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Sumi-e painting.

Sumi-e painting

FLOWING FORMS MAGICALLY appeared upon the absorbent white paper. Using a minimum of hand movement the Sumi-e artist unhesitatingly created the basic form of an image through a number of carefully controlled brushstrokes. As my students watched in amazement, Mr. Tashiro spontaneously created a number of animal forms requested by the children. Through his creative talent and the techniques of Sumi-e painting, he had captured an eager audience and motivated them to explore a new and interesting form of visual expression.

Far Eastern in origin, Sumi-e painting relies on simplicity as its basic and most important concept. Black-and-white tones are carefully controlled for the creation of depth and atmosphere. The Sumi-e painter is trained to carefully observe the basic essence or form of an object and to transfer this observation onto paper with a number of limited and abbreviated brushstrokes. Sumi-e ink, ground from a stick of burnt carbon or lamp black, is applied on highly absorbent white paper. The tonality and depth of the painting is achieved by systematically applying varying amounts of ink and water to a single brush. With a few strokes of the Sumi-e brush, the artist can produce a wide range of monochromatic tonality. A variety of sizes and shapes of brushes are used in the process of painting and each brush produces a unique quality of tone and line.

With the cooperation of our local Cultural Arts Committee, I was able to invite Mr. Tashiro to introduce and demonstrate the fundamentals of Sumi-e painting to my elementary school students. Looking at an ingenious overhead mirror, the children were able to watch as he demonstrated his creative skills. He introduced them to the basic materials of brushes, ink, inkstones and paper, gave a brief but factual background on the origins and philosophy used in the creation of a Sumi-e painting and introduced the "seven basic strokes" (see chart). Through these strokes, the Sumi-e artist can produce a wide variety of forms. To demonstrate this, Mr. Tashiro encouraged the children to request various subject matter to be painted using combinations of the seven basic strokes.

The Cultural Arts Committee was so impressed by the presentation that they provided me with enough Sumi-e ink, bamboo brushes and paper for all of my fourth, fifth and sixth grade students to experiment with this interesting painting technique. Each child began by learning how to hold the brush correctly in the vertical position. Then the children applied ink and water to their brushes and practiced the seven basic strokes. When they gained confidence, they attempted to combine a number of strokes into a finished form. Although the process was new and challenging for the children, they were excited about what they had produced and continued to attempt to improve and develop their skills.

The students benefited from this unique experience in a number of ways. They not only learned about a totally foreign and new media, but participated in the painting process as well. The exposure helped the students to understand that different cultures produce varied and interesting forms of visual expression. The ability to learn about and understand something of another culture by examining and experimenting with its art traditions gives strength and meaning to art education. Learning about and developing an understanding of other cultures through art helps to reinforce the positive attitude that art can contribute, in an integral way, to the total educational development of every child.

PHOTO : Mr. Tashiro's demonstration painting of a horse.

PHOTO : Completed flower painting signed and stamped by Mr. Tashiro.

PHOTO : The seven basic Japanese Sumi-e strokes.

PHOTO : Student Sumi-e work completed by fifth grader Gary Miller.

PHOTO : Mr. Tashiro demonstrates the techniques of Sumi-e painting through the use of an ingentious overhead mirror.
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Title Annotation:Far Eastern painting technique
Author:Glueckert, Alan
Publication:School Arts
Date:May 1, 1989
Words:625
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