The Four Treasure of Ink Painting

Known as the 'Four Treasures', these are the main tools and materials used in the practice of Japanese ink paintings and they are — brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone.

Each, carry a long tradition of craftsmanship in its own right, as the quality differ from simple student kit, to highly prized, hand-crafted collectible items.

Paper was made traditionally with kozo fibre (the bark of mulberry bushes), and can vary in thickness, shade and size. The brush, made of natural animal hair, ranges in hardness, size and shape. The ink stick is made out of soot or coal dust, traditionally mixed with essence oils and natural glue to form a solid stick. This black solid ink has a variety shades of black, and gradations of translucency. And finally, the ink-stone which is made usually out of slate, is there as a rough surface upon which the ink is grind.

Japanese brush - fude

The Japanese brush, known as fude, has been used in Japan for over a thousand years for writing and painting. Originated in China, its usage goes even further back into ancient history. It is one of the oldest painting tools known in human history. The brush is not just a brush. It was considered a magical instrument by the ancient calligraphers and artists of the East and is still revered for its capabilities today. It is a tool that facilitate the very flow of the creative process. It is used as an ‘extension’ of the hand for writing and painting. Like a magic wand, it gives expression with spirited ink mark, to the world as it is being experienced. A transformational object, no less.

As one of the four treasure of ink painting, with a single brush the artist can make a thousand different ink strokes. It is in the mastering of the special qualities of the brush that a rich expression of forms can be achieved.

What is the brush made of?

The brush is made of natural materials. The handle usually made out of a piece of bamboo or wood. While the bristle is formed out of various types of animal hair. These are cut and strung together in a particular format, then glued, and attached to the handle. The bristle hair can range from animals such as horse, goat, sheep, weasel, badger, even chicken and peacock feathers.

What is the difference between western and Japanese brushes?

The preferred shape of a brush is that of a water drop like, a round full body with a sharp, neat tip. This formation allows a variety of rich lines and ink marks to be painted with a single brush, whilst using western brushes one may need different brushes to achieve the same result.

Because of its unique structure, a Japanese brush, in difference from a western brush, can hold three times more ink. A high quality brush is made in such a way that the longer hair is strung on the outside, and the shorter hair is on the inside. Sometime made of different kinds of hair so that the inside ‘hold’ t