Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting at a Glance – a Short Introduction


What is 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”). Despite its Chinese origins, it has become common nowadays to subsume all ink painting under the Japanese terms, although there is a small, but subtle difference between the term “sumi-e“ and „”suiboku-ga”. 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.

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Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Technique and Learning – The Finishing Touch on an Artwork


What is the Meaning of the Seal on an Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Artwork?

An ink painting is only fully complete when a seal is added to the finished painting. A seal is like a painter’s signature and comes usually in square or circular forms. Depending on the size and shape of the seal, it is either placed in a corner (large, square seals), or on the sides of the painting (circular, oval or irregular shapes). A name seal is usually square, where as other shapes can bear little messages.

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