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Sumi Brush

Lesson 4 from: The Power Of Your Own Two Hands

James Victore

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Lesson Info

4. Sumi Brush

Next Lesson: Everything

Lesson Info

Sumi Brush

(upbeat music) Moving on. Okay now I've got something really special for you, as if everything hasn't been super special for you but here we go. I'm gonna share with you kind of my totally secret weapon right? My tool of world domination the most primitive and primal tool that I got and I love it so much. And it is called a Sumi brush, right? It is a Japanese brush. These are super beaten up tools here. Japanese Sumi brush. They're inexpensive. This one I have had forever. It's hard to see but actually it was a much thicker brush like this one at some point but because I use it so much all the little hairs have started because of washing it. All the little hairs have starting to fall off of it. I used it to stir paint at one point, right? So I'm pretty hard on my tools. And this one brush has probably I've probably made well over a hundred thousand dollars with this brush and a little can of ink, right? This is the ink I use. It's just Sumi ink, right? It also comes in a solid form, ...

like a brick, a black brick. I just don't know how to use it. Like you're supposed to mix it with water and I don't know how to scrape it or I don't know. Just use this, it's easier. Let me show you how these brushes come. They don't come looking like this or this. And if you do see it in the store and it looks like this, don't buy it. So what it should come like is this right? This is just an inexpensive brush. I just picked this one up this morning. It has no markings on it, which I actually like. I don't know how it's gonna perform, but it comes like this, right? And if you feel it it's like a, it feels like a piece of wood, right? So what you're supposed to do now because basically it is these hairs like this but they are glued. They have a starch on them, so they're glued shut. So they stay in this form, this perfect form. Like I said, there are some in the store that are missing the cap and they look like this, don't buy them. Okay so what you do is you have to clean the starch out in order to use this brush. I'm gonna show you that real quick. And my favorite way is to basically go to a nice French bistro and get a little hamburger and a glass of wine, and always get a glass of water. I used to do, I'd go shopping for my art supplies and then I'd stop at my little bistro on sixth street, off of Bedford avenue in Brooklyn and get a glass of water, sit at the bar and basically you do that. You basically soak it. And what you're gonna start doing is you're gonna soak it and just keep it going in there for a while and what you're doing is you're getting rid of all the starch. You can actually see in the beginning it's actually starting to get a little softer and this is the only time you'll ever touch the brush. This and washing is the only time you'll ever touch the brush. So we're gonna have to do a little speeded up time lapse here. Okay, let's see what's going on. Let's see what's going on. So you can see, it's starting to open up starting to feel a little bit more flexible, there you go. You can start working some of the stuff out. Okay, I think it's good enough, we can start with the ink and see how it works. Okay, bloop bloop. Okay, let me put this to the side. We're gonna mix, not mix. We're gonna pour a little of the ink into our beautiful little jar. It's important to use beautiful things. It's important to show your work respect, right? None of those plastic crappy cups, don't do that. Come on, come on. Now, I do not have a paper towel here but I do have the floor.(laughs) So let me try to get this water out of the brush. Tack tack, tack, tack, tack. Okay, let's see how this sucker performs. So the way I do it is I get it, the brush in there and I'm just constantly spinning it. I'm always wanna maintain that point. So I'm gonna be constantly spinning it and spinning it and spinning it in there, right? And I'm trying to get a lot, these brushes hold a lot of ink. So I'm trying to get the excess off on the side. And at the same time, spinning the brush, spinning the brush and trying to keep that point to it. And the groovy thing about these brushes is that when you do get the point, it means that you can get a lot of variation in the line. Let's see how this guy works. Let me see what we're doing here. See there, look at that. As I start pushing harder and harder see what happens. I think the line looks really great. This is actually, not a bad little brush for $4, I think it was. See, I'm just trying to get it. Just trying to get it to feel good to my hands. Look at this, nice. Look at that, right? All the same brush, all the same brush. Try to get that little hair back Right, there you go, boom. Look at that, isn't that nice? So this is all the same brush, all these little hairs all these fine little lines that you can get with with one brush. I have different sizes of this guy. So I've got, that would be a, like a medium size. What does this say? This is number 12. I don't know what that means. This says nothing. I like it when they say nothing or they actually have a little Japanese markings on them. You can use it for a lot of different things. I often use it just to make what we call just as I've been referring just a mark, okay? And the idea of a mark is it's like your signature, right? It's like when I sit down, every time I sit down with a pencil or a pen or a paint pen or a Sumi brush, the first thing I do is I just go, I just make a mark. Literally, it's a scribble. It's my logo, it's what I'm comfortable with. It's what my body wants to make. It's what my hand naturally goes to, right? So what I'm constantly doing in this search for a mark, something unique and something particular to me is I'm looking for that. I'm looking for, so people will look at my work and go, that's James Victore, right? I'm not looking for some universal, some logo-ish some branding tools, some homogenous, some universal imagery. I'm looking for me, I'm looking for the marks that I can do. It's a shame when I see artists trying to like when they're handwriting and their hand lettering style is mimics, like mimics Andy Warhols or mimics basically anybody's right? Mimics the lettering style of like big branding firms or whatever because you're gonna never learn the sound of your own voice. You're gonna never learn to fall in love with the marks that you make. It's difficult for me to, there are sometimes because I have such a history in designing. I've seen so much and I love so much. It's difficult for me when I, if I sit down and I start making a mark and I'm like, "I know where I found that. "I know who's that is, and it's not me, right?" And we have to recognize that. We have to recognize that. We have to take in all these influences but then we have to mix them with our blood and our Sumi and make them ours, right? So you can do lettering with these things. You can just do marks with them. I mean, boom, there's a logo for somebody. Hey, did anybody want a logo? I got it right here. A hundred thousand dollars, half up front. Right, so you can just, even if you really just want to get super sloppy and aggressive and just hit, just make things like that. This one, this first one is actually really beautiful. When I was first starting out, I made a couple of marks like this, little beautiful little splashes and I kid you not that thing. I kept in a drawer and it showed up in four or five seminal pieces of mine just in different ways, right? So you can totally reuse the things but here, I'm gonna show you one more, one more tool one more Sumi brush. And I'm gonna talk about other ones but we're gonna do this quickly. I'm gonna show you one more, check this out. I'm gonna need, so I gotta get I need to get rid of that beautiful image. Okay, one. Looks like a horsetail, right? This is a fantastic tool. This is a lot of fun to work with. Super dangerous tool, right? And they come bigger than this too, right? So here's one of the problems is when you start working with this, now the cup that I've given myself is not big enough. So I'm gonna put a little bit more ink in there. You don't have to use a lot of ink. This stuff will last forever. I mean, I haven't bought a can of this since I don't know when, since the prohibition days. Okay, here we go. So again, spinning it. I'm not gonna laden this thing full of ink. I'm just gonna, you can see that it has had ink in it before I've used it quite a lot, I love this thing. I have not used this brush professionally yet but that's fine. That's what this course isn't about making you guys more professional or giving you those little insight tools. This is about playing. This is about learning how to relax. This is about learning how to love your craft again, right? So let's see what this can do. Let's see what this guy could do. This is gonna be a little messy and I think, oh, already is, that's awesome. There we go again. So here we go. And see I'm actually spinning the brush again. Boom, just so I can get these nice marks. Pretty groovy. So what happens is, if the brush doesn't have a ton of ink in it, it'll start to break up like that and then, which is fine if you want that if you want that kind of line, right? There we go. Okay so that is what you can do. The different things you can do with just a Sumi brush. Get a brush, try it out, mash it, use it full, get it really thick with ink and just see what happens, right? Drag it across a page, try to make really fine lines with it and then try to like make those lines evolve into other shapes and other forms, right? And then be ready to spend half an hour at the sink, washing them. And that's an important thing. So let me show you how you wash these brushes just quickly is you basically, you never wash any brush any kind of paint brush with hot water, right? Because in here in the feral is the things are glued. And again, the glue in hot water will loosen up and then you'll just lose the whole, you'll lose the whole brush. So what you do is put a little bit of dish soap just a dough of dish soap in your hand and get the brush wet and let the water run through. And you're basically going to roll and roll and roll and roll, and you'll watch all the ink. And you keep doing that over and over again until as you're doing this, no gray, right? Just clear water runs out. And you're never gonna, you can see that mine have still if you really look in there or actually just look at the color, you can see that it's still got ink on it and it still works great. So you don't have to be a perfectionist about this stuff. Let me share with you a few gigs that I've done with this. Most of the work that I've done with Sumi brushes is on film and for the cosmetic industry for both Bobby Brown and Aveda, and I don't have, well I don't have rights to show you any of that but most of the stuff was in the cosmetic industry because it just that look lends itself. But here's an anomaly Entrepreneur magazine. While I had an article in the magazine they also allowed me to redraw their mast head. Quite frankly, I kind of disagreed with the direction that they wanted but they said, that's what they wanted and I was like, "Okay." So for a while, until the magazine changed creative directors over, 'cause creative directors come in and they want their own thing. This was the mast head and this was drawn with this brush, probably at about that size, maybe a little bit bigger. So there are two issues with my mast head. The other time I've used, this was a logo for a a company that, what do they do? They work with kids. They take kids skateboarding and they take inner city kids skateboarding and skiing and snowboarding and they take 'em out into the wild and they're called Stoked. And so this is the logo that I did for them that eventually ended up on this skateboard. My daughter has been skating on this one till she beats the heck out of it like you're supposed to. So that was all done with a Sumi brush. Similar, a little bit similar to this, right? I think this was like an early sketch and you can see it's actually on three different pieces of paper 'cause sometimes it's hard to like, you do fall in love with the S and you do want that exclamation point, okay? That is the Sumi brush. It's a fantastic tool. You're never gonna get good at it, right? And that's the point. The point is to invite these misfires, invite chance and change. I don't want to ever get too comfortable with the marks that I'm making, right? I want to invite newness to it. And these tools totally do that, right? This is a fantastic thing just to play with, start putting it in your work and see what happens, okay? This is the Sumi brush, ink, paper, go have fun. Go to the art store, ask. You might have to ask them at the counter. They're really, I'm in like small town, Texas and it was really hard to find that one brush. Yeah S-U-M-I, Sumi brush, go get one and then just try it on a lot of different surfaces too. Try it on the general that we talked about, right? The clear velum, try it on tracing paper try it on everything. Be ready to do a lot of cleaning, right? Because this ink tends to get everywhere, okay? Guys, I love you. And we'll come back with more. Okay let's do it. (upbeat music)

Ratings and Reviews

Lucy McConville

What a great class! This guy is so REAL, and clearly so excited by what he gets to do for a living! His examples of what can be achieved with simple tools are very inspiring. Mostly, it was his attitude toward creating, and life in general, that truly lifted me up! Yeah, Man, we can use more of that these days! Thanks James!

Linda Ryan

Wonderful reminder of the "power of the pencil"! I have been drawing since age 3 (maybe 4). I would watch Howdy Doodie try to draw the characters.... and guess what pencil I was given....the old 2HB. Thanks for the reminder. :))


Victore helped me to let perfection go and just listen to the words coming from my heart. This course encouraged me to start my book artwork right after finishing this course.

Student Work