Painting frogs using sumi-e and Chinese brush painting techniques can be a lot of fun! Frogs come in all different shapes, sizes and colors, so whatever you create, there will be a frog like that somewhere.You can even put them on Christmas cards!
Two different techniques: you can paint frogs by creating an outline first, like the frogs above, and then coloring them, or you can put color on your brush and create the shape of the frog by building the volume. This is called "boneless technique". In this post I will be demonstrating the outline technique. I use a thin raw xuan ("rice") paper, but you could use a double xuan paper or even mulberry paper and other semi-sized Asian papers. You can learn more about Asian papers in this blog post.
Frogs in Outline Technique: use a small Chinese brush that comes to a good point and dip the brush in strong black ink. Start with the eyes and head, then the curve of the back. Make the back legs big and strong - frogs can jump up to 55 times their length in one leap. Once the outline is created, you can add markings on the body and legs in black ink. These help to camouflage the frog from predators.
Color your frogs: once the outline is dry, you can use a variety of colors. You can use Asian paints, like Marie's watercolors, Yasutomo Chinese tube colors, Chinese chips or even Western watercolors. Be aware that Western colors may run if you wet the paper after you finish painting. The Asian colors are permanent on the paper and will not run.
Different poses: you can look up "frogs" on the internet and find many photos. Tracing their outline may help you get the proportions right. Watch frog videos to see how they move. Did you know that frogs don't have necks???? It's true: they can't turn their heads, so they have to move their entire bodies. Their huge eyes bulge out from their heads at an angle and swivel to watch what's going on.
Practice sheets allow you to try out different angles and expressions without feeling pressured to create a finished composition. Practicing just elements like eyes or feet can help you focus in on them. Here I am practicing leaping frogs:
And here's a leaping frog with color added. See how I varied the colors and tones. The circle behind the frog's ear is its eardrum. You can usually see it; it is a little lighter than the frog's skin.
Combining poses: Just one frog can make a painting, or you can add one or two (or a dozen!) more to create a group. You can add insects, flowers, lilies and lotus ponds to fill out the scene. My galleries or this blog post may give you some ideas. It is important to have the elements in a painting relate to one another, to "share the space". See how the three frogs below form a unit :
Background Story: you can make a story to go with your frogs, like this one, titled "The Eavesdropper". You can learn how to color this painting in my YouTube video.
More frogs! You can find more inspiration in my "Frogs & Critters" Gallery. Feel free to use my compositions as models. In my next post I will show you how to paint frogs using the "boneless technique". I adore comments and am happy to answer questions, so don't be shy!
Virginia Lloyd-Davies, author of "Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting" has been painting and teaching sumi-e and Chinese brush techniques for 43 years. Purchase videos in her website store or check out her YouTube channel.
Introduction: What is Sumi-e? Sumi-e (ink wash painting from Japan) and Chinese brush painting are based on Asian calligraphy. Subjects are painted with simple strokes, using the tip or the side of the brush.
Here's How: Watch the video and follow the 7 simple steps to create this bird. You will need bottled Chinese ink, a small pointed Chinese brush and a selection of colors of your choice. Absorbent Xuan "rice" paper or newsprint works best.
Sumi-e paintings of lotus leaves are often executed in strong black ink, but there is a delicious floaty quality to Chinese brush paintings using a combination of indigo blue and yellow, and just a tip of black ink for emphasis. In this case, I used Yasutomo Chinese Watercolors in tubes. The colors are very vibrant, even after they dry, and because they are Chinese watercolors, they will not run on the paper when re-wetted. The paper is thin, raw "xuan" or rice paper. The red chop or seal on the left is called a "mood seal" and reads "the brush dances and the ink sings". The two chops below my Chinese signature on the right are "Wei Jen", my Chinese art name, and an oval cartouche with my Western initials.
Composition Tip: Notice the strong triangles formed between the leaves, the birds and the flower. The triangle is a classical element in Asian compositions. It emphasizes the perspective in a painting and gives a sense of three dimensions.
You can learn how to paint lotus and kingfishers in my book "Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting" published by Quarto and available worldwide in bookstores and on the internet. See step by step illustrations and useful tips in this popular book. You can also find more lotus compositions in my painting galleries and in my blog posts. Good luck and happy painting!
Want to try my sumi-e painting of "Birds & Blossoms"? Here are some tips on how to create your own masterpiece. Don't be dismayed if yours turns out differently from mine. Sumi-e and Chinese brush paintings come alive through the energy of the brush strokes, and every artist's strokes are unique.
Practice! Once you have studied the step-by-step elements and practiced with the video segments, the composition will come together easily for you. Think of it as an adventure! You'll find the link to the full video at the end of this post.
Materials: I am using thin raw xuan ("rice") paper, but you can use double raw xuan if you prefer. (Recommended Chinese paper suppliers.) Sized Asian paper or Western watercolor paper will not give you the effects you need to create this xie-yi ("paint the idea" or "spontaneous style") painting. I am using two sumi-e brushes: a small, mixed bristle brush with a good point for the birds, the veins and the flower stamens, and a larger, fatter, mixed bristle brush (it could be all soft or hard bristle, depending on your preference) for the petals and leaves. (Recommended Chinese brush suppliers.)
Load your brush with strong black ink and start with the beak and eye of both birds. This establishes their relationship and will give you some ideas for the bodies (facing front, facing back, body higher, body lower, etc). This is a simple Chinese sitting bird composition. I am using a small mixed bristle brush with a good point. Hold the brush upright for the beak and eye, and at a slant for the wings and belly. Add the feet when the branch is dry. You can learn more about painting birds in my book "Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting" published by Quarto. Watch the birds here:
These are very loose flowers, somewhere between magnolia and lotus. You could paint pink plum or dogwood blossoms too.
Save the date!
Virginia’s Book Launch Party, Friday, December 13, 2019!
Come help me launch my new book “Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting” at Books & Co on Nelson Street, Lexington, VA Friday, December 13, 5-7 p.m. We will have demonstrations, hands-on ‘brush and paper’ tables set up, book signings, art cards and of course REFRESHMENTS! You can reserve your copy of the book in advance through the store - just drop by or call (540) 464-8697 to place your order. Please join me for a fun event! If you can't make it to the event but would like an autographed copy, order through Books & Co and I will sign it and personalize it and you can pick it up later or have it shipped to you.
"Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting" will be published worldwide on December 3, 2019. Here's a 28-second video showing you a sampling of the 128 pages. I created over 300 images for the book, and it is chock-full of step-by-step illustrations, creative tips and prompts. I include detailed instructions on how to paint many favorite subjects and information on paper, brushes, ink and colors. You can read more in my blog posts on materials here and here.
The book is available online worldwide through Walter Foster/Quarto Publishing Group, or direct from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million. (These are the internet links for the U.S.) If you are in another country, you can go to your country's website for Amazon, etc and put in the name of the book. Or you can support your local bookstore by ordering it through a retail outlet.
At $19.99 it makes a great Christmas present!
My videos show up in wonderful places! Sensei William Reed, a long-time bilingual resident of Japan, teaches brush calligraphy at the International College of Liberal Arts in Yamanashi Gakuin University near Mt Fuji. He recently used my Bamboo video as a teaching tool.
Reed's students show great attention and mindfulness as they practice. They found it harder than expected to get the strokes right, but stayed well focused.
I have exciting news! In February, I was approached by Walter Foster Publishing to write and illustrate a book entitled: “Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting”. Both subjects are very close to my heart, since being focused in the moment is essential for channeling the power and vitality of Asian brush painting. I weave the concept of mindful attention into my explanations on how to paint some of our favorite subjects, such as the Four Gentlemen (bamboo, orchid, plum, chrysanthemum) and iris, peonies, wisteria, grapes, bugs and birds. The idea is to demonstrate through step-by-step illustrations how to create paintings, but also how to use the practice and discipline of the painting techniques to focus the mind.
This 128-page book will be available December 3, just in time for the Christmas market. Here are a couple of illustrations I have created for the book. There will be over 300 pictures, some in elegant black ink and others in full color, so the book will appeal to painters, philosophers and art lovers alike! You can pre-order the book now, either online or at your local bookstore. Visit https://quartokno.ws/MindfulArtistSumie for more information and for links to purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and more.
Splashing happily in the ink here!
Frogs are hopping out of my sumi-e brush these days, becoming more energetic by the minute. Here's a sampling of the last few years of frogs. Some are whimsical and some are wicked. Some were painted in a moment of exuberance, and some brought me comfort when I was sick. Painting's like that.
My most recent frog. She looks a little shy!
I practice a lot, filling up sheets of rice paper. A lot get thrown out, but then sometimes, they are just too much fun to jettison!
Here's a sneak peek at what you'll find in my new book, "Mindful Artist: Sumi-e Painting". You can order it from your local bookstore or through Amazon or through the publisher Walter Foster Books/Quarto Creates. Publication date is December 3, 2019. The e-book version will be released at the same time as the hard copy. I hope you're as excited as I am! I can hardly wait!