Friday, September 30, 2011

Sumi Ink Painting

Have you ever heard or seen Sumi Ink painting?  It's a *wonderful* art media.  I worked at J.K. Gill stationery store in downtown Portland, Oregon when I was in high school, and happily they put me in the "art basement" where they sold all manner of wonderful and exotic art supplies.  I'll never forget that I saw this wonderful wooden box of Chinese painting supplies and no matter that I did not know how to use them, but I had to have them so bought them.

Life happened, I graduated high school, moved to Hawaii and while there became enamored of bamboo.  I actually went to a hippie "love in" in an extinct volcano and had to hike down through a bamboo forest to get there.  I'll never forget that day, people were playing musical instruments and sitting in a big circle and just enjoying our connection with mother Earth.  :-)

Then my future husband moved to Louisiana to fly helicopters to the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and I joined him there and we married and had our first 2 children there during our 5 years there.  We moved back to Oregon to be near our families and bought an acreage in Corbett where we could raise our children in the countryside with a garden and dairy goats and chickens for eggs. I took summer art classes at Mt. Hood Community College while my hubby took care of the kids while he was going to college on the G.I. bill.  

I got heavily into pottery classes, learning how to throw pottery on a potter's wheel and glazing the pots and firing them in big cone 10 kilns at the college.  I wanted to paint bamboo on my pots like I'd seen in galleries and museums, so to my delight, I found that a Chinese Sumi master would be teaching his skills through the college and jumped at the chance to learn.  I would finally be able to use that wonderful box of supplies! :-)

Below is the book by this talented man.  I put my name and date in the book, 1975!!
Here are 4 of his bamboo paintings in the book.
His goldfish.
Beautiful irises and a butterfly.
My mother visited China about 15 years ago and brought these calligraphy brushes home.  When she passed away they became mine.  They're beautifully made.  See the ones on the left?  Bamboo shaped!
Below is another box of tools, not sure where I got these, but it came with a blank soapstone "stamp" which I carved myself.. to "sign" my paintings.  The black thing is where you put water and grind your own ink to paint with with the ink stick at the bottom.  The pretty blue porcelain box contains this wonderful greasy Chinese red stuff that you use with the stamp.  I don't know how they make it, but I've had my original box over 40 years and it's never dried up!
Here is my beloved wooden box.
Here it is open.. the lid is hinged so that it stands up and holds your brushes while you're painting.  Those round colored sticks are also inks you can grind on the stones.
Here is me grinding some ink to paint with.
My first bamboo after not doing this for a while.. they get better as you work and loosen up and get more fluid with your strokes.
Above, this shows the two stamps I carved out of soapstone.. one is a Yin-Yang symbol.. yes, I'm that much of a hippie.. LOL.. and then the one below is a K for my last name done in a stylized Chinese character symbol of my own design.  I also sign my work with my initials... one long stroke down, then a stroke across (the T), 3 strokes in the middle (my middle initial E), and then 2 crossed strokes (K for my last name).  
My 2nd bamboo one.. see it loosen up and get better? (above)
And then I used my old watercolor kit and did one in green.
And iris.
Another iris.
An older card I did with a hummingbird.

If you like to paint, you should try this.  It's fast and fun and effective!  

OK, I'm off to the VA Hospital to pick up my museum display celebrating the US Constitution.  And then off to swim in my pool on a beautiful sunny perfect Autumn day!  I hope you're having a super day and have a wonderful weekend!!!

((hugs)), Teresa :-) 


  1. Teresa-
    This is absolutely incredible!!! I love Chinese calligraphy and artwork! Beautiful, just beautiful!!

  2. So beautiful! You're a very talented lady :) It all looks so graceful, something quite beyond my clunky nature. Keep up the lovely work!

  3. Your work is beautiful Teresa as I've said before you are such a talented lady. Anne x

  4. are very artistic. I can see how you fell in love with that box. The box alone is beautiful!!! What a gift to be able to do this. Trust me, it is a gift. I have tried it, and I do not have the gift!!!

  5. Teresa, That is really cool. I love what you did and the signature is really great. I always wondered what all the supplies were about. Thanks for the descriptions. Hope you have a great weekend, xoRobin❤

  6. Wow Teresa, there is a talent you have been keeping quiet about. Such beautiful painting. Your box of treasures is really special, I too can see how you love it so much. I really enjoyed this post, thanks for sharing. Enjoy the weekend and your swim.
    Jane x

  7. Love all your paintings Teresa but my favourite would have to be the last one with the little bird. What a talent !!

  8. wow great paintings, reminds me of My Dad...very into Chinese paintings and pottery and l bought him a small set of brushes and ink block many years idea what happened to it
    Thanks for the memory
    Hugs Suz x

  9. Wooow Teresa, beautiful work!! Do you paint these on aquarelle paper? I have just picked up my drawing pencils again, after they had been sleeping in their wooden box for (shame!) almost three years! I am so happy I did, don't you just love the smell of pencils and ink? :-) Have a lovely weekend! xxxx

  10. ooooo lovely Teresa. You've been keeping your talents quiet.

  11. Lovely post, Teresa. I could tell you were artistic, and now it's interesting to learn more about your art history! I so admire chinese painting and the immediacy of painting with thoe large brushes, as you say you get better when you practice a lot and relax. I love your signature and the adorable stamps too! Your box of treasures is very special and so are the set of brushes which belonged to your mother. Such lovely painting!
    Have a great weekend Helen x

  12. Teresa, your skills are amazing, painting, jewelery, crochet, decorating and the best skills of all being a wonderful Mother, Grandmother, Wife and blog friend. I love your posts because they always tell a story so I get to know you a little bit better.
    Happy Weekend,

  13. Wow Teresa, your paintings are beautiful - you certainly are a very talented lady! Have a great weekend. Love Joanna xx

  14. Ahhh....the beauty of complicated simplicity :)


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