Archive | Ink Wash Painting ( Sumi-e ) RSS for this section


Today is the start of #Inktober. Every October, artists all over the world take on the Inktober drawing challenge. I won’t be able to do one ink painting a day…haha not even one a week, but I will contribute on the first day, and with the Inktober prompt of “Poisonous”.


Pufferfish, Porcupinefish, Blowfish, 河豚, Fugu are the different names. Most species are poisonous having tetrodotoxin in some of their internal organs. This toxin is up to 1,200 times more poisonous than cyanide. There is enough toxin in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, and there is no known antidote. The fish is considered to be a delicacy in various places in the world, especially Japan, but has to be prepared by licenced, trained chefs who know which part of the fish to be rid of without contaminating the meat (especially the liver, ovaries, intestines, skin, eyes). Nevertheless people still die from the adventure of eating Fugu.

#Inktober “Poisonous”

Artist: Tai Oi Yee



Be Happy!

I have done a series for the Year of the Dog. Somehow they all turn out to be so happy 

I guess that reflects how I feel…just grateful to be alive and well.

Be Happy!






Happy Birthday To You in this Year of the Dog!

Happy Birthday to You! Today is the 7th day of Chinese New Year 人日and it is considered everybody’s birthday. So birthday wishes to you all in this Year of the Dog!


Happy Year of The Dog

The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and the start of the year is based on the cycles of the moon, and this year it falls on Friday, February 16, 2018. The Chinese zodiac assigns an animal to each year in a repeating twelve-year cycle, and this year is the Year of the Dog. People born in these years are born under the sign of the Dog: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

By the way, if you don’t want others to know your age, better not disclose your zodiac animal  happyyearofthedog.jpg

My painting at the 2017 International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Society Exhibition

I have just received back from Tokyo my painting from the 7th International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Society Exhibition. I sent the painting to Ryunosuke Ransui Yakata, the President of ICCPS in Japan who arranged to have it mounted, transported to China, and then back to me in Canada. Thanks Ransui ! Many thanks to Casey Shannon, the North American ICCPS director, who has worked tirelessly for the society.

“Just Sit and Watch the Rising Clouds” is a variation of a previous painting of mine. I did it this time with colour ink and according to the dimensions required by the exhibition in China. The rice paper was white and I used black and blue ink only. So whatever shows as white is the original paper colour.


My painting won the Head Office President Award 🙂

Artist: Oi Yee Tai

Photos From Purchaser Of My Art

It is always so good to hear from buyers of my art. Robert from the Czech Republic ordered a print from my online shop and also bought from me a couple original enso paintings.  He just sent me pics of my art now framed and displaying in his house. Thanks Robert!


Tai Oi Yee


I have been asked what is that ink circle that you draw? What does it represent? It is called Enso and represents the way of Zen as a circle of emptiness and form, void and fullness.

The Enso 円相 is born from emptiness. However its center is full of potency and infinite possibility. One dip of ink, one fluid brush stroke, I experience the profound changes and limitless possibilities. As the brush trails off into nothingness, leaving an open circle, it is also the acceptance of imperfection as it is.

Oi Yee Tai



Sit and Watch the Rising Clouds


Artist: Tai Oi Yee

This is the latest painting in my ink “Flow” series. It is inspired by an ancient Chinese poem by Wang Wei (699-759). The two phrases I have written on the painting is from the poem: 行到水窮處,坐看雲起時 “Having reached the water’s edge and there is no more path, just sit and watch the rising clouds”. When faced with adversity and feeling that there is no way out, I often think of these two phrases, then just take a breath and see things in a different light. There is always light at the end of the tunnel and rising clouds at the water’s edge.


Year of the Rooster


2017 is the Year of the Rooster. The Chinese calendar is a lunisolar calendar, and the start of the year is based on the cycles of the moon, and this year it falls on Saturday, January 28, 2017. The Chinese zodiac assigns an animal to each year in a repeating twelve-year cycle, and this year is the Year of the Rooster. People born in these years are born under the sign of the Rooster: 1921, 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017.


Toronto Zoo selling my Limited Edition Prints


The Toronto Zoo is now selling my framed Limited Edition Prints at their gift shop. These special prints are custom designed with the names of the Toronto pandas Da Mao, Er Shun, Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue. Do visit the zoo if you have time
Artist: Tai Oi Yee


Click here to see my other panda paintings



Another Scroll Collected By The Toronto Zoo

Here is the other panda painting of mine which is now hanging outside the boardroom of the Toronto Zoo.

It is titled ” Happiness Is Getting Along “, inspired by the Chinese saying  樂也融融.  I created 5 pandas representing the 5 continents, symbolizing the ethnic mix in Toronto. Each panda is in a different pose but all having fun.  The message behind the painting is that this world would be a much happier place if we can all accept our differences and get along in harmony. happinesstai

Title: Happiness Is Getting Along

Artist: Tai Oi Yee


Panda Prints Commissioned by the Toronto Zoo

A pair of baby pandas were born in Toronto, and there was a public vote being held for their names. The Toronto Zoo commissioned me to produce three hundred custom signed limited edition prints as gifts for the guests at the VIP Event on March 7, 2016 (today) introducing the panda cubs and revealing their names.
I signed a confidentiality and non-disclosure agreement with the zoo not to release any info until the event which was held earlier today. The VIP guests included the Canadian Prime Minister, Chinese Ambassador, Ontario Premier, Toronto Mayor and more…


Artwork by : Tai Oi Yee 戴愛兒
Title: Good Things Come In Pairs 好事成双
Here is my print with the names of the panda cubs, Jia Panpan 加盼盼 and Jia Yueyue 加悦悦 , and the note that the zoo asked me to write about the inspiration behind the artwork. The original painting is sitting behind the desk of the zoo’s CEO.

在多倫多出生的熊貓寶寶名字的公眾投票已完成。 多倫多動物園委託我特製三百幅簽名限量版印畫,訂購作為禮物送給今天公佈熊貓名字活動的貴賓。嘉賓包括加拿大總理,中國駐美國大使,安大略省省長,多倫多市長…

Received the letter of appreciation from John Tracogna, CEO of the Toronto Zoo.




See news about the pandas



Where to buy Chinese Calligraphy and Sumi-e supplies

I am based in Toronto, Canada where Chinese calligraphy and painting supplies are available but not the best nor the cheapest. I have been asked by my art followers where I get my supplies and if I can recommend some place where they can buy them too.



Here’s a small corner of my art studio. The antique chest has been with my family for a long time, and we brought it with us when we moved from Hong Kong decades ago.  I bought a lot of supplies when I was travelling in China and Taiwan. I did buy some brushes here in Toronto, but they are almost double the price. I love seals, and I had them custom carved in China as well as here in Toronto.

When I have time, I design my own seals and carve them myself.  This little fish seal is the first one I tried my hands at:


The one in the following photo is also carved by me, and instead of the usual seal script, I used my own calligraphy for the name seal.

Tai Oi Yee seal

I find that a good seal paste is very important in stamping a perfect seal onto the painting.  When I visited China last year, I made a special trip to Xiling Seal Art Society 西泠印社 on Lonely Hill Island in the middle of West Lake in Hangzhou to buy the original 西泠印泥 (Xiling Vermillion Seal Mud in a Ceramic Pot ). Got some brushes there too. They also displayed the seals of famous painters like Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou etc.




Then while visiting Taiwan, I bought calligraphy brushes and painting supplies at the 100 year old Lam Sam Yik shop. They made the largest brush in Taiwan seen in the photo below, but to my surprise, they also sell makeup brushes now…I guess fewer people buy calligraphy and painting brushes nowadays so they have to branch into a new business…people not only are not interested in calligraphy now, with the widespread use of smart phones and computers, they can’t even spell or write : (



Shown in the above photo is the brush and the wood water container I bought from that shop in Taiwan.  The ink stone was from China, and I ordered it online.

Since my art followers cannot travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China or Japan to get them, I have now compiled a list here of some reasonably priced supplies you can get at Amazon. They are good enough for beginners to give it a try and not waste a lot of money if you end up not pursuing it. Actually the quality is not bad, just not ultra-professional, so even intermediate users will find them satisfactory.

See List of My Recommended Sumi-e and Calligraphy Supplies

I will update this list as I see more suitable supplies. I have bought suminigashi inks on this list from Amazon.  If you can read Chinese, you can also try buying direct from China via Taobao where I bought my seal carving supplies. The supplies are cheaper but the shipping is more expensive. But if you can’t read Chinese, it gets confusing.

If you are not sure what the painting supplies are comprised of, you can read my article about The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)



Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

2016 is the Year of The Monkey






International Chinese Calligraphy and Painting Exhibition

I got the scrolls back from the ICCPS international exhibition in China, together with the exhibition book, the award I got and a set of brushes.

This painting won the Anshan Youth Activity Centre Award

My paintings were exhibited at the Anshan City Pulic Cultural Centre in Liaoning, China.


The Fifth ICCPS International Exhibition in China is held by the International Chinese Calligraphy and Ink Painters’ Society. Oi Yee is one of the invited artists and her paintings were exhibited along with art from master sumi-e painters from China, Japan, United States, Canada, France, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Croatia and Argentina.



Dry Brush On Rice Paper

Finally had time to try out some new techniques…In this new series, instead of my usual ink and wash technique, I used the dry brush and ink splatter methods…they work great on rice paper!
“Chance To Survive”

Chinese Ink on Rice Paper

Chinese Ink on Rice Paper

“Dancing Crane”

Dancing Crane

Dancing Crane

Ready For The Moment 蓄勢待發

Just finished a new painting. The Chinese title 蓄勢待發 (be ready for the right moment) is a quote from Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Great Chinese Classical Novels

Tai Oi Yee painting


Heaven and Earth, and One Lone Gull 天地一沙鷗

Heaven and Eart, and One Lone Gull

This is inspired by the ancient poem from the Tang Dynasty by Du Fu with the phrases “What am I like here and there wandering, one lone gull between heaven and earth hovering” 飄飄何所似 天地一沙鷗

This is part of my Flow series. Heaven and earth is created with free flowing ink on water. The Chinese characters on the top right are “heaven and earth and one lone sand gull”


Sailed Past Ten Thousand Hills 輕舟已過萬重山

“Sailed Past Ten Thousand Hills”



This is a more abstract piece of my “Flow” series. The landscape is created with free flowing ink on water. I added a tiny boat with a Chinese brush. It is inspired by the Tang dynasty poem by Li Bai. The calligraphy on the painting is a phrase from that poem, “The skiff has sailed past ten thousand hills”


Against All Odds 排除萬難

This is the first of my “Flow” series. The waves are created by free flowing ink on water. In an attempt to achieve balance between nature and man 天人合一, I have created the “Flow” series in which I combine the use of free flowing ink on water with my Chinese brush painting. Go with the natural flow, that’s the way to go

Chinese Ink Painting by Tai Oi Yee

“Against All Odds” 排除萬難


The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)

Ink wash painting (sumi-e) uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. Sumi-e is the timeless unison of the true self and the universe. When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.

Sumi-e is the expression of the mind and spirit of the artist through the Four Treasures (文房四寶) .

The Four Treasures are:

  • Brush (筆): The ink brush is usually made of goat, rabbit, or yellow weasel hair. The textures are soft, hard or mixed depending on the artist’s use.
  • Ink (墨) : Ink sticks are made of soot mixed with animal glue, and sometimes aromatic or medicinal powders.
  • Paper (紙) : It is not just any kind of paper. It is thin mulberry bark paper (Xuan paper from China and Washi paper from Japan). It is also generically called “rice paper” in the west though rice is not one of the ingredients. It is highly absorbent and unforgiving. The brushstrokes have to be fluid and fast, and mistakes cannot be masked like on watercolour paper.
  • Inkstone (硯) : The inkstone is used for grinding the ink stick with water. The four famous inkstones are Duan 端硯, She 歙硯, Tao洮硯 and Chengni 澄泥硯.

>>>> Next….Where to buy the painting and calligraphy supplies

What is Sumi-e?

“Soaring High”by Oi Yee Tai

Sumi-e is inkwash brush painting originating from China over a thousand years ago, and embraced enthusiastically in Japan, Korea and now internationally. The name sumi-e literally means water+ink+painting 水墨畫.

Different names are used in different cultures:

  • Chinese in Mandarin is shui-mo hua and in Cantonese is Sui Mak Wa (水墨畫)
  • Japanese sumi-e (墨絵) or suibokuga (水墨画)
  • Korean sumukhwa (수묵화)

You will find that I use the term ink wash painting, sumi-e, and sumi painting interchangeably here in this blog. But sometimes it is easier to use the shortest word sumi-e when typing.

Ink wash painting uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul.

When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.


>>>>Next….The Four Treasures of Chinese Painting and Calligraphy