Wisteria Painting in Sumi-e

Down the street from us is a yard filled with wisteria that wanders along the fences.

Painting wisteria is delightful. The sweet smell of wisteria, the graceful fall of the leaves, the thick cascades of lavender flowers, the curl of the tendrils, the twists of the trunk.

Begin with the Flowers

The process of painting wisteria, in ink or in color, is the same. The wisteria is painted in medium tones in general, with dollops of lighter and darker flowers for contrast. I start at the top of the cluster, and use short side-brush strokes that are done quickly. First, press down with the brush, then quickly curve it and pull up. Do this twice, aiming at the center. The outer edge of the flower is thicker than the center. Continue doing this down to the end, decreasing the flowers in size. Place only a few flowers at the bottom – just a touch to suggest the petals. Let the flowers dry so that they are semi-damp.

Painting the Leaves

While the petals are drying, decide where you want to place the leaves. Wisteria leaves are long and slim, and are best painted with a graceful swooping motion. Begin with the narrow tip of the brush barely touching the paper, and then as you continue with the leaf, push down as you keep the brush perpendicular to the paper, and then raise the brush up. It is important to note that the leaves of the wisteria are paired opposite each other, evenly along the stem, and are not staggered. The last leaf is single, continuing off the stem.

Dotting the Flowers and Drawing the Leaf Veins

As the leaves dry, it is time to begin to dot the center of the wisteria flowers.  This should be done in dark ink.  Just little dots will do.  The flowers themselves should be damp-to-dry.  If they are too wet, the black ink will bleed into the flower.   After you have finished the flowers, return to the leaves, gently creating the center vein with ink slightly darker than the leaf itself.

Tendrils & Trunk

The trunk of the wisteria can be ancient, twisting and woody.  This provides a dynamic contrast with the graceful quality of the flowers and leaves.  Paint the trunk with a dry brush using dark ink.  Lay the brush on its side, and use a hard brush for even more dynamic results.  Follow this up with swirls of dark ink to create the tendrils.

Wisteria Painting in Sumi-e – The Video

Above is a colored painting of wisteria I did some time ago.  This video captures much of the process I described above.  I hope you enjoy it!


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