History of Sumi-e

The 2000 year-old art form of Japanese brush painting is spiritually rooted in Zen Buddhism. Sumi-e’s earliest practitioners were highly disciplined monks trained in the art of concentration, clarity, and simplicity. These early Zen Masters dedicated themselves to the art form with spiritual intensity through long years of serious reflection and strict discipline. Respect for Sumi-e’s demands shaped their aesthetic direction.

The monks adhered to a rigorous schedule of meditation in preparation for painting. Entering a deep contemplative state was at the core of the creative process: preparing the inkstone, grinding the sumi ink, loading the brush (fude), releasing the brush stroke onrice paper or silk scroll. Mastering the nuances of the black sumi ink was more difficult than painting with color and required consummate skill.

Throughout its long and venerable history, Sumi-e has been held in high esteem and became a powerful way to inculcate the values of Bushido, the Samurai Code of Conduct. For the swordsman, composure on the brink of battle had its artistic parallel in the calm and tranquility essential before the fearless release of a brush stroke. Embodying the honorable ancient warrior codes, Sumi-e was a metaphor for the ephemeral world of the courageous Samurai swordsman.

Today, becoming a Master Sumi-e artist requires the same investment of effort and time in rigorous training and discipline.