The Art of Sumi-E || Naomi Okamoto

Sumi-E is what we generally regard as the classic Japanese art of ink painting that uses a simple medium, the white of the paper, and carefully crafted and placed brushstrokes to create an image. The essence of it is just that, the essence of the subject, which is usually a natural form.

This is a complete guide that includes advice on materials – particularly the specialised brushes and papers – as well as instruction in the basics of painting with ink, both black and colour. From here, a series of exercises gets you practising with shapes – a fish with a single stroke for instance. Naomi also includes the philosophical aspects of Japanese painting, which is as much a state of mind as a technical exercise. In the foregoing example, for instance, it is she, not the imagined fish, that feels the touch of the water. It’s a hard concept to convey, but she does it rather well.

As your skills and confidence (and you need to be confident to achieve the single-stroke structure) develop, you’ll move on to flowers, animals, landscapes and even figures. These last are perhaps the most rewarding as they turn the whole idea of figurative work on its head, with less becoming more and detail only barely hinted at.

This is as comprehensive a guide as you could wish to a fascinating and absorbing art form. My only reservation is that it seems to be printed on a paper that knocks some of the colour back and has a slight tooth, meaning that the illustrations look very slightly unsharp.

Click the picture to view on Amazon

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