Ink and wash painting
is an East Asian type of brush painting
also known as wash painting
or by its Japanese name sumi-e
(墨絵). Ink and wash painting is also known by its Chinese name shui-mo hua
(水墨畫, Japanese suibokuga
, Korean sumukhwa
). Only black ink — the same as used in East Asian calligraphy
— is used, in various concentrations.
Wash painting developed in China
during the Tang Dynasty
). Wang Wei
is generally credited as the painter who applied color to existing ink and wash paintings. The art was further developed into a more polished style during the Song Dynasty
). It was introduced to Korea shortly after China's discovery of the ink. Then, the Korean missionaries in Japan, in helping the Japanese establish a civilized settlement introduced it to Japan
in the mid-14th century
In wash paintings, as in calligraphy, artists usually grind their own ink using an ink stick (in Japanese: sumi
) and a grinding stone (suzuri
in Japanese) but prepared inks are also available. Most ink sticks are made of densely packed charcoal ash from bamboo or pine soot combined with glue extracted from MulgogiPbur, from Korean for fish bone or nikawa
(Japanese for fish bones). An artist puts a few drops of water on an ink stone
and grinds the ink stick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink of the desired concentration is made. Prepared inks are usually of much lower quality. Sumi-e
themselves are sometimes ornately decorated with landscapes or flowers in bas-relief and some are highlighted with gold.
Wash painting brushes are similar to the brushes used for calligraphy and are traditionally made from bamboo with goat, ox, horse, sheep, rabbit, marten, badger, deer, boar or wolf hair. The brush hairs are tapered to a fine point, a feature vital to the style of wash paintings.
Different brushes have different qualities. A small wolf-hair brush that is tapered to a fine point can deliver an even thin line of ink (much like a pen). A large wool brush (one variation called the big cloud) can hold a large volume of water and ink. When the big cloud brush rains down upon the paper, it delivers a graded swath of ink encompassing myriad shades of gray to black.
Once a stroke is painted, it cannot be changed or erased. This makes ink and wash painting a technically demanding art-form requiring great skill, concentration, and years of training.
See Calligraphy for more information on the tools used in both calligraphy and wash painting.