Ink Wash Painting with Lower Primary

Teaching Art

I was a tad nervous trying this lesson out – black ink, little colour, brush control and presenting it in China, the country that has popularized it. YIKES! But, thanks to video demonstrations, practice and students’ prior knowledge, it ending up being a successful lesson and one I will definitely build upon and do again.


I began with an general introduction to Ink Wash Painting. Known as shui mo hua in Chinese, it is said that ink wash painting originated in China over 2000 years ago but can be seen in other Asian countries and cultures such as Japan where it is called, sumi-e and in Korea where it is called sumukhwa. With animal hair for the brush and a bamboo handle, the brush used for painting in ink is the same used for calligraphy.

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After introducing the Chinese Ink Wash Painter, Qi Baishi, who is famous for his ink washings of animals, insects and plants, students practiced making washes with the ink and controlling the brush. I had them focus on using the side of their brush to create a thick line, the tip of their brush to create a thin line and the whole brush to create a leaf or petal shape. Then with those three brush stroke techniques students painting bamboo which was a formal assessment to see if they could create three different values using ink washes and the three brush stroke techniques.


Once dry, student wrote their Chinese name, added a chop or stamp in the corner and glued a black dowel at the top and bottom for display purposes.

Now, remember when I said I was a bit nervous about presenting Chinese Ink Wash Painting in China? Well, here is a good reason why. After half the classes had finished, a student asked me why we were writing our names in red as that meant that that person is dead. This was then confirmed by a Chinese teacher. UGH! All 246 Lower Primary students have created an artwork that symbolizes their death…guess I won’t be hanging them up then.

2 thoughts on “Ink Wash Painting with Lower Primary

  1. I was interested in your learning of Chinese painting techniques. I started using brush and ink when I was 13. 14 from a book obtained from a jumble sale so when I started painting Chinese I found it came naturally. Keep up the good work. Ian

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