The Art of Suibokuga

Have you seen artworks made by just the calligraphy brush, ink and water on paper?


Bamboo Forest at Arashiyama (嵐山), Kyoto


What is Suibokuga (水墨画) ? Originally from China, the art of Suibokuga started becoming more popular in the 7th – 8th century, spreading to Korea and Japan via sea trade exchange.

Known as Ink Wash Painting, the technique aimed to bring out the beauty of art not by its attractive color, but by the spirit or the item. It is not an easy feat, trying to draw something by trying to capture its essence. In casual Japanese, Suibokuga is also known as Sumi-e (墨絵).


Mountain and trees – Artist’s first experiment with Suibokuga

How is it drawn ?

Just like painting with water color, Suibokuga uses almost the same concept, but it only uses the black ink and a calligraphy brush. Water is used to dilute the intensity of the color, giving it different shades of black/grey.

Just imagine the word “monochrome” , that is how Suibokuga art works.

While it might look simple, the art of drawing a Suibokuga requires techniques that is highly revered and compared to the likes of Calligraphy.


Bamboo (竹)

In the past, ” ink stones ” were the only available item that could be used. In the modern day, bottles of ink could easily be purchased.

The ink stones has to be ground on a plate after a few drops of water is put. The intensity of the ink (darkness) can be adjusted by grinding less or more ink into the solution.

Modern Day Art

In modern times, more artists are coming up with new ways to create their own version of art. Combining colors with the Calligraphy ink, we sometimes might see artworks as these (below).

Are you interested in the art of Suibokuga?


Picture of Hydrangea (アジサイ), a popular Summer flower