Seed: Fluid Ink Washes

Capture the moment

Try this technique as an alternative to charcoal figure drawing for a loose fluid and calligraphic result. India Ink, a soft brush and a stack of paper is all you need. India ink can be diluted with water to get a range of gray tones.

Subject matter: Choose graceful, curvilinear forms: The human figure, statues, animals, and if you dont have a model try plants, grasses, a single branch or a still life.

Approach: Look carefully first at your subject, and think about your composition, the space you leave blank is just as important. When you are ready, make your marks boldly but delicately and without fussing or adjusting, so that your painting has a sense of freshness and immediacy.

Experiment on cheap paper

Any paper will do, even cheap newsprint. If you have stacks of paper on hand you won't feel precious, but free to make many quick drawings. The likelihood of getting a good drawing will increase the more you do!


  • India Ink
  • soft brush ( at least a size 10)
  • jar of water
  • paper (lots)

      Background: Ink painting has been favoured by artists in both the east and west for its beautiful, graceful and expressive mark making qualities and range of tonal values. Ink and brush painting can be practiced by anyone, although mastering the delicacy and immediacy of the technique is difficult. Like calligraphy, it is an art form that is developed with confidence through continuous practice and study. It is a fun and lively way to approach to drawing, one that requires the erasers to be put away!

      In East Asia, ink painting is more than just painting; it is a philosophy of art and of life. The artist must be completely attuned to his subject matter so there is no separation between art and life. No brushstroke is superfluous, everything in the picture is essential and complete.

      Artist Links

      Kano Tanyu

      Kanō Tan'yū (狩野 探幽, 4 March 1602 – 4 November 1674) was one of the foremost Japanese painters of the Kanō school. Notice the contrast of the delicate rendering of the squirrel against the bold brushstrokes of the bamboo leaves, and how the empty space around the forms gives an airy openness to the composition. 

      August Rodin

      The French sculptor August Rodin ( 1840-1879) made lovely ink wash and watercolor sketches of his models, so light and delicate compared to his corporeal bronzes.This one is a sepia ink wash over sepia pen drawing on toned paper. As you gain confidence, experiment with toned paper and with applying light washes over line drawings as seen here.

      Like this? You might also try  

      Sumi- E Painting     

      Seed: Creepy Ink Drawing 

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