Helpful HintsSome general rules which will improve
the efforts of the beginner.
PostureSit in a relaxed but alert position. The
left hand is on the table giving you balance and holding
the paper. If the paper is too close to your body all your
movements will be crammed and lack the feeling of ease. If
you slouch, can you be surprised if your painting does not
have any energy?
Preparing the BrushThe Western student is used to
dipping the brush into ink (or color) and beginning to
paint; this will not do in Sumi-e. The Oriental brush Is a
most versatile instrument that must be prepared for each
specific task. Preparation is twofold: loading ink and
shaping the tip. What kind of ink do you want, and how much
of it do you need in the brush? A burnt black, a medium
tone, or a light, shining grey? Do you need to fill the
whole brush with it, or do you only want to paint with the
tip? In general, beginners use too much ink; therefore, the
masters advise: starve the brush.
MovementSumi-e is truly a dance that involves the
whole body. When painting an orchid leaf the whole fore-arm
- not just the hand - slides across the paper. When
painting a bamboo stalk, the upper body moves into the
direction of the brushstroke. We strive for continuity of
motion, not speed. If you have accustomed yourself to just
painting fast, you have missed the point.
MemoryFirst examine the model you are copying very
carefully. Imagine yourself painting it, step by step, and
finishing it. Then -- with a calm mind -- paint the picture
from beginning to end. This process is called "Heart-Mind
Recitation". The memory you acquire is not just a mental
faculty. There also is a kinetic memory that comes from
MoodIn our effort to become technically proficient
we are likely to forget that we set out to spontaneously
create something that is alive. Do we experience the
longing for the light which is the essence of every plant?
Do we feel the pride and self-confidence of sparrows? Do we
appreciate the noble character of a rock or a pine? Do we
allow that mountain peaks treat each other with courtesy?
Do we recognize that trees cultivate friendships, that they
observe the attitude of host and guest? To be spontaneous
is to admit that the whole world is conscious, that
everything is alive. If it were not so, then why would I be