Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sumi-E: First You Prepare the Ink

Writers, as creative people, often need multiple outlets for their creativity. In my own case over the years my outlets have ranged from musical instruments (balalaika and tenor and soprano recorder) to embroidery to rosary-making to various sorts of drawing and painting.

My first Asian-style painting kick was when I was attending Concordia College in River Forest, IL. There was an art supply shop within walking distance of the campus (if you liked long-distance walking) and I bought supplies for a number of art projects.

The thing I remember liking about the Asian-style painting was that you practiced the individual strokes--- much as a child learning to write practices individual letters.

Recently I got a kit for sumi-e (Japanese ink painting). It wasn't the world's best kit so I'm not sure I recommend it. But it included 4 brushes, an ink stick, and a small suzuri in which to mix the ink. Which is important because the first step in sumi-e is to mix your ink.

Mixing sumi-e ink takes a long time--- 20-30 minutes of rubbing the ink stick against the suzuri. Experts in sumi-e say artists use the time to get in a meditative mood and think about the painting they are about to do.

So today I am learning to mix sumi-e ink. I didn't do it long enough the first two times and so the ink came out light gray. But since I'm only beginning to learn how to paint the first stroke--- the bamboo leaf--- I'm not sure how much it matters what color the ink is.

The importance behind such creative pursuits like sumi-e for the writer is not to become expert in all these things. It's to try things, to have new experiences, to explore a new little bit of the world around you. And being creative in new ways is nearly always good for your writing.

How about you? What other forms of creativity do you practice? Have you tried any new ones lately? Do you think you can learn even from practicing creative forms you are not very good at?

Here is an instructive video on making sumi-e ink:

Sumi-e picture at the top of blog post was taken from the Kosher Samurai blog.

My Sumi-e Supplies:
Chinese calligraphy writing and brush painting / sumi set  
 The Sumi-E Book
Japanese Ink Painting: The Art of Sumi-e  

My Facebook writing page:

1 comment:

Tara Tyler said...

cool! i'd like to learn how to understand an Asian language. such a useful skill.

the whole process was fascinating with a very cool piece of art as the result!

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