Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chinese calligraphy goes on, tiny steps

So today was a good time for an hour's calligraphy practice.  I found another really good guide, which I have out from the libe as an ebook, and once again my policy of looking for books for kids proves useful.

This is Chinese Brush Painting by  Caroline Self.  Really written for children, it's just about at the level I need right now.  I'm not selling this book, just mentioning it. Very approachable, with cultural and historical info woven in, and an approach that really brings you along.  My other book is fine, but I need to work a bit before I get into it further.

So, Self is not too rigid about what brushes, ink, and so on, and I find that my Western brushes are actually not so bad after all.  And she encourages beginners to mix a series of shades of the grayscale.

She says eight, but I thought, hm, three will about do it for me right now.  Especially since I'm grinding the ink, not pouring from a bottle. I really like the grinding, to get into the frame of mind for the brushwork.  But it's labor intensive to make more than a small amount.

And she recommends three containers of water, for brush cleaning. So I made my setup, ink: blackest in the stone, less black in one saucer, even less black in the other.  This is really a color range, since brush painting, and calligraphy, are not all one solid color of black.  And I set up my water, clean, inkier, inkiest.

Duncan liked the setup pretty well, sampling all the waters in turn, just checking.

And today I worked on several shapes, which turn out to be useful to write the word for eternity.  Several pages of tries. Now I'm not sure if the writer was being ironic, but in my case, yes, it could take an eternity to get this word looking like anything a Chinese reader might recognize.  

I'm guessing at best it looks like murbleflop, or bangcrash, but here and there I'm getting the feel of the brush.  I tried three different brushes in the course of this session, and three different shades of ink.  Here's the cleaner, inky and inkier water, behind the blackest, blacker, and black ink supplies.

It's a great way to regulate your breathing, and calm down, and just be in the present.  In fact, she does explain how you breathe as you work, it's part of it.  All in all, when the student is ready, the teacher appears, and she seems to have appeared just right for this student. 

And my leftover ink is now in a little jar, waste not want not. After that I went and swept leaves off the deck, feeling like a good Chinese artist, attending to life as well as art.


  1. Cats do so love to help with everything! :) Good to see you doing more calligraphy. Did you get my letter?

  2. I did, and emailed you. The mail just arrived before I saw your comment. Timing!


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