Ink painting, also known as literati painting
is an East Asian type of brush painting that uses black ink?the same as used in
East Asian calligraphy, in various concentrations. For centuries, this most
prestigious form of Chinese art was practiced by highly educated scholar
gentlemen or literati. Ink painting uses tonality and shading achieved by
varying the ink density, both by differential grinding of the ink stick in
water and by varying the ink load and pressure within a single brushstroke.
Beginners need constant guidance at the start because once a stroke is painted;
it cannot be changed or erased; this makes ink painting a technically demanding
art-form requiring great skill, concentration, and years of training. Thus learning
to Ink paint becomes essentially important under the guidance of a professional
Ink painting artists spend years practicing basic brush strokes to refine their brush movement and ink flow. In the hand of a master, a single stroke can produce astonishing variations in tonality, from deep black to silvery gray. Thus, in its original context, shading means more than just dark-light arrangement: It is the basis for the beautiful nuance in tonality found in East Asian ink painting and brush-and-ink calligraphy.
It is usually done on xuan paper (Chinese) or washi (Japanese paper) both of which are highly absorbent and unsized. Silk is also used in some forms of ink painting. Many types of xuan paper and washi do not lend themselves readily to a smooth wash the way watercolor paper does. Each brush stroke is visible, so any "wash" in the sense of Western style painting requires partially sized paper. Paper manufacturers today understand artists' demands for more versatile papers and work to produce kinds that are more flexible. If one uses traditional paper, the idea of an Ink painting refers to a wet-on-wet technique, applying black ink to paper where a lighter ink has already been applied, or by quickly manipulating watery diluted ink once it has been applied to the paper by using a very large brush.