Born in Tokyo, Japan, Aiko Shimura Erickson studied shodo and ikebana (Japanese calligraphy and flower arrangement) as a youth. After graduating from California State University at Long Beach she went back to Japan to intensify her studies of calligraphy and sumie. Several years later in the United States she studied commercial and fine art in various schools, including the Corcoran School of Art. Returning to Japan, she became an apprentice to the renowned late sumie artist Kawai Bokusetsu and the calligrapher Ando Seisen, who gave her part of their names. After returning to the United States she studied Chinese art techniques.
Her last major exhibitions was held at the Korean Cultural Service gallery of the Embassy of Korea, where she represented traditional Japanese arts with noted Chinese and Korean artists and calligraphers. Prior to that she provided a major two-month solo exhibition for the Japanese Information and Culture Center of the Embassy of Japan. Her work has been exhibited continuously at the Gallerie Michele in Alexandria for many years. Her works have been exhibited and appeared in publications in both the United States and Japan. She also provides the topical and landscape illustrations for the covers of the annual JET Program publication for the Embassy of Japan. She has taught sumie and calligraphy in both Japan and the United States and held workshops in the Washington area for such groups as the Northern Virginia Art Teachers Association and for Fairfax County educational TV. For the past sixteen years she has been teaching sumie and calligraphy for the Smithsonian Institution and for The Art League School in Alexandria, VA. Her Smithsonian class was highlighted for two weeks during March 2009 in conjunction with Fuji Sankei Japanese news on MHZ television, a public channel for international programming. It is still periodically rebroadcast.
When I received my teaching certificate in Tokyo from my Japanese master Bokusetsu and was given my art name, Aisetsu, I embarked on my career of painting and teaching sumie in Japan. I depicted nature and landscape in the traditional black-on-white style in accordance with the Zen principles from which it came. After moving to the United States, I began using more colors in my paintings under the influence of an internationally noted Chinese master. I thus adapted my sumie to American tastes and that of my students, some of whom are of international origin.
I usually paint different plants with various creatures, large and small, in their natural surroundings to demonstrate a variety of sumie techniques. I incorporate calligraphy and haiku poetry to shows how those arts can connect seamlessly with sumie. My work now regularly includes both the traditional black-on-white rendering and the Chinese use of color. I feel that my lifelong practice of this art has increased my patience and compassion. I find that mastering and teaching sumie has enormously enriched my life. I am deeply grateful to be able to promote the continuation of Japanese culture in this country.