We are so honoured to introduce a guest post by Nancy Jacobi of The Japanese Paper Place. Nancy possesses an incredible amount of knowledge about Japanese Paper and is fiercely passionate about educating people about all the wondrous possibilities that exist within these beautiful papers.
Mainstream art materials in the East for centuries, sumi ink paired with absorbent Japanese paper are gradually working their way into the hearts and hands of the west.
A great way to start getting to know these materials is with a pad of cut paper like this one which has absorbent, heavier paper than usual, and a bottle of liquid sumi ink.
Any watercolour brush with soft hair can be used, but Chinese brushes with bamboo handles in a variety of sizes are the most common.
Sumi ink and oriental paper were brought to Japan in the year 610 by Buddhist monks who used the combined materials for writing prayers. Sumi is made from the soot of pine or canola oil mixed with animal glue and formed into a hardened rectangular shape. Ground and mixed with water, it produces a permanent and intense black like none other. Many people prefer the stick form for the mesmerizing process and the quality of the resulting ink. But this bottle of pre-mixed ink is a good quality recommended by the Shodo National Education Union in Japan, and much simpler to use.
Recently we asked artist David Hu, an old hand with sumi ink to demonstrate how he uses these materials and we learned a lot!
If he uses just the sumi ink on his brush, the effect will be richly black, completely absorbed by the soft Japanese paper.
One of the features of this pad for students of shodo (Japanese calligraphy) or sumi-e (brush painting of images) is that you can use a wet brush without ink to practice the forms – do your critique, let it dry and try again later on the same sheet of paper which dries quite flat! The heaviness of the paper makes this possible. Here David practices the panda.
In the west, sumi is used by many artists like Lorraine Pritchard in unique ways, layering varying weights of Japanese paper with sumi painting.
On his Japanese paper dress, Toronto designer Lei Li has used splattered sumi ink to great effect.
Lately, Sumi Ink Clubs are popping up around the world as a way to get communities drawing together with these uncomplicated ancient media.