intro | a picture
sample art portfolio
art & design supplies
other art resources
you might also
be interested in:
art & design schools
art studio furniture
pantone color guides
studio & office art
top 100 books
tools for marketing your services
web design graphics
back to the
|art lesson: sumi-e
sumi-e background & instruction
Sumi-e is a Japanese word that means "ink picture." Ink painting was practiced in China as early as 200 A.D., and then introduced to Japan and Korea by traveling Zen Buddhist monks around 1300 A.D. The basis of Sumi-e is Chinese calligraphy, with its simple yet purposeful line structure. The art has been refined over the centuries particularly by the Japanese, so that most think of Sumi-e as originating in Japan, but Sumi-e refers to the Asian art of ink painting, with many cultural influences and one singular philosophy.
Also see The History of Calligraphy.
The emphasis in Sumi-e is in the technique, the learned brushstroke. One does not paint an object, but its essence or spirit, and that comes from simplifying the scene to capture only those elements that are necessary. In many ways it is similar to haiku -- a few deft strokes convey a rich pattern and organization. Each brushstroke speaks loudly and patience is essential.
You will need a Sumi-e Set or you can buy the Sumi-e tools and materials separately. To begin painting you must first prepare the ink. Dip the ink stick (sumi) in water and grind on the ink stone (suzuri) in a circular motion, always in the same direction, until it forms a creamy black ink. This may take about 25 minutes and is a time of contemplation. Rub the sumi slowly and don't use too much force -- this lets you maximize the ink's color. While preparing the ink you, the artist, must focus and prepare yourself mentally to paint. Your mind should become tranquil, reflecting on the painting, the brush strokes to be used and the subject. When you're finished rubbing, wipe the sumi with paper and put it away.
If the sumi breaks, rub the broken piece to make a thick ink, then apply the liquid to the ends of both pieces. Ink works as glue and the two pieces will bond.
Fundamental brush techniques are best learned by practicing calligraphy, allowing the painter to concentrate on the brush strokes without becoming concerned with color and composition. In brush painting, the brush is held perpendicular to the paper, almost at a right angle to the hand, and is firmly grasped at a considerable distance from the point by the thumb, index and middle finger. During the process of drawing, the fingers remain almost immobile and the work is done by the arm unsupported.
Traditionally, calligraphic characters are always considered part of the painting, not separate from the painting. It can be a poem, a story, a saying, a signature, a nickname, the date, the place it was painted, or the title of the piece. Many artists now limit their calligraphy to a signature, which can be drawn by hand or applied with a chop, a seal handcarved from soapstone or wood. Contemporary ink painters incorporate colors, using colored sumi, Gansai paints or liquid inks, pushing the boundaries as art must do.
© Robins Design. All rights reserved.
more art lessons & projects:
About Kolinsky Brushes
About Stone Sculpting
Basics of Silk Screening
History of Calligraphy
History of Henna
History of Mobiles
History of Watercolor
How to Prepare a Design Portfolio
Dick Blick Art Projects / Lesson Plans