includes four basic lessons, or the "four gentlemen," which painters learn: the bamboo, the plum blossom, the orchid and the chrysanthemum.

"Once you learn these, you can learn anything," Kondo said.

Kondo said she first learned about Sumi-E more than 10 years ago, when her husband was staying at Judson at University Circle. She said the facility had "a wonderful art program," and that she learned Sumi-E from the teacher there.

"I would paint in my husband's room," Kondo said. "I painted every day. When you paint every day, you improve."

The benefits of Sumi-E go beyond learning to paint, Kondo said. At Judson, many of the residents, most who had been professionals, discovered a new passion with art. Also, it was a good way to meet others.

"It's a socialization too, for us," Kondo said.

Eleanor Ermon of Twinsburg agreed.

"This is fun," Ermon said. "You come, you relax." Ermon added that she has been coming for about a year.

While Sumi-E brushes are available, watercolor brushes can work just as well, Kondo said.

Jo-Ann French of Twinsburg said she has been involved with the classes since they started.

"Shirley and I were in a fitness class," French said. "We still are. Shirley told me about them."

Laurie Drapp, another student, said that a few years ago, the artists with the class had their work on display in the glass cabinet at the entrance of the Twinsburg Public Library.

"We used some of Shirley's things from Japan," Drapp said as she found a photo on her phone. "There's Jo-Ann's rocks there." French has several examples of Sumi-E painting on rocks.

The Twinsburg Senior Center, which is at 10260 Ravenna Road, behind R.B Chamberlin Middle School, is open to Twinsburg residents 55 and older. For details on this and other classes, call 330-963-8722, or visit online.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at 330-541-9423,, or @AprilKHelms_RPC