The Chinese have a saying: “The brush dances and the ink sings.” This is a perfect description of a sumi-e painting. The artist is working to capture the essence or spirit or qi (pronounced chi) of her subject in the painting. When the painter is very familiar with her subject, for example her pet rabbit or dragon, her awareness of its essence will allow her to paint it very freely and simply. The brush will dance, the strokes will be lively and free, and the image will seem alive on the paper.
Sumi-e means “ink picture” in Japanese. “Sumi” means ink and “e” means painting or picture. Since similar styles of painting with brush and ink are used throughout Asia this style of painting is often referred to as Asian brush painting. Sometimes, poetry (haiku) and other writings are combined with a painting and the combination is called haiga.
Super Simple Sumi-e shows you how to make a variety of basic brush strokes to create lovely paintings. Here’s a sample lesson from the book in how to create a simple bird with variations.
Sumi Supply List (PDF) Use this list for your trip to the art supply store.
Buy the Book!
Buy the book and learn how to create a variety of animals including adorable panda bears, mice, rabbits, dragons and more!
Some Sample Asian Art Lessons
These learning activities encourage children to explore the relationship between poetry and pictures (haiku and haiga) and between pictures and letters. They have been created by Janet Fagan, teaching artist at the Seattle Art Museum and the Gage Academy of Art.
From Pictures to Letter (PDF)
General Asian Art Resources
Seattle Art Museum
Great education programs, including the Asian Art Museum
Denver Art Museum: Kids’ Asian Art Activities
Explore ancient artifacts, make Asian art projects, games, books and links
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Slide packets, curriculum books, art and lit books, pdf lessons, and more
Philadelphia Art Museum
Teaching kits on the arts of Japan, Korea, and China
Asian Art Gallery, New South Wales
Of note: education kit “Zen Mind, Zen Brush”
Sumi-e Society of America
National sumi organization with chapters around the US
Puget Sound Sumi Artists Association
Sumi-e artists, has educational program for visiting schools in Puget Sound region
Teaching Primary School Children About Japan through Art (ERIC Digest)