sunset over Lake George

The Way of the Brush is about using the subtle energies of body, breath and brush in the expression of creativity. What is created becomes an expression of who and where the painter is at the moments of painting.

Practicing shodo (calligraphy) or sumi-e has many positive benefits. Students are always amazed how relaxed they feel at the end of each session.

I teach privately as well as in a studio setting, with compassionate one-on-one attention.  My goal is to allow each student to progress at their own pace as they learn to 'see' with heart and mind. I design my classes to accommodate all levels of experience, and through the practice of both calligraphy and sumi-e, students explore the traditional connection to nature and natural subjects.  Most importantly, each individual may re-discover this connection with him- or herself and the joy that this realization can bring. 


I Basic Supplies for Sumi-e and Calligraphy, with pictures

Let's start with The Four Treasures:

1 Fude (Brush)

These wonderful brushes are designed to make organic marks. They are made from blends of animal hair such as horse (mountain pony) boar, badger, weasel, goat or sheep hair. “Wolf” is just a name for a blend. The ability of the brush to hold and retain a point is critical; just one well-made, medium-sized brush is capable of making many shapes or types of lines; thick/thin, light/dark, soft/hard, smooth/rough. The beauty and interest is created through contrast in all these areas. Treat your brush with care – from beginning to end - in loading, painting, then cleaning and putting it away. Do not ever use soap or hold it under forceful running water. Swish the brush in clear water to release most of the ink (it will always retain a little - this is normal) then dry with a clean cloth or paper, re-form the tip and lie it down or hang to dry.  Keep the handle out of water or it can crack.

What does a good medium-sized brush look like? Here are some reference photos.



2 Suzuri (Ink stone)

Making ink is a form of meditation  – it is the time to prepare the mind to do calligraphy or paint. While grinding the ink, let all other ‘busy’ thoughts go and visualize how/what will be created. The ink becomes infused with energy.  Properly made ink is smooth, creamy-rich and has a slight shine;  it’s permanent when dry. The soul of the ink is the power of its brilliance, depth and its nuances in shade. Treat the ink stick with care – after grinding, immediately dry the end.  Store ink sticks in their original wood boxes or suitable containers to protect them and keep them dry.  The best ink is made from pine soot or high quality oil soot. Some ink sticks sell for hundreds of dollars.

3 Sumi (Ink stick)

A good stone is essential to making good ink. Rectangular slate stones with a well at one end are the most useful stones to work with. The flat end is "the land" and the well end is "the ocean".  Other stones can be round;  but small, shallow ink stones are quite frustrating to use and should be avoided. After painting, wash the stone with water and dry it with a cloth or paper. Do not leave ink on it or it will spoil the next batch.

4 Washi, hanshi ('rice' paper)

Paper is also very important, it must have a good balance of absorbency and resistance. The name ‘rice’ paper came from past use of rice plant stalks to make paper; this is still true today, although paper is also made from other types of plant fibres such as mulberry. Most washi is smoother on one side; this is the best side for painting. It is important to learn to detect which side of the paper is the smoothest. 

Other important elements in ink painting:  calligraphy, the seal, the role of water & different papers, white space and working with colour.

Other useful supplies: white plate or divided white dish (to show the shades of ink properly), brush rest, water jar, lint-free cloth, ceramic or plastic palette for watercolours, bamboo mat to roll up and carry brushes.

II Recommended Suppliers:

III Suggested Books:

IV On-line videos: