Strokes of finesse in painting a poem

As part of my lifelong learning activities, I recently attended Sumi-e painting classes.

This was just an introductory level to learning the nuances of preparing one’s ink, wetting the brush and applying just the right pressure when stroking the rice paper.

According to this source, Sumi-e is like “writing a painting” or “painting a poem”. I like that. 

First, our instructor provided us with ample practice time to learn the different strokes, how to correct the ink’s darkness, how to keep the brush tip in the correct shape. She also reminded us about the importance of keeping quiet during the lessons.

After practicing the strokes, we learned the Kanji character for the Moon.

Ink on rice paper calligraphy practice - Moon

Ink on rice paper calligraphy practice – Moon

Now, you will find differing opinions on how the moon character should be drawn. Some say the two horizontal lines should touch the vertical ones on both sides. The way we learned it, they don’t.

Brush and ink practice on rice paper

Brush and ink practice

During the second week’s lesson, we learned how to paint the chrysanthemum, a highly revered flower in China and Japan. Different colours hold different meanings.

Sumi-e Chrysanthemum black ink on rice paper

Sumi-e Chrysanthemum black ink on rice paper

I was tickled and proud to receive the instructor’s stamp of approval.

Despite the late end times and having to wait for buses home, I enjoyed the classes, the opportunity to learn new techniques – and socialize with other students. Hence the instructor reminding us to keep quiet…

Black cat in front of iPad with Sumi-e painting

Mr. Snuggles critiques my first Sumi-e painting

The cats seemed concerned that I was not home in time to serve their soft food dinner and they had to suffer with the bowls of Senior dry bits.

During the third lesson, we learned how to apply colour to our brush (from basic water colours) and blend it in with the black ink – or choose to apply it as a wash.

Sumi-e Chrysanthemum paintin with colour

Sumi-e Chrysanthemum with colour

Once again, I was tickled to receive the instructor’s stamp of approval 🙂

I look forward to practicing at home this fall and winter, perhaps applying some techniques to that children’s book idea that has been simmering, to blend with some of the other illustration attempts.

Cat on couch resting with plants and painting in background

Tabby cat resting on couch with sumi-e painting and plants in the background

Here are many tutorial videos to learn Sumi-e. I appreciated learning with an instructor in a small class. I might just sign up again.

Thanks for dropping by – and not disturbing the Tabby.





About shewrite63

I am Theresa. I am a Mother, Grandmother and intermittent writer. I published a bittersweet novel in 2011 under the pen name of Florence T Lyon. I am also a real life survivor, community volunteer, Archives and Records Management graduate, and long-time IT support worker trying to keep up with technological changes. Can't eke a living off of my writing skills - yet!
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3 Responses to Strokes of finesse in painting a poem

  1. Paul says:

    Whoa! Shewrite your Sumi-e painting is quite good. How wonderful that you are taking the class. My wife and I are currently in Japan. As of this moment we are at her mother’s house in a small town in Tochigi Prefecture, Tanokura. I love this area. It’s rural and quiet even now with the passing Typhoon. It was HUGE, but fortunately for us it brought only high winds and moderate rain. It’s headed out to sea now…whew!
    We visited a Hiroshige museum yesterday. It’s near where we are. It was stunning. I think you are on your way to becoming a Sumi-e painter! Keep up the good work. Do you feel it helps you with your poetry? I’m really serious with that question because I think there is a true link between writing and painting.
    Great post. Thank you for sharing.

    • shewrite63 says:

      Hi, Paul. Thanks for writing. I am glad that you and family are safe. Once I have more time and money, I would like to visit Japan. For now, I will have to be satisfied with exploring Canada from coast to coast, for the periods of time my body can bear to sit still.

      Thanks for the compliments on my early attempts at Sumi-e. I am satisfied with learning the basic techniques for now and am open to inspiration for applying the skills to hopeful creations. It’s a matter of motivation and commitment. Presently, I cannot say that it has helped with my poetry. Inspiration has been lacking in that area too.


      • Paul says:

        My wife and I just read over my travel journal this morning. The entry for my first day in Tokyo I had a small essay on the rigors of travel. It’s tough. I’m 68 and while I enjoy decent health, lugging a back pack full of books that I had purchased in Tokyo…great bookstores! A small suitcase on wheels, and a cumbersome NIkon camera. Standing for long stretches on swaying and jerking local trains can be tough on the system. We’re in Tanokura, a small town in Tochigi Prefecture. It’s nice and quietl…a typhoon has passed by but has taken a good turn out to sea.
        Oh, you need to get to Japan. It’s lovely. I’ll post some pics in a week or so. Please look for them. And hey, I was impressed with your beginning work, so keep moving forward. The writing will happen as well. 🙂

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