The ancient art form of Sumi-e utilizes another ancient practice and that is the use of artist seals or chops. The seals or chops pictured on the right are called 'Little Treasures'. Using the seal as an integral part of the composition in ink painting is uniquely Asian. To authenticate and to show approval of his/her work, the artist uses a personal seal in red along with his signature. In addition to the personal signature and seal, most traditional Chinese brush artists use seals to enhance their compositions. Antiquity, artistry, and the quality of the material from which a seal is carved determine it's value.
I use a variety of artist seals or chops in my finished sumi-e. I have several of these little treasures and use one to three on any given finished artwork. The number and kind of chop used depends on the subject matter and composition of my painting. The sumi-e pictured on the right is called Bouquet of Be Well by Casey Shannon. I have used three artist seals or chops on this painting. The large round red seal translates into 'be well'. The square chop translates into my name 'Casey'. The small round chop above my signed name translates into 'spring'.
Chops are pressed into Asian seal paste and then pressed onto your finished painting in the desired position. Seal paste is generally red. However, you can buy it in other colors as well such as blue, yellow, and white. This is a photo of an artist seal or chop and the red seal paste.