(This page is used with great thanks to Min
for his knowledge and helpful hints. I have done
calligraphy in the past but this is the proper way to practice it. Thanks!)
The most common body position is sitting in seiza
to practice. This position allows the
shodoka the freedom to move his/her whole upper body. When practicing the strokes make
all of the directional motion come from the waist. In the east this is more common concept but westerners have a difficult time with it. The only answer of course is practice.
If sitting in seiza is too uncomfortable, or difficult for the student then a "zen bench" may be the best option.
The shodoka should relax the shoulders and elbow
of the arm holding the brush and make
ALL motions come from the waist. The forearm and wrist maintain a "relaxed" yet "locked"
position. Try not to let the wrist bend at all while making the strokes.
When making the strokes the shodoka should try
to maintain a vertical position of the brush
handle at all times. It is common for the beginner to try to "lean" the brush on the strokes. If
this habit is not corrected at an early point, it will be very difficult to eliminate later on. When the student begins working on gyosho and sosho it will become almost impossible to make some of the strokes if the brush is leaning at all.
When using the smaller brush (which is used for signing your name or small kanji work) the
hand, brush and arm position vary slightly. The forearm rests on the work and the brush is held in a more "western" manner. The whole arm is used to make the strokes and again the wrist doesn't move. The action tends to come more from the shoulder and elbow.
To vary the thickness of the strokes, the student
needs to raise and lower the brush. This is a
very important technique to learn and master (and probley the most difficult!).
As a rule the brush is used mostly to the center of your body.
This of course can vary as to the individual.
While I had a very hard time finding any How-to's on Chinese Calligraphy, I did find some on Japanese Calligraphy, and the basic "how-to" is very similar as in brush positions, sitting styles, etc.
There are 4 basic "pieces" to beginning calligraphy.
This is the "inkwell" and grinding stone for "ink sticks".
The suzuri can be purchased
in various sizes depending on what size of kanji the individual is
going to brush. The
student should keep in mind that the suzuri is made of a brittle stone
susceptible to breakage.
The suzuri should be cleaned after every use as dried ink will "build
up" and probably make it very difficult to "grind" new ink and will definitely contaminate
subsequent ink batches with particles of old ink.
This is the "ink" which can be either the "ink stick" type or the "bottled" type.
Ink sticks can be purchased
for as much as an individual can afford ( some are in the
thousands of dollars!) As a rule " the more you spend, the better quality you will get". You
can also get sumi sticks (and of course the bottled ink) in various colors.
For the beginning student,
the liquid ink is most probably the practical choice. Very good
liquid ink is available for a modest price and is a lot less work for the beginner. A bottle of
sumi ink (around 200cc) should last the average student 2-3 months ( of nightly practice ).
This is the paper that is used.
The paper that we utilize for practice is "lined" with a fine grid over the face of the sheet. This grid is to assist the student with proper spacing and placement of single and multiple kanji on the paper. The association is the only place that the author has been able to locate this paper (at least in the U.S.). It is available in 4,6,and 8 character grid patterns.
As an inexpensive "alternative" practice paper, the author has found that "phone book" pages will work very well as the paper that the phone company uses does not allow the ink to "bleed".
This is the brush.
The brush is probably the most important piece of your " Four Treasures". In the same manner that the samurai would care for his katana, the "shodoka" should care for his fude.
Fude, like the sumi sticks come in a variety of sizes and types, depending on the students needs and skill level. The beginner should plan on obtaining a moderately "stiff" brush as the beginning strokes (in Kaisho) that they will be working on are much easier for the beginner to do with this type of brush. As the brush is used more, it will loosen up and work well for the intermediate Gyosho and the advanced Sosho kanji.
A WIDE variety of brushes
are available from the association for very reasonable prices and
their quality is excellent. A Beginner's brush can be easily had for under $10.00 and as the
student progresses, a whole line of sizes, styles and quality brushes can be had for very
These are the basics of calligraphy. Please use
the "BACK" button on your
browser to return to the main page.