Well, that was harder than expected! I thought I was getting into a flow, but today there were new shapes to form that I didn’t manage very well at all.
Numbers seven and nine are especially hard. That curve and upward sweep is really difficult, and it’s not a shape I’ve practiced before. I think tomorrow I might have to focus on just that shape, and try to figure out how to do it.
I really enjoyed today’s calligraphy! These are the numbers 1 to 5, and I started top right and worked downwards, which just happens to be one of the directions that Chinese writing can be written in, called zongpai. I’m following the instructions on this worksheet from MIT (pdf), and tomorrow will do numerals from six to 10.
I think one of the things that is so delightful about this project is that there’s no pressure at all. I’m not doing this for a reason. I don’t have an end goal. I’m just doing it because it’s there, because I find it enjoyable. It’s been ages since I’ve been creative for the sake of it, without thinking about whether there’s something to hang on the wall at the end of it, or whether the end result is going to be good enough to give as a gift. There is something very liberating about that!!
Today, I drew my very first proper Chinese character! The character is “yong” which means “forever” or “permanence”. It contains all the basic strokes that I’ve been practicing, so it’s a good one to start with.
A usual, it’s a bit scrappy and my dot, or “dian” is fricken awful. But still, I think anyone capable of reading Chinese would be able to recognise it!
As ever, the challenge is creating a nice, smooth start to the stroke, rather than a smooth end, which is relatively easy. But getting the right shape for the start (top right) without it going all ragged is really hard. However, this video seems to show that a little bit more wiggling with the brush tip is allowed required, rather than the simple down-and-to-the-left stroke as the diagram shows. Tomorrow: More wiggling!
I have so far done héng (Days 4, 5, 8), shù (Day 10), dian (Day 11), wan (Day 12) and nà (Day 13), so today is tí.
It’s really hard to get the nice round beginning to the stroke, though the tail off is a bit easier. Still, I’m doing better than I was on Day 1. I’ve got pie and gou to do, and then I’ll try the whole character yong, which means “forever” or “permanence”.
I was thinking, though, about why I’m doing this. I’m not learning any of the East Asian languages that use Chinese Hanzi characters, nor do I have the time or interest to become expert enough to use these techniques for art. It’s more the process of learning to control the brush and make nice marks on a page. There’s a state of flow you get into when you’re really focusing on something, when you’re doing something repetitive, that is very soothing and enjoyable. I don’t get much of that satisfaction usually, so this is just a really lovely experience.
Today’s exercise is a downward diagonal stroke to the right, and I have to say that I think I’m improving! Many of these look far closer to how they should look than I was anticipating. Still some detailed control to develop, but definite improvement!
So this week, we’re mainly going to be ignoring the fact that I got a day ahead of myself this evening, and we’re also going to ignore just how crap my dots are. I found the explanation of the stroke movements in the video really confusing – the diagram and explanation were at odds with the movements she actually demonstrated, and no matter how I tired I couldn’t make it work the way she said to do it, and didn’t have much more luck doing it the way she did it. I wasted a fair amount of time trying to find another video that might explain it better, and did find one that seemed to do the upstroke to the left, as she said – hence all the crappy-looking ones in the middle – but I couldn’t make that work. So I did it the way she actually did it, and I suppose had slightly better results.
I’m also not sure that I can get away without thickening up the pen ink with the ink stick, unless I just buy some thicker ink. It does seem to make a difference – the viscosity of the ink seems to have an impact on how well the brush behaves. Still, two steps forwards, one step back.
Yesterday I came to the end of the exercises from the previous video, so I found a new one:
I also decided to use some black pen ink instead of spending ages grinding the solid ink that came with the set, which saved me about 15 minutes (the whole thing’s only supposed to take 15 minutes!). The pen ink worked out lovely, so I’ll happily use it again.
Today was all about vertical strokes:
Oddly, it’s the top that’s the hard bit, not the spiky bottom bit! More practice required. (I think that after today, we should just take that as read.)
More lines! This time, lines with rounded ends. Slightly easier than the other lines, not that these are as lovely and smooth as they ought to be, but gotta start somewhere. Big error today was putting too much water in the grinding plate and after 15 minutes of grinding still having watery, crappy ink. That’s […]
Today’s lines are much improved on previous attempts and I’m bordering on almost pleased with them! I started with the small brush and then took a leap and tried the bigger brush that came with the kit again. It behaved better now that I know I need to load it up with more ink. Still […]
Today was another pretty long session of little triangles, or as some of them look like, little feet. Starting to feel like my control over the brush is improving, but it’s still difficult to really keep the edges crisp. I was a bit lazy on grinding the ink, as you can see by how light […]
Today, I felt like I really learnt something! I found a smaller brush (on the right) that has roughly the same shape as the ones that came in the set, and I think I did a better job with the little triangles. They are smaller, but I think better formed. I also learnt that one cannot […]
Day 5, pretty much like Day 4, and I am losing patience with these brushes. There’s just no way that this brush is going to give good results, given how it splits and doesn’t hold its shape. It’s also shedding bristles like they are going out of fashion. Tomorrow, I will have a look through […]
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