SUMI-E is the Japanese word for Black Ink Painting . East Asian painting and writing developed together in ancient China some 2,000 years ago using the same materials —brush and ink on paper. Emphasis is placed on the beauty of each individual stroke of the brush which is said to express the artist’s Ch’i or ‘life force’. The Chinese speak of “writing a painting” and “painting a poem.”
Chinese Zen Buddhist monks took the meditative technique for Brush painting to Japan where it was adapted to the style of that country and called Sumi-e. Used as a spiritual practice the strong contrast of ink on white paper brought together the harmony of heaven and earth.
The best way to explain the difference between Chinese and Japanese Ink painting is to compare the gardens and rocks in both countries. While the Chinese love rocks with interesting shapes, twists and turns along with openings in the shapes, the Japanese favor a more angular, severe rock and their gardens tend to also be minimalistic.
Ink sticks made of pine soot mixed with animal glue are ground on a slate inkstone that contains a small amount of water until the desired depth of tone is reached.