Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Technique and Learning – How to Prepare for Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting?

Preparing the Studio for Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting

There are some things to consider when thinking about creating your own little painting studio. The most important thing is that you have quiet environment since you want to concentrate on painting. Therefore make sure that distracting elements – radio, television, music or other sources of noise – are avoided. Furthermore, your painting studio must be equipped with enough light. If you don’t have the possibility to have a working place located next to a window, make sure you have a well-working desk lamp that is neither too strong nor too weak.

The Painter’s Table

The most important thing about your painting table is that it is organized. The first thing is to check if all of the elementary tools – the Four Treasures: brush, paper, ink and ink stone – are in place. They should be placed in a way that you can reach them easily. Brushes, for example, can be neatly placed next to each other on the table or a brush stand, in case you want to change from a bigger to a smaller size during painting. Then make sure you have additional tools ready – that being a blanket, brush stand, brush rest, a water container, brush wash, mounting brush, dishes for mixing ink tones, wiping cloths, a paperweight, seal and seal ink, and a bamboo mat. Make certain that you have enough paper, water and ink. There is nothing more disturbing than being forced to interrupt the painting process because you forgot something.

Ink painting is supposed to be a relaxing activity, not a stressful one. Therefore, don’t stick to regulations such as where to properly place the tools. There are no regulations where to put the ink stone – if you are left-handed, why place it on the right side of the paper? The main focus should lie on the paper in the center, with your tools positioned in a way you are most comfortable with, so try around a bit until you find the perfect order for yourself.

Since the paper used for ink painting is very absorbent, it is wise to put a tablecloth underneath to avoid the ink of soaking through and possibly spoiling the table. Using a soft, slightly rough tissue is good, because it can also help you to keep the paper from sliding. Tablecloths made out of synthetic materials are not recommended.

What is the Best Mental Preparation for Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting?

Ink painting is an activity which is supposed to be quiet, calming and meditative. It is also a very immediate activity – a stroke once done is not supposed to be corrected. Therefore, it is necessary that you have in mind what you want to paint before you start going. Before you begin, try to pause for a minute or two, clear your mind and focus on the white, untouched paper before you. Try to image your motif, what you want to paint, and how you want it to look. Grinding the ink can also be part of this meditative process, helping you to concentrate and clear your mind.

Techniques used to clear the mind and focus the body in preparation for writing.

What is the Right Body Position for Ink and Wash / Sumi-e Painting?

Some painters don’t even use a table, but paint while sitting in the seiza position, which is sitting on your knees, with your legs folded underneath your thighs. This position is also “used” in Zen Buddhist schools during zazen and helps to train one’s ability to concentrate by focusing on breathing and keeping an erect, but settled spine. However, this position can get very uncomfortable for people who are not used to it. If you therefore prefer to paint while sitting on a table, try to keep a straight position with your feet on the ground, an upright back and relaxed shoulders. Since you will be painting by moving your elbow, forearm and wrist, being too stiff or tense can hinder your mobility.