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Free Portraits of Great Authors
Painted in the Sumi-e Tradition
By Dr. Robert T. Rhode

Free Portraits for These Great Authors: James Arthur Baldwin, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Willa Cather, Geoffrey Chaucer, Dante Alighieri, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Toni Morrison [Chloe Ardelia Wofford], Edgar A. Poe, George Sand [Amantine Aurore Lucile Dupin], Amy Tan, Leo Tolstoy [Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy], Edith Wharton, Walt Whitman, and Virginia Woolf [Adeline Virginia Woolf].

Robert’s ink paintings fit within a tradition called sumi-e. The techniques of sumi-e began in China around the tenth century. Perhaps the best known sumi-e paintings date to the late 1800s. Sumi-e does not seek realism; rather, it expresses the artist’s unique perceptions. The moment the ink is applied to the rice paper, wrinkles form. Masters of sumi-e know, perhaps without knowing, the way the paper will rumple before they apply their brushes. They use the wrinkles as an additional facet of the art. The red stamps are called chops. They are carved in jade. The chops complete the composition by drawing the eye to the red color and by leading the viewer’s perception to circle from the chops to the black ink and to the white paper. Sumi-e is best when the painting occasions meditation within the painter and the viewer. The contemplation begins with the artist’s preparation of the ink. The artist places water in the basin of a grinding slate that is designed for the purpose. An ink stick with a faint fragrance is rubbed against the basin through the water in a tranquil process. Next, pointed brushes make individual lines and flat brushes form grouped lines and gray areas. Sumi-e paintings are valued for the brilliance of the ink and the nuance of the ink’s capacity to spread virtually beyond the control of the artist.

Click on picture to download.

Henry Li of Blue Heron Arts is a master of sumi-e. Please see his many YouTube presentations. Two of them (below) mention Robert, who feels greatly honored to have a name chop and a mood seal from Henry's hand. 

Carving a Name Chop and a Mood Seal for
 a Sumi-e Artist
(1 of 2)

Carving a Name Chop and a Mood Seal for
 a Sumi-e Artist
(2 of 2)

Also visit Henry Li's Blue Heron Arts and Classes by Henry Li.

Artwork on this page is provided at no charge and is available for your use, provided credit is given to the artist, Dr. Robert T. Rhode.

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