• Michelle Cordova

How I Ink...

Many years before I tried using ink in my work, I collected books on Sumi-e (the fine art of Japanese liquid black ink & brush painting). There is a traditional way to use liquid ink and brush painting, usually for Japanese calligraphy, or Kanji. Artists also generally use the ink to express distinct, stylistic brushstrokes. Traditionally, a bamboo brush is used and held in a particular way to make the strokes. I perused my books, and though I wanted to learn, I could not envision a path for me with ink in my work. Nevertheless, the Sumi-e books collected in my library, and my interest in ink painting sat on a shelf.

One day, several years ago now, I saw a post from a San Jose artist I admire greatly, Frances Marin. Frances used the liquid black ink for a sketch, with a regular watercolor brush. Without knowing it, Frances gave me a gift. In her work I saw the liquid ink could be used in a practical way with the tools I already had, alongside my other painting and sketching tools and technique. I got my first bottle of Yasutomo Sumi-e Ink and never looked back.

Sumi-e Ink Technique
Sumi-e Ink Technique

I use the liquid black ink in a variety of ways, mainly for my Original Artwork Greeting Cards. Liquid ink can be brushed lightly over pencil drawings for a soft outline, washed on in wide layers for a deeper, darker depth of contrast, and applied in quick brushstrokes to create dynamic compositions, and expressive brushstrokes. The artist has endless choices of how the liquid black ink is applied, and a whole lot of control over where the ink lands on the paper. Liquid ink strokes tend to appear loose and relaxed. It's a nice way to open up your drawings. Using liquid ink is also a study in values, ranging from pale grey, to deep dark black, with every shade in between.

For further inking, I add the fine strokes of black Micron Pens. I discovered these useful pens by inquiring what other artists use. Many stated Micron Pens as their preferred ink. At first, I added Microns to my list of tools for students to use in my sketch classes. Soon, I found myself using Microns for final touches in my watercolors. Micron Pens add a delicate clarity to the work. They can be used to clean up the edges for a certain crispness, and can be added outside the other ink lines for a dynamic energy moving around the composition. The two inks, Sumi-e and Micron Pen ink, compliment each other nicely. All in all, ink is a fun and simple medium to experiment with. I invite you to find your preferred ink, and explore how much fun it is to express yourself with ink.

Happy Inking!


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