|One of Hakuin's|
gibbons. It's not really
possible to tell from this
if the arms were painted in
one stroke or not.
The type of stroke an artist uses - wet or dry, for example - can be linked to the subject. A wet stroke might be suggestive of spring or summer, while dry one might be used to indicate autumn or winter. Although the idea is simple, the nuances can be extremely sophisticated and are often linked to a deeper awareness of the subject, especially in further cultural and literary references. Likewise, a broader, wetter stroke can indicate ease and fullness, while a drier one suggests astringency and sensitivity. Some of this is aesthetic, but some of it is linked to an appreciation of the physical qualities, especially those concerning fluidity, of the medium.
In the case of Musashi's ducks, several of these kinds of references can be observed. It it exhibits the tensile, energetic strength so characteristic of his mature work, while using the brush and ink in several distinct ways.
Looking at the composition of the picture, there is a dynamic contrast between the tall figure of Daruma, and the ducks who are low down, close to the water-line. Daruma is painted as light and insubstantial (as befits someone balancing on a floating reed), his robes swirling around an empty centre, while the ducks are solid and assured in their duckiness. Wet, as well, which also suits their affinity to the water; and while they look happy, Daruma is all scowls and worry, his life's work many years from completion.