Sumi-E Painting

By Glueckert, Alan | School Arts, May 1989 | Go to article overview

Sumi-E Painting


Glueckert, Alan, School Arts


Sumi-e painting

FLOWING FORMS MAGICALLY appeared upon the absorbent white paper. Using a minimum of hand movement the Sumi-e artist unhesitatingly created the basic form of an image through a number of carefully controlled brushstrokes. As my students watched in amazement, Mr. Tashiro spontaneously created a number of animal forms requested by the children. Through his creative talent and the techniques of Sumi-e painting, he had captured an eager audience and motivated them to explore a new and interesting form of visual expression.

Far Eastern in origin, Sumi-e painting relies on simplicity as its basic and most important concept. Black-and-white tones are carefully controlled for the creation of depth and atmosphere. The Sumi-e painter is trained to carefully observe the basic essence or form of an object and to transfer this observation onto paper with a number of limited and abbreviated brushstrokes. Sumi-e ink, ground from a stick of burnt carbon or lamp black, is applied on highly absorbent white paper. The tonality and depth of the painting is achieved by systematically applying varying amounts of ink and water to a single brush. With a few strokes of the Sumi-e brush, the artist can produce a wide range of monochromatic tonality. A variety of sizes and shapes of brushes are used in the process of painting and each brush produces a unique quality of tone and line.

With the cooperation of our local Cultural Arts Committee, I was able to invite Mr. Tashiro to introduce and demonstrate the fundamentals of Sumi-e painting to my elementary school students. Looking at an ingenious overhead mirror, the children were able to watch as he demonstrated his creative skills. He introduced them to the basic materials of brushes, ink, inkstones and paper, gave a brief but factual background on the origins and philosophy used in the creation of a Sumi-e painting and introduced the "seven basic strokes" (see chart). Through these strokes, the Sumi-e artist can produce a wide variety of forms. …

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