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Sumi-e: The Art of Ink Wash Painting

Sumi-e, from Japanese sumi meaning “ink” and e meaning “painting”, is a traditional painting style from East Asia. Sumi paintings are typically monochromatic using exclusively ink and water to create tones and using brushes similar to the brushes used in calligraphy. It has a great historical and cultural significance in China, where it originated over 1,000 years ago, as well as in Japan where it was brought over from China

by Zen monks. The style doesn’t strive to be realistic and recreate objects in great detail , but to instead capture a scene in as few brushstrokes as possible and letting the water and ink mingle into shapes that capture their essence. When an ink wash painting is finished, the artist generally includes their name using a soapstone stamp.

If you have ever painted with watercolor then sumi will feel familiar. It lives up to its Zen roots: it is a loose and relaxing art form. Despite its simplicity it is often a bold and immediately recognizable style that can set a piece distinctly in Asia. It's for this reason that Netflix’s Marco Polo used ink washed for its intro sequence and the video game, Okami, has an aesthetic heavily inspired by sumi-e.

If ink painting sounds like something you’d like to try, then join us at White Rabbit Galleries on January 28th for our first monthly Art Connection. Tom Suppan will be teaching the fundamentals of sumi-e, including mixing ink using an ink stick and guiding you through creating your first piece. The class is $5 per participant or $15 for families of 4 or more and each participant/family will get to take home their kit which includes a soapstone to make your own artist’s stamp, brushes, ink, paper, and a decorative storage box.

For more information or to sign-up:

Luxuriant Forest among Distant Peaks by Li Cheng, 919-967

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