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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Learning the Art of Sumi-e' (ink painting)

Sumi-e' Painting

When I use to teach Sumi-e' painting to high school students I loved the moment when the students loosened up and were free with their technique.  Preschoolers seem to start out that way.  They just enjoy the process and have no real attachment to the finished outcome.  I say no real attachment, but what I mean by that, is as they are working they seldom get upset about something not looking "just so."  They are more involved with the motion, the reaction, the fun of it.

Sumi-e' is a derivative of Chinese ink painting.  There was a time I knew the Chinese word, but alas time has erased it from my memory.  The essence of Sumi-e' in the Zen Buddhist tradition is to become one with what you are painting.  A truly great painting would be one where the artist can imbibe the feeling of what it is like to be a flower, a tree, or a bird.  Having taught this to teenagers and adults, I never felt it more appropriate then with these little ones.  They themselves, play and live in the moment and anyone who watches a child play can't help but notice how much they take on the characters, objects, or story.  They attain in a moment what Sumi'e Masters sometimes take a life time to achieve.

We have experimented a lot with ink and water at school.  A lot of our experiments have been wetting paper and using eye droppers to add ink to the paper.  This is one of our favorite projects because of the shapes that are created.  However, I have not taken out the sumi-e kits until today.  I wanted them to fall in love with ink, and then for them to fall in love again knowing they could make their own!

Today's focus was all about the making of ink.  We did a little painting as well, but really the invitation was to have the kids experiment with making ink and becoming familiar with it in a new way.  Below or some of the pictures from this time with Sumi-e.

This is one of our sumi-e' kits

I took many of the materials out ahead of time so that they were not overwhelmed with everything, but mostly so that I was not overwhelmed with everything:)

Here they are hard at work.  They take their little spoons and add water to their
rubbing stone

Next, they take their ink sticks and grind the ink in a circular motion.

When they are ready, the painting begins.
Here, E. is doing an ink wash and M. is painting "a really big snake!"

One of the boys discovered that you can draw with your ink stick, it was very exciting!

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