What’s Sumie Painting?


墨絵 Sumi-e is usually known as “水墨画(Suiboku-ga) Ink wash painting” which has painted in 墨 sumi-ink and 水 water. On Toyokuni saying about it, it includes painting also in East Asian pigment color named 顔彩 Gansai or 岩絵の具 Iwa-Enogu. In the history of Japanese painting, the majority is with color. But most of famous painting in old Japan is “Ink wash painting” so that Sumi-e painting is usually known as “Black and white painting”.
Sumi-e has mostly painted in sumi and pigment on 和紙 washi paper by 筆 Fude brush. It is the most important in it to paint them. It is said that it needs over 30 years to get mastered to do that. Then masters of sumi-e had been free from the technique and become artists.

※白描画 [Haku-Byou-Ga] / Black and white painting


白描画 Haku-Byou-Ga paintings is one of the kinds of sumi-e paintings in Japan. It’s painted only lines in sumi ink. The most popular title of them is 鳥獣戯画 Choju-Jinbutsu-Giga created in 12th century and 13th century.

※水墨画 [Suiboku-Ga] / Ink wash painting


水墨画 Suiboku-Ga paintings is painted in sumi ink and water. Most of Japanese has usually reminded it when they thought about Sumi-e paintings. It has painted lines and surfaces with water as an additional material. It’s the most different point from Haku-Byou-Ga. The popular painters are 雪舟 Sesshu, 長谷川等伯Hasegawa Tohaku, 池大雅 Ike no Taiga and so on.

※墨彩画 [Bokusai-Ga] / Sumi and color paintings


墨彩画 Bokusai-Ga paintings is painted in sumi and water and 顔彩 Gansai Japanese pigment color. It’s often known as 大和絵 Yamato-e paintings. Toyokuni Honda has often painted in this style. Though these three kinds of paintings has been separated as each classifications, they have painted in the same historical spirits as sumi-e paintings in Japan and Asia.

Traditional techniques of Sumie painting

1.渇筆 kappitsu
渇 ka means Dry, 筆 pitsu means brushes, so it totally means dry-brush. It’s a little sumi-ink in brush. It’s usually for painting some hair or some beard.

2.米点 bei-ten
米 Bei means rices, 点 Ten means points, so it totally means rice points or points of rice. It’s usually for painting leaves of woods. You can find it out in a lot of sumi-e paintings. It’s about circles but not exact ones, it’s ellipses.

Materials of Sumi-e painting

■ 墨 [Sumi] / Sumi-ink, indian-ink
Sumi sticks are made from 煤[Susu] ash of some tree and 膠[Nikawa] glue made from some oil or fat of animals. Both is mixed up into one and fix up mostly in winter by a craftsman. Sumi is usually figured as a stick. Before painting, painters rubbed sumi-ink-stick on 硯[Suzuri] ink stone with water to make it liquid-sumi-ink. Then they painted sumi-e paintings in it. There are two kinds of Sumi-ink, one is with oil named 油 煙 墨 [Yuen-boku], and the other is 松 煙 墨[Shoen-boku] without it.

■ 和紙 [Washi] / Japanese Paper
Washi paper is the one of the UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Objects. Washi is commonly made using fibers from the bark of the gampi tree, the mitsumata shrub, or paper mulberry. It is rougher-made than paper from wood pulp. It is very important material in Japanese painting. Its surface makes Japanese color and sumi-ink paler and feel better. If there has been no its rough surface, no painter was able to paint such as beautiful one.
Washi has been used to make various goods in the life. For example 提 灯 [Chochin] Japanese lights, umbrellas, 障 子 [Shoji] window in Japan and more.

■ 筆 [Fude] / Ink Brush
The fude brushes come in various shapes and sizes, and are usually made using animal hair for the bristle. Typical animal hair may come from goat, sheep, horse and so on. The handle may be made from wood, bamboo. These are also used to write Japanese calligraphies.

■ 硯 [Suzuri] / Ink Stone
Suzuri has been used to rub a sumi stick with a drop of water around 6,000-7,000 years ago. It makes a sumi stick liquid. Suzuri is usually made from one hard and black stone. If a sumi stick was rubbed on the ink stone made from another material, sumi ink becomes softer or harder than before. The different is found well in painting in paler sumi-ink.

■ 落款 [Rakkan] / Signature and seal of the author
It usually points the signature and the seal of the author on their works in Japan. There are two kinds of seal meanings. One is 白 文 [Hakubun] white characters on background in red which means the real name of the author. Another is 朱 文 [Shubun] red characters on background in white which means the sub name, like as a pen name, or the sentence which the author liked.
It was usually made from a high quality hard stone. Rakkan was mostly original hand-made one.