Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sumi-e practice

So when I was on vacation, we took an evening to do some sumi-e painting. Well, to practice sumi-e technique. I found out later that some of my favorite paintings that I thought were color paintings in a sumi-e style are actually wood cuts! Sumi is a type of ink (the kind I use for my inking, acutally) and e means painting or something, so it just means painting with the sumi ink. Pretty fun. I got a book on painting sumi-e from Henderson's in Bellingham nd got some Sumi-e brushes at Daniel Smith and brought them up to the Silver Lake cabin. So we didn't have a full set to work with and I start out with a large brush. I practiced the different strokes first. Just loading the brush with ink took some practice. I don't know if we ever got it right. At least, not consistently. The solid lines are what you would use for the outline style paintings. The wide one that are dark on one side and light on the other are the boneless style, or Southern style. And when you use both, it is the Northern style, which I personally like best. For looking at. Since I have never done it.
Then we practiced circles. I didn't really understand the directions in the book (Complete Sumi-e Techniques by Sadami Yamada), which involve twirling the brush between your fingers. Because of this, I would like to be able to take a class on Sumi. I learn pretty quick from watching. Though I suppose most people do.
 Then we tried the flowers. I am not sure if the problem was the paper or self-teaching, but this did not work so well. I bet it was a bit of both. Each petal should be dark in the center and light at the edge. They were when I first put the ink on, but there was so much water and the paper wrinkled so mu that the ink spread over the whole wet area. Anyways, I want to try this again, but it is simple and would make a nice little picture in teh end. Just need to try a different paper. We were using paper ripped out of my mom's sketchbook that she bought when she was in college.
 Then I switch to a smaller brush, which helped. I think we were using letter size or smaller, so the page filled up super fast when I used a large brush. After a few more practice flowers with the small brush, we moved on to grass. Not sure I get it. I should read that part again. I think my hands wants to draw the same line over and over, but the grass blades should each be different.
 A few more practice grass, and then leaves. Which ended up looking a lot like lips or fish sometimes. Good thing to note. But I guess on this page I was getting a little better handle on the grass.
 More leaves! I think at this point I was starting to get frustrated with how to ink the brush properly. The book talks about using an ink stone and we had a bottle of sumi ink. So maybe that was part of the problem?
 Finally some roses. At this point, after an art deco style rose, I was sick of it and we went to bed. Drinking and learning. Good combination.
I do like the tiny rose even though it is all light gray. In the end, it was pretty fun and I would like to try it again, but I would also like to try it on some good practice sumi-e paper. Whatever that would be. Not too expensive, I hope. The book says newspaper can be used for practice. I have to see if I have a roll of newspaper from my mom or if we imagined that I took that. Someday there will be more sumi-e up here.


  1. Well, Ang, these drawings are just great. I don't know what happened to my other comment I meant to post last week. It disappeared somewhere into the ethernet ether. Redundant, but probably true. Maybe I'm not all that great at following directions. What a surprise.

    This is an excellent informative post. And you're right... better paper and a stone would have helped. The beer? We had just enough to be courageous.

  2. You are probably right about the beer. Perhaps I should use Friday nights to drink a beer or two and get artistically courageous! Here I go...

  3. Hi there. I'm studying abroad in Japan and currently taking a sumie class. Some of these are pretty spot on as far as technique. Keep at it!

    I can tell you from experience having the good ink, paper, and brushes make 10 worlds of difference. You need to be able to control the ink and the stroke. The crappier the materials, the less control you have. Luckily, the only real expensive bit is the ink well. A decent ink brick and set of brushes and paper can come by pretty cheaply.


  4. Hi, thanks so much for you comment. I hope to have time soon for more sumi-e.

  5. Great posts! One of my fellow art students told me that her grandfather used to practice Chinese calligraphy on the fine sheets of the yellow pages phone directory; in addition, she, herself painted a series of panels with her own Chinese calligraphy and red stamps. The combination of English letters and numbers in the background of bold strokes of Chinese characters was astounding. I think I will try this method myself. I would love to hear your feedback if you try or have tried this method.