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Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting

Sumi-e Painting: Master the meditative art of Japanese brush painting

by Virginia Lloyd-Davies


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Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting teaches you to create your own beautiful, Japanese-inspired ink wash paintings while cultivating a mindful approach to making art.

Centuries ago, Buddhist monks used black ink and brushes to practice mindfulness and create gorgeously harmonious works of art called "sumi-e paintings." The popularity of sumi-e, or ink wash painting, continues to this day. Mindfulness remains an essential element of sumi-e painting, allowing artists to focus on their surroundings, live in the moment, and feel present—thereby reducing their stress.

Walter Foster’s new Mindful Artist series encourages you to enjoy working in your favorite media to create art from a reflective point of view—an inspiring, relaxing experience that emphasizes the creative process, rather than the end result. These books are designed to help you move past creative obstacles, like a perfectionist attitude toward making art or self-defeating concerns about your personal talent and abilities. These guides will not only help you stay mindful throughout the process, but also to find personal meaning in the artwork you create. Mindful Artist: Birds & Botanicals publishes in November 2021.

Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting opens with an introduction explaining the links between mindfulness and sumi-e and how they enhance one another. Sections on “The Four Treasures,” as the tools needed for sumi-e painting are called; brushstrokes and painting techniques; and “The Four Gentlemen,” or the most common subjects in sumi-e painting, ensure that you have a solid background before getting started on the simple, approachable step-by-step painting projects. Throughout the book you can find stunning full-page artwork, tips for remaining mindful while you work, creative prompts and exercises, inspirational ideas, and suggestions on how to add color to black ink pieces.

Learn to practice mindfulness while you master the popular art of ink wash painting with this inspiring and supportive guide.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781633228122
Publisher: Foster, Walter Publishing, Incorporated
Publication date: 12/03/2019
Series: Mindful Artist Series , #1
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 1,125,029
Product dimensions: 8.70(w) x 11.50(h) x 0.20(d)

About the Author

Virginia Lloyd-Davies paints in sumi-e and Chinese brush and is known throughout the world for her engaging, spontaneous technique and exquisite paintings. She posts instructional videos on her popular YouTube channel and has also painted for television programs in the United States, Great Britain, China, and Taiwan. Virginia is an expert on mindfulness, having worked and studied at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland, where she emphasized the meditative aspects of Japanese painting. Learn more about Virginia on her website:

Read an Excerpt


I was first drawn to sumi-e (pronounced soo-mee-eh) painting more than 40 years ago. At the time, I was living in New York City and exploring different meditation techniques. Sumi-e, a Japanese form of quick-stroke painting that literally means "black ink picture," combined the beauty of painting with the spontaneity of dance and the depth of mindfulness.

I fell in love from the first brushstroke! The power of the black ink coupled with the immediacy of the movement mesmerized me. My first attempts lurched from uncontrolled squiggles to bloated blobs. In encouragement, my teacher, Paul Siudzinski, would say, "There are no mistakes, only happy accidents!" I continued splashing in the ink and feeling the cares of the outside world recede as I studied sumi-e.

Asian-style brush painting is based on the strokes used to write characters, or calligraphy, which is why Asian-style brush artists refer to it as "writing a picture." Instead of swishing the brush around to create an image, specific calligraphic strokes are used to build flowers, birds, and landscapes. This is where the concept of mindfulness comes in, keeping your attention fixed actively on what is — not what was and not what might be. Focusing on the process of painting strokes instead of the finished product requires you to stay in the moment.

"Ch'i," or "qi," is a Chinese word meaning life force, breath, or energy flow.

This active awareness is the essence of mindfulness. You may have a composition in mind, but a brush painting is a living thing. Sumi-e permits no presketching and doesn't allow for corrections once the ink is on the paper, so the composition evolves with each stroke. Your brush is like a dancer: You cannot take back the steps you have just performed. However, the advantage is that unlike a ballet performance, the dance of the brush leaves the vibrant trace of your ch'i on the paper and continues to delight viewers after the movement of the brush has stopped.

What does this mean for you, and how do you develop mindfulness through sumi-e painting? First, you will need lots of playful practice, paper, and ink! I have painted enough bamboo leaves to encircle the globe, and I still love to practice them. Painting strokes without a finished picture in mind is like warming up before exercising: It's not a competition, so you can remain calm. Use this preparation time to focus your awareness on breathing as well as the brush, ink, and paper.

I will show you the traditional way of painting subjects as passed down through generations of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean artists over hundreds of years and as taught to me by my teachers I-Hsiung Ju and Paul Siudzinski.

Learning the strokes will allow you to express yourself with sumi-e.

But here's the secret: As you relax and enjoy practicing these strokes, you will also learn to express yourself in the moment, without self-judgment. This is also your mindfulness practice. Will your strokes look just like mine? Probably not. But are you having fun? Focusing your attention on the task at hand? Feeling the joy that comes from creating? Ah, now, those are treasures!


Excerpted from "SUMI-E Painting"
by .
Copyright © 2019 Virginia Lloyd-Davies.
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Tools & Materials
Preparing to Paint
Introduction to Brushes, Ink & Paper
Painting Subjects
The Four Gentlemen
Lotus & Kingfisher
Bird Basics
Bird Adventures
Rocks & Waterfalls
Signing Your Painting
Suggestions from My Library
About the Artist
Dedication & Acknowledgments

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