oil painting » Painting techniques » Sumi-e techniques


Sumi-e or Suiboku is a form of ink painting developed in China during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) from the practice of Japanese and Chinese calligraphy (shodo). Suiboku was introduced to Japan in the mid-14th century by Zen Buddhist monks, and grew in popularity until its peak during the Muromachi period (1338-1573). Sumi-e literally means "ink pictures". suibokuga means "water ink pictures." Only black ink — the same as used in calligraphy — in various concentrations is used.

In sumi-e, as in calligraphy, the artist usually grinds their own ink using an ink stick and a grinding stone, but prepared inks are also available. Most ink sticks are made of densely packed charcoal ash from bamboo or pine. The artist puts a few drops of water on the inkstone and grinds the ink stick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink is made of the desired concentration. Ink sticks are of higher quality and are preferred for works that are to be displayed. Prepared inks are useful for practice.

A tsuketate is a type of brush used for sumi-e. Sumi-e brushes, most of which are the same as the brushes used for calligraphy, are traditionally made from bamboo, and goat, ox, horse, or wolf hair. The brush hairs are tapered to a fine point, a feature vital to the sumi-e painting style.

There are four main brush strokes used in sumi-e, called the "Four Gentlemen" — the Bamboo Stroke, the Wild Orchid Stroke, the Chrysanthemum Stroke, and the Plum Branch Stroke. The strokes used to paint these four plants are the basis for everything painted in sumi-e.

Sumi-e technique :

Ink painting has evolved from the elegant Calligraphy of China. The hit that forms the character for number one, becomes the trunk and branches for the bamboo tree. If you look strongly at the Chinese word for horse, you can see the legs, tail and mane. The basic brush strokes educated in calligraphy are the same used in painting, they are considered to be the "Twin Arts". The basic brush techniques are best learned by practicing calligraphy, this allows the painter to concentrate on the brush strokes without becoming concerned with color and composition. It is essential for brush painters to know enough calligraphy to sign their names and add characters of descriptive or poetic calligraphy to their finished paintings.

In brush painting, the brush is detained perpendicular to the paper, almost at a right angle to the hand, and is definitely grasped at a considerable distance from the point by the thumb, index and middle finger. During the method of drawing, the fingers remain almost immobile and the work is done by the arm unsupported. For painters qualified in the Western tradition, this seems clumsy, to say the least. As one wise teacher would say, "If share the brush in this manner seems uncomfortable, too bad, get used to it." No sympathy! Well, he was right, in time it seemed normal.


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