It never lost its beauty: Japanese Art Form Sumi-e

Bamboo Sumi-e Ink Painting by Dazzling Art Boutique

Bamboo Sumi-e Ink Painting by Dazzling Art Boutique


Japan is the motherland of art in many ways. The country has produced some of the world’s most influential artists and masters, as well as its most popular traditions of art. But only a small number of people know that Japan also happens to be the birthplace of one of its most unique visual arts – the ink-painting technique known as sumi-e (sumi 墨 = black ink, e 絵 = painting).

What is Sumi-e?

Ink painting (also known as suiboku-ga) is a traditional Japanese art that involves painting on paper or silk with ink (a water-based pigment). The technique can be applied to almost any kind of paper, such as mulberry or rice paper, handmade paper (washi), or silk. Sumi-e is one of the traditional Japanese painting styles that is done on paper using black ink or black water-based pigment. The word “sumi-e” comes from the Japanese word “sumu”, which means “to paint with ink”. Generally, Chinese calligraphy is considered to be the earliest form of painting in the world. However, Chinese calligraphy is quite different from Western painting. Whereas Western painting employs a lot of colour, Chinese calligraphy is monochromatic. The ink painting tradition in Japan traces its roots to the Chinese calligraphy tradition.

Sumi-e’s History

Chinese ink painting had been known in Japan since the Heian period (CE 794-1185) In the 13th century, the concepts and techniques of Song dynasty ink painters profoundly impacted Japanese artistic culture. Early practitioners of ink painting were Zen monks who executed abbreviated, direct paintings of Buddhist subjects in monochrome ink. In the 15th and 16th centuries, more secular and decorative approaches to ink painting emerged. In the Edo period (1600-1868), Maruyama Okyo combined the Western influenced approaches of direct observation and objective portrayal of nature with ink painting techniques.

Types of Sumi-e

There are two main types of ink painting in Japan – suibokuga (Chinese ink painting) and sumi-e (Japanese ink painting). They may seem similar but they differ in many ways. The main difference between these two is the type of paper they are done on. Suibokuga is done on Chinese paper, while sumi-e is done on Japanese paper. In addition to this, suibokuga uses red ink and sumi-e uses black or dark brown ink. Suibokuga has a more saturated look compared to sumi-e because of the red colour. Another difference between the techniques is the amount of texture created by the brush marks.

Why is Sumi-e So Important?

Sumi-e is perhaps the most influential artistic tradition in Japan. The art form has deeply influenced Japanese culture and has helped shape the country’s identity as the world’s leader in art. Sumi-e is considered to be one of the three most important art forms in Japan, along with ikebana (flower arrangement art) and shodojutsu (art of calligraphy). For centuries, Japanese artists have used sumi-e as a way to express themselves artistically.

How to Practice Sumi-e?

There are many ways to learn about and practice sumi-e. In an art class, you can learn about the technique and try it out. Also, there are many books and videos on the subject that can help you learn the basics of how to paint with ink. If you want to learn more about the history of the art form, there are museums and exhibitions that feature extensive information on various aspects of the technique. You can also try online research and find blogs and articles that discuss various aspects of sumi-e. You can also find instructional videos online that show you how to paint with ink and different techniques can be used to create different results


Ink painting is one of the oldest forms of art, and it is also one of the oldest forms of Japanese painting. Sumi-e is a type of ink painting that is practised on paper and silk. The art form is believed to have originated in China, and it was introduced to Japan during the Tang Dynasty. Since then, the technique has deeply influenced Japanese culture and has helped shape the country’s identity as the world’s leader in art. Sumi-e has also influenced many other art forms in Japan, such as shodo (art of calligraphy) and ikebana (flower arrangement art). It is one of the three most important art forms in the country and has been used as a way to express artists’ creativity for centuries.

Japanese Sumi-e Ink Paintings

Traditionally Japanese sumi-e ink paintings are created with the "four treasures" (the ink stick, ink stone, brush and paper) and depict the "four gentlemen": bamboo, wild orchids, chrysanthemum or plum blossom. Sumi-e is also known for its beautiful landscape ink paintings.

Below you will find both traditional Sumi-e artwork as well as modern renditions inspired by Japanese Ink Paintings. Please enjoy this special collection inspired by the brush (fude), ink (sumi) and rice paper (washi). The Fine Art Prints in this collection are printed on original Asian Rice Paper of high-quality and long lasting. Each fine art print is signed by myself: the artist (Ricarda).