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Sumi-e: Japanese Art

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Happy Random Tuesday, My Lovelies!  If Japanese Sumi-e Art isn't random enough for you, then I don't know what is!

A couple of weeks go, Shelley and I took a class in Sumi-e.  Sumi-e literally means "the way of the ink," and according to the Sumi-e Society, SUMI-E is the Japanese word for Black Ink Painting. East Asian Painting and writing developed together in ancient China using the same materials —brush and ink on paper. Emphasis is placed on the beauty of each individual stroke of the brush.

Below are the Four Treasures used in Sumi-e:

Fude:  brush  (made from bamboo)

Sumi:  ink (comes in a block form)

Suzumi:  ink stone (Made from slate.  Ink block is rubbed vigorously on stone, and there's water in the bowl part to mix with the ink.)

Washi:  Paper (traditionally mulberry paper is used)

Sumi-e is a very difficult art form to perfect.  The reason it's called "the way of the ink" is because the ink finds a path of its own and it is almost impossible to control it. The ink oftentimes takes a random path.   The artist must build on where the ink leads.

The first subject an artist must master is bamboo.

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My bamboo painting on newsprint

We practiced on newsprint in class before we were allowed to use the mulberry paper.  Newsprint was super easy compared to the traditional paper.  The ink truly had a mind of its own on the mulberry paper!

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Shelley's painting on the traditional mulberry paper.  She used more water than ink.

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My painting on traditional mulberry paper.  I used more ink than Shelley.

We took the class at the Birmingham Museum of Art along with other students and parents in Shelley's homeschool cover school.  Before the class started, a docent took us on a museum tour of art from the Silk Road.  The tour was wonderful, and I fell in love with Korean pottery.

Below is a horse painted with the sumi-e technique.  I would love to take more classes and move beyond bamboo one day!

Until next time…

Ricki Jill


  1. I love this! How fun and what a great experience for the both of you. I love how different both of your pieces looked and they both are beautiful. Well done ladies!

  2. Have fun with this, RJ. I took a class several years ago. I'm no artist, but it was fun to play with the brushes and the sumi ink. Many years ago I taught a summer enrichment program for gifted students and had the students experiment with activities using the sumi technique during a study on Japan. They used their work with haiku they had written. Thanks for sparking those memories for me. '-)

  3. What a great art class.

    I used to do Japanese art with my students when I taught 7th grade history. The students loved it.

  4. This is really interesting RJ. I would think it takes a certain skill to perform the strokes and work with the direction the ink takes. I'm sure this must require a lot of patience.

  5. I think you did an amazing job. I don't think I'd have the patience for it ;)


  6. I love how ephemeral sum is! And I LOVE that your taking art classes together. How fun!

  7. Thank you for sharing this. I truly enjoyed learning about this painting. What neat things you are doing with homeschooling.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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