Suibokuga - The Japanese Art of Ink Painting

Suibokuga, also known as sumi-e or simply ink painting, is a traditional Japanese art form that dates back to the 14th century. Originating from China, it was introduced to Japan by Zen Buddhist monks and quickly gained popularity among scholars, artists, and the elite. Suibokuga, which translates to “water-ink painting,” emphasizes simplicity, harmony, and expression through minimalistic brushwork and monochromatic compositions.


Rooted in Zen philosophy, suibokuga seeks to capture the essence of the subject rather than its realistic depiction. Practitioners believe in the beauty of imperfection and the power of suggestion, encouraging viewers to engage their imagination and emotions. This art form embodies the principles of wabi-sabi, finding beauty in impermanence, imperfection, and simplicity.

Technique and materials

Suibokuga is characterized by its distinctive brushwork and use of black ink on absorbent paper or silk. Artists typically employ the “Four Treasures of the Study,” consisting of brush, ink, paper, and inkstone.

The brush, made of animal hair such as wolf, rabbit, or goat, is held upright and manipulated with varying pressure to achieve different line thicknesses and textures. It is chosen for its resilience and flexibility, is meticulously cared for and often passed down through generations.

The ink, usually made from soot mixed with glue and water, is ground on an inkstone, smooth and flat, to achieve the desired consistency.

The paper, known as washi, is specially treated to absorb the ink without spreading. It is renowned for its durability and absorbency, varies in texture and thickness, offering artists a range of surfaces to explore

In practice, suibokuga requires patience, discipline, and a deep connection to nature and the inner self. Through mindful brushstrokes and contemplative reflection, artists aim to convey the fleeting beauty of life and evoke a sense of tranquility and harmony in the viewer.



I know Steve well and let me tell you that he is one of the most experienced and all round tattooers I know. Well known for his  japanese, he can tattoo brilliantly any style, paint with many techniques, build machines and tools, you name it.

In this second volume of the Classics Range from Gentlemans, Steve once again puts the focus on Japanese. This book is set to be a proper classic, packed with page after page of brilliantly drawn designs, with examples on how he approaches the drawing process.