Sumi-e or traditional East Asian brush painting is an ancient and unique art form. It is frequently distinguished by its use of the Four Treasures consisting of 1) Rice Paper  2) Ink Stick  3) Ink Stone and  4) Brush. Sumi-e originated with Literati Painting centuries ago and spread through other parts of the world including the United States. All East Asian brush painters, regardless of location, use the same tools and similar brush techniques in the creation of traditional compositions as well as more contemporary works.


Paper – “Rice Paper” is a generic term for East Asian painting paper. (Silk and occasionally shikishi boards are also used as painting surfaces)



Ink Stick – carbon made from pine soot.

Ink Stone – used to grind ink stick with water to make ink.


Brush – Chinese invented round, pointed

animal hair brushes over 2000 years ago.

For more information on Sumi-e, please visit our national Sumi-e Society of America website at

A Perfect Painting

by Carole Yee

There are 10 important characteristics to achieve a perfect painting. They are:
  1. Chi
  2. Stroke Quality
  3. Design Elements to introduce the eye into the painting
  4. S or Z Shape Curve (Dragon’s Vein)
  5. Asymmetry
  6. Balance
  7. Host and Guests
  8. Use of Space (unpainted area)
  9. Light and Dark, Loose and Dense
  10. Harmony of Shapes


How to view a Painting?

Click on the link below the image to view a short video of excerpts from presentation given by our Board Member, Carole Yee, a docent at the National Museum of Asian Arts.