Sumi-e paintings in essence are beautiful forms of art, and they traditionally encompass philosophy as well.
The origin of sumi-e paintings have roots in Chinese calligraphy, which can be noted by the similar brush strokes.
In early use of sumi-e, the paintings themselves were viewed as tangible poetry---when together with calligraphy the paintings were often considered visual haiku (haiku is a form of poetry in Japanese literature).
Sumi-e can be a therapeutic experience---long ago and with the progression of time, Chinese calligraphy has been thought to portray a writer's spiritual attunement.
With and without the inherent concept of harmony traditionally instilled in sumi-e, the practice itself is generally relaxing, unique, and fun!
Step 1: Be Inspired
Step 2: Acquire the Materials
Modern sumi-e includes a wide range of colors and hues alongside the shades of black---and the canvas for the paintings were done on rice paper. Unless you’re really serious about the quality/authenticity of your artwork, or you consider yourself to be a professional in the making, these resources are pricey so there are common papers and paints that can be used to still make good sumi-e.
Specifics: You will need:
• Canvas (paper), I would recommend thicker paper so the paint doesn’t bleed through
• Varying brushes, depending on the level of detail and the texture you want (these were commonly made from a combination of bamboo and natural hairs)
• Felt---sold in fabric stores, cheap (essential for preventing the wet paper from sticking to your underlying surface)
• Saucer for combining/mixing shades
• 2 water containers, one to clean the brush and one for clean water
• (optional) other colored paints to use or blend
Step 3: Set Aside Some Free Time
Step 4: Set Up Your Workspace
You might use pictures or objects as reference.
Choose a location with good lighting. This is up to the artist’s preference, but natural lighting versus artificial lighting can make a significant difference so choose to your liking.
Clear a wide space on a (preferably large) flat surface for you to set up.
Lay out all of your materials so that they are easily accessible to you while you’re painting.
It’s ok to take breaks if you get tired or have the munchies, etc. Hahaha.
Keep in mind you will also need somewhere for your sumi-e to dry.
Again, this is up to the artist’s preference, but peace and quiet when one’s working usually helps concentration and makes for fewer distractions. Personally, I like to listen to music when I draw.
Step 5: Work With Your Base
Traditional sumi-e takes a good amount of mediation beforehand because of the nature of the ink/paint which cannot be undone or erased.
Because this tutorial is intended for beginners, having a basic sketch of what you're envisioning is probably going to be very helpful so I would highly recommend this step.
Step 6: Continue Onto the Details
Step 7: Enjoy Your Masterpiece!
These were usually carved beforehand into jade for the elite and then pressed onto stamp pads (known as chop engraving), however, modern sumi-e accommodates all societal positions. :)