Wash painting developed in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The Japanese name is ďSumi-eĒ. In Chinese the name is ďShui-mo HuaĒ. Itís mostly referred to as Sumi-e. Itís a Ďone strokeí style of painting that canít be changed or erased. Sumi-e aims to depict the spirit, rather then the semblance of the object.
The original, traditional medium is only black ink. Sumi-e in Japanese means, ďink stickĒ. I donít grind my own ink stick, but use prepared inks. I also like to work with vibrant ink colors, especially purple and blue. Sometimes I even use acrylic paint washes, ink brushes, watercolor Prisma pencils, and pastels. Combining different materials gives an unusual effect not seen in traditional Sumi-e paintings. Iím not really a purist. I like to experiment and come up with something different.
Sumi-e attempts to capture the Chi or ďlife spiritĒ of the subject. For me right now, itís the bamboo. Itís beauty and grace is remarkable to paint. Bamboo not only has tremendous strength but also remarkable flexibility. In the orient, itís actually used as scaffolding.
My first exposure to ink and wash painting was when I lived in Taiwan. I saw some beautiful pieces in art galleries. They were so calming. I was amazed how an artist could capture an image with just a few strokes of the brush. There was confidence in the line yet a grace as well. I bought a few pieces and brought them back to L.A. I still have them hanging in my bedroom.
Iíve never taken any classes or training. I actually didnít even know what I was doing when I started, which was about a year ago. I just had the desire. I felt no restraint or hesitation. Just started painting. I went through a lot of paper at first. And, I still do. Iím not satisfied until I get something that looks effortless. To get one image that works, takes many attempts. But, I love the processÖthatís the best part. It feels good. What Iíve learned in the process of this style of painting is not to be afraid of making a mistake. Thatís too much of a constraint. I just have to dive in and trust my instincts. I had to learn to relax and learn to play with the medium. Have fun.
Before I begin, I usually close my eyes and relax, visualizing the paper that Iím about to work on. For me, this way of painting is a form of meditation. It asks for focus, concentration and a desire to create an image that has both vitality and restraint. I really want the image to look like itís moving.
I also love to use my fingers as a brush. Itís a more direct feel; thereís no brush between the paper and me. I move the ink or paint around with my hands and fingers and I get an effect that is so completely different then a brush or pencil or chalk. Using thick, heavy weight textured paper is the best.
Iím excited about experimenting with sports, particularly basketball. I love basketball. Most drawings or paintings that I see of basketball players are stiff and overdone. They seem to be stagnant. Basketball is like ballet on steroids. IT MOVES!!!!!!! The painting needs to capture the spirit of the game and of the player. It has to leap, run, dunk, sweat and explode - all in one image.
About the red stamp: in 1986,while I was working on ďThe Brave Little ToasterĒ at Cuckoos Nest Studio in Taipei, someone had it made for me as a gift. It says my first and last name in Chinese. I just started using it. I guess if you hang onto something long enough, it will eventually become useful.
Iím participating in an exhibit right now at The Brand Library Art Gallery in Glendale, California. Itís my first official registered exhibit. I have one piece displayed titled, ďBamboo SymphonyĒ.
My work is for sale at two online sites:
On my Etsy site, originals are sold.
On my RedBubble site, prints are available in the form of calendars, greeting cards, posters, canvas prints, framed and matted prints.
Images for this article are the property of Rebecca Rees.