Formal Ink Painting and Folk Painting – Mikehyojan

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, this week, I explored the difference between Korean folk paintings and Korean formal and orthodox ink paintings that include Sumukhwa, which is the painting in ink monochrome.

From the book, “Handbook of Korean Art,” I read the chapter called “Appreciating Folk Paintings.” It underlines how invaluable Korean folk paintings are since they “portray the simple and unaffected daily lives of ordinary people” that include religion, mythology, and the mindset of Koreans. This line reminded me of the conversation that I had with Teacher Joyce. We discussed different techniques in drawing ink paintings and folk paintings. As ink paintings are more sophisticated, drawn by people of high social status during the 17th Century, they require more education and practices to paint. If I were to paint ink paintings like Sumukhwa, which were created for purely artistic appreciation, I would have had to start formally drawing since I was young. So, adults and I who try to draw Korean paintings as a hobby find it difficult to draw formal ink paintings.

Meanwhile, Korean folk paintings allow anyone to enjoy drawing them, as the common people did during the 17th Century. Also, they are “informal artwork that represent people’s thoughts and emotions.” So, the audience can understand more deeply and clearly about how Koreans lived in the past.

I will show you some examples of formal ink paintings that are painted in Korea (on the top), China (on the bottom left), and Japan (on the bottom right) under each theme: cherry blossom and tigers. (Each painting’s countries are distinguishable by written characters as well)

However, interestingly, under the same theme, each painting from three different countries looks similar. It is because as three countries, Korea, China, and Japan, are geologically close to each other, there has been frequent contact and trading since the far past. So, they share similar ideologies, religions, and traditions such as temples, Buddhism, and even arts. Korean formal painting Sumukhwa was influenced a lot by Chinese artistic habits. In the end, the three countries’ ink paintings apparently look similar.

But there is something significant about Korean folk paintings that differentiates them from the two other countries. As I have shown you with the Korean folk painting Hojakdo that portrays tiger from week 2 blog, it is more informal than the formal ink painting of tiger but still has its unique characteristic. Unfortunately, as the book “Handbook of Korean Art” indicates, while Korean folk paintings are recognized as a genre of painting, “they have never been fully studied in art history.” It is because most of the artists and dates are not known and viewed not as historical records in Korea. It is however welcoming news that recently, Koreans including myself have started to show increasing interest in Korean folk paintings. I hope formal research on Korean folk paintings is more widely done and that this fascinating art becomes more recognized and popular.

Next week, I am going to explore the development and influence of Minhwa in modern Korean society.

Thank you for reading my blog!


Yoon, Yeol-su, et al. Handbook of Korean Art. Yekyong Publishing, 2002.

“임진성 수묵화 (Imjinsung Sumukhwa).” 블로그 홈 (Blog Home),

Liu, Lian. “Crafts for Kids.” Pinterest, 12 Nov. 2014,

“Japanese.” Pinterest,

“Draw Tiger by 8 Big Painter of Japan and China Book Ink Wash Painting.” Books WASABI,

Drew, Vince. “Art I Love.” Pinterest, 3 Sept. 2014,


2 thoughts on “Formal Ink Painting and Folk Painting – Mikehyojan

  1. Gwyneth Turner

    The paintings included in this post are really beautiful! The formal training that went into producing them is clear. However, I think it is fantastic that you chose to focus your project on the less formal folk painting tradition, since it is more personal and accessible to you!

  2. nalovera

    I’ve always admired traditional ink paintings, but I never knew of the relationship (similarities and differences) between Chinese, Japanese, and Korean ones. I is interesting that not only shared geographic location, but also shared religion, ideologies, social norms, etc. influenced the similarities. What a tragedy, though, that Korean sumukhwa hasn’t been preserved in art history. I too hope that the efforts of Korean artists like yourself will give this art a rebirth in the modern day, and show its importance in history.


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