Mindful Artist Sumi-E Painting – REVIEW

Litercurious Book Review

TitleMindful Artist Sumi-E Painting
AuthorVirginia Lloyd-Davies
PublisherWalter Foster Publishing (December 3, 2019)
FormatPaperback, Kindle
Language English
ISBN-10/ISBN-131633228126 / 978-1633228122


To find out more about Virginia Lloyd-Davies here.


Those who would like to learn all about the Eastern methods of Sumi-e painting will discover this work a treasure trove of inspiration. Watercolorists who want to explore a similar practice will benefit greatly from examining this text.


The origins of Sumi-e painting date back over 2000 years in Japan. Sumi-e rose out of Zen Buddhism where monks would employ it as a means to discipline their minds and improve their concentration. Through the mastery of this ink-based painting method, they wished to achieve an elevated level of focus. The monks would often meditate before grinding the ink stick that they would use to load their fude brushes. They would use rice paper or silk scrolls for their works. Painting in black ink was considered a far superior order of skill than painting in color.

In later years the whole Sumi-e thing became a metaphor for the ephemeral world of the Samurai warrior. Sumi-e still requires dedication and constant practice as well as rigorous training, although the association with the Samurai continues to this day.

The book it is presented in a concise and engaging manner. The book is intended for self-tuition. Clear descriptions and beautiful illustrations hang together in a harmony worthy of the subject.

The key difference between modern Western brushes and the fude brushes of Japan and China is the hair used in their manufacturing. This difference in hair type dramatically alters how the strokes are formed on the surface. Rice paper is far less forgiving than watercolor paper and requires consideration and concentration prior to placing your stroke.

The author tutors the student reader on the different styles of brush strokes. Boneless style uses brush strokes to paint the subject with broad, brave strokes.  Whereas outline style is used for greater detail. Boneless is frequently used to depict flowers.


The book binds together well with the written word and the copious number of exquisite illustrations. I particularly liked the in-depth tutorials that focus on flowers, insects, birds, stones and bamboo. I equally enjoyed the meditative aspect of Sumi-e that was included both in the title and in the pages. The work is nothing short of a piece of art in its own regard. Perfect for any artists bookshelf.


My sincere thanks go to Virginia Lloyd-Davies, NetGalley, and Walter Foster Publishing, for affording me the opportunity to review Mindful Artist Sumi-E Painting.

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