Around 5000 years ago, the ancient Chinese developed ink for blackening the raised surfaces of pictures and texts carved in stone. This early ink was a mixture of soot from pine smoke, lamp oil, and gelatin from animal skins and musk. Other early cultures also developed inks from available berries, plants and minerals.
The growth of Ink Painting has inevitably reflected the changes of time and social conditions.
Following the introduction of Buddhism to China from India during the 1st century A.D. and the consequent carving of grottoes and building of temples, the art of ink painting religious murals gradually gained in prominence
The range of subject matters dealt with in figure painting was extended far beyond religious themes during the Song dynasty (960-1127). Ink Paintings of historical character and stories of everyday life became extremely popular. Techniques were also further refined.
A great many artists painted in this genre during the Song dynasty and their subject matter included a rich variety of flowers, fruits, insects and fish. Many of the scholar painters working with ink and brush used a great economy of line. They produced paintings of such things as plum blossoms, orchids, bamboo, chrysanthemums, pines and cypresses, using their subject matter to reflect their own ideals and character Modern painters have often mixed several colors on one brush or mixed their colors with black inks. As a result, they have obtained more natural and richly varied colors.
Tools of Ink Painting
Following the introduction of Buddhism to In Ink paintings, as in calligraphy, the artist usually grinds their own ink using an ink stick and a grinding stone, but prepared inks are also available. Most ink sticks are made of densely packed charcoal ash from bamboo or pine. The artist puts a few drops of water on the ink stone and grinds the ink stick in a circular motion until a smooth, black ink of the desired concentration is made. Ink sticks are of higher quality and are preferred for works that are to be displayed. Prepared inks are useful for practice.
Modern painters have often mixed several colors on one brush or mixed their colors with black inks. As a result, they have obtained more natural and richly varied colors.