Trees across the gulch, a tinted sumi ink painting

Tinted Sumi Ink Painting

Meant to be a warm-up exercise, this small sketch of trees and shrubs viewed from across the gulch has become a favorite painting. It is an ink painting using tinted sumi ink from pans. When I paint with ink I usually work with liquid ink of various types, so it is different to use prepared ink from pans. This experience feels more like gouache or watercolor, and indeed the brush techniques are similar.

Another difference from my usual experience of painting with ink, is that this is not monotone, I have used all 6 of the colors that came with this set. If you want to look for it, I used the Boku-Undo E-sumi watercolor palette “shadow black” set. Each color is mixed with black, to produce deep forested shades. This is perfect for me, a forest painter!

Colors for expression

Something I really like about using a limited palette, regardless of the media, is the release from any inclination to reproduce colors from life as they appear to me. I can use these colors to express depth, light and mood, from building up layers of thin washes, or using thicker opaque strokes. It becomes more a story of my internal experience of the moment and less a representation of what I see.

What makes this particular painting work for me is the freedom of brush: I did not overthink the tones or line quality. I did not labor over proportion or fidelity. I awoke the ink with water and brush, and let it come to being on the page.

Watercolor and gouache painting of trees and shrubs on small square paperRight after this was painted, I did do a more structured painting of a similar view . Done on the same size sheet (6 x 6″), but using watercolor and gouache, I attempted to create my “finished painting”, in the style that replicates the view and colors in nature. And… it’s okay, I like it all right. But it doesn’t quite have the ease and balance that I achieved with this modest tinted ink painting.