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Ink Painting & Brush Art

Introduction of this great art format and useful informations for you to start this journey

“When I paint, I let my heart lead my hand...”

Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains - Huang

Overview of Ink Painting

What is Ink Painting/ Ink and Wash Painting / Sumi-e?

When reading about Asian ink painting, one will encounter many different terms that describe this special kind of painting method. In Chinese, it is “shuimohua” (水墨画, lit. “water-ink-painting”) in Japanese “suiboku-ga” or more colloquially “sumi-e” 墨絵 (lit. “ink painting”). Both describe painting performed by the use of ink on paper, but whereas “sumi-e” just describes ink painting in general, “suiboku-ga” rather is seen as a part of sumi-e – by mixing ink with more or less water, it lays emphasis on shading, different ink tonalities and the combination of various ink tones. In suiboku-ga, the main aspect is to depict three kinds of ink intensities – dark, medium and light – in one single brushstroke.

What is the Connection between China and Japan in Ink Painting / Sumi-e?

Ink painting developed in China in the Han Dynasty with calligraphy as it predecessor. Since calligraphy and ink painting share the same materials and tools, it was only natural that the brush and ink would not be only used for writing, but for painting, too. Around the 4th century, artists started to explore the different possibilities to depict volume and texture through ink lines, from where painting slowly developed into an independent genre and art form. It were Chinese Chan Buddhist monks in particular who appreciated the simple and reduced aesthetics of ink and wash painting and painted mainly in this style. In the 13th century, ink and wash painting found its way to Japan through traveling monks, who did not only introduce Chan Buddhism (known in Japan as “Zen”), but also monochrome painting methods to the island. Ever since then, ink and wash painting has been continuously practiced in both countries.


Chinese Ink Painting

Starting around 4000 B.C. traditional Chinese painting has developed continuously over a period of more than six thousand years.  Its growth has inevitably reflected the changes of time and social conditions.  In its early stage of development, Chinese ink painting was closely related to the other crafts, from pottery to the decorations used on the bronzes, carved jade and lacqerware. 

Following the introduction of Buddhism to China from India during the 1st century A.D. and the consequent carving of grottoes and building of temples, the art of painting religious murals gradually gained in prominence.

Culture Sources & Philosophies

Culture Sources & Philosophies

The Influence of Confucianism on Ink Painting / Sumi-e Painting

Confucianism is not a religion, but a philosophy which was and still is immensely important for the political and ethical system of China. It is rooted in the teachings of Confucius and is together with Daoism and Buddhism one of the three great philosophies of China. It was developed around 500 BCE and influences Chinese society and culture until today.

The Influence of Chan Buddhism on Ink Painting / Sumi-e Painting

The 12th to 14th centuries in China can be seen as the birth years of what would later be known as sumi-e. Starting with the literati, who used mostly or only monochrome ink, it came to full development when some painters consciously withdrew from social activities and advocated themselves to Buddhist studies, mainly of the Chan School. Chan Buddhism had been introduced to China in the 6th century and was revived in the 13th century. Its ascetic, straightforward nature appealed to many scholars.

The Influence of Daoism on Ink Painting / Sumi-e Painting

Daoism is said to be the indigenous philosophy and religion of China, with the philosopher Laozi as the author of the Daodejing and founder of Daoism. It is not wrong to call it both philosophy and religion, because both forms are deeply linked with each other and difficult to separate. “Dao” means “way”, but can also be translated as “method” or “principle”. It is believed that everything in the universe is made by the “Dao”, which is thus the driving force behind all that exists, and at the same time, it is nothing. The main goal is to live in balance and harmony with the Dao.

Tools and Materials

Tools and Materials

“The use of a fine and soft brush allows you to produce varied strokes. The use of silk cloth and paper creates a unique interplay between ink and surface, which develops into various painting techniques ”

Painting Techniques

Chinese Ink Painting Techniques

“Chinese ink painting emphasizes concept and composition. Concept is the idea, and composition is the position, proportion and color arrangement within the painting.

Here we will discuss how to set your posture, how to hold the brush, how to use water, ink and  some basic painting techniques.

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