Friday, September 19, 2008

The Four Gentlemen

the four gentlemen are four subjects that are popularly depicted in ink painting. they are; bamboo which represents summer, orchids that represent spring, chrysanthemum which represents fall or autumn, and plum blossoms that are also representative of winter. they are also the first subjects taught at formal schools because they have strokes that can be easyly taught and can be used for just about everyother subject. for example you might use the leaf stroke taught by bamboo to paint a bird or a fish, and the stroke used for old plum branches would be well suited for use in a landscape.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Four Treasures and a misc. section

the four treasures are simply; brush, ink, paper or silk, and inkstone.
the brushes are generally made from hair, although today you can find synthetic fiber brushes, personally i prefer traditional brushes. there are three main kinds; soft, ridged, and in between. the soft brushes are used to hold water so that you can make long uninterrupted strokes, or to create landscapes. the ridged brushes are used to make small lines and leaves and such, and the inbetweens give you a little room to move around in your brush styles.
ink traditionally comes in sticks of charcoal ash and glue that you have to grind in an inkstone with a small amount of water. today you can get pre-made ink in a bottle, however it is believed to be of lesser quality than that you grind yourself. in ink sticks the less glue that is in the ink stick the higher the quality. i have been told to test this you first look at the color, if it is a smooth and shinny black not a dull dry black than it is high quality, and also when you grind the ink, good ink will have a pleasant earthy aroma to it and when held up to a light still in its ink stone it will have an oily look to it. however poor ink will smell more like tar or glue and will not have an oily gloss when held up to light.
i already talked in detail about the paper in the introduction post, but silk was also used, though it is not very popular to use silk today.
the inkstone was made of soap stone or other similar types of stone. "real" inkstones usually are plane with little to no decorations, the elaborate ones usually are fakes or just sold as a tourist item. and like i said in the ink section, it was used to grind ink in and to hold the ink during painting.

so this was deemed too small to have its own post so i thought here would be a good place for it.
-the subtle differences of sumi-e and shui-mo hua.
there are two main differences in japanese and chinese ink painting and personally i think the only relevant ones.
the first is simply because of the way the inks are made, chinese ink is red and japanese ink is blue, but both are extremely dark, this is because there is no true black die, anything died black is ether red, blue, brown, and some times green and purple, all in there darkest shades.
the second difference is that when chinese add color to there pieces it is very dull and thin, and only in splotches to suggest the color. but generally japanese artists are known for using full lush and bright colors in there paintings.

An Introduction

ok so here in the united states, sumi-e and its cousins are known only to a few people. this blog's intentions are to make more information about the asian art of ink painting available to the western world.

to start off with i am from the united states and have only been practicing sumi-e for about a year now. i am not of asian descent, however i have developed an interest in the far east particularly japan.

ink painting is as it sounds, using ink to paint on paper or silk. but the paper used is much different than common paper you might find in your printer. in the western world the paper used is called "rice paper" also called xuan paper. it is made with almost no glue, this makes it super absorbent. this is important because it is what makes ink painting unique, the ink can then move freely through the paper creating many shades rather than sit on top of the paper and stagnate like it would on printer paper. the two main styles of ink painting that i will cover in my blog are sumi-e, the japanese term, and shui-mo hua, the chinese term. also it is important to note that the chinese started ink painting and through trade it made its way to japan, there are a few subtle differences that i will discuss in another post.