Sumi-e Loading Brush

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    • #17457

      Hi everyone,

      Can someone help me with the best way to load the brush for monochrome Sumi-e painting. I have followed a lot of different instructions in books but I still end up with a grey mess from my brush not the nice gradations of black – grey ink that one is supposed to get. I either end up with the brush too wet or too dry and an ugly smudge! As this is the very first basic technique to master if one is to paint Sumi-e style I’m getting really frustrated because I can’t even get started! Help please anyone?   Thanks!

    • #17498

      If your ink is coming out grey, do you have good quality ink?   that’s the first question – I’ve seen a lot of comments around the internet about some of the cheaper inks that turn out too grey. All the inks on inkston should be ok, for example Jin Bu Yi is popular and there are also special inks for more deep or glossy black effects.
      And did you mix the ink yourself?

    • #17512

      Hi, DenisePayne1!

      From your question I get the feeling you are talking about a trick intermediate and advanced painters use: triple loading of the brush, first with water, then ink, then ink again to obtain a certain gradation in certain kinds of stokes.

      My advice is don’t go so much into tricks especially if you are an absolute beginner. Try to master basic techniques of loading ink and doing line work. Complete a few works in line only, so you will understand your brush more and start to feel and anticipate its reactions.

      Basic techniques of brush loading would be these:

      -Mix ink, as concentrated as possible. Use a white plastic pallette with compartments in which to mix less concentrated shades.

      -Use wolf hair or badger hair or rabbit hair brushes that make a fine tip and keep more or less stiff during work.

      -Moisten the brush thorughly at the beginning.

      -Keep a large supply of paper towels close, and always one near your pallette and water cup.

      -After you load or moist your brush with water, unload it by pressing against the edge of your water pot, and then wipe the brush against your paper towel to further unload it and form the tip.

      -After you load the brush with desired shade of ink, again wipe against the towel to unload and make fine tip. Also, make test lines on the towel/tissue before proceeding on your work.

      -The abovementioned move of unloading upon a towel/tissue is essential (unexpected as it may be) because one rarely needs the maximum load, and if you do overload the ink will drip or be over absorbed by the paper.

      -Consider this: the longer the line you want to do in one stroke, the more ink you need to load, the quicker your move must be. The shorter the line, the less ink you need in the brush so the more you must unload before painting, the less quick your move can be. This is especially true with raw xuan or mulberry paper.

      As a nice and rewarding exercise: make a pencil sketch of a desired subject. Place it under your xuan paper, fix in place with a little bit of sticky tape. The sketch should be quite visible, still. Set out to complete the subject in lines only. Use darker, thicker lines for close objects, thinner more transparent lines for backround objects in your composition.

      Hope this helps.

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