Little note on calligraphy

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Little note on calligraphy

From time to time, people wonder what they were born for, or what they should accomplish in this world, don’t we?

When I had a feeling as above, my conclusion was what I must do is to repay for my late calligraphy teacher, a great master, who I met perhaps fatefully for his cordial teaching and love, and my parents for letting me continue attending and practicing at his school for many years.  Furthermore, that coincides my self-expression through the art of calligraphy.

Here, I would like to mention how I find the art intriguing, attractive and even exciting, and how that relates to what my teacher pass along to me.

(1) Firstly, same as painting and drawing, calligraphy is done on paper, something so thin or rather, completely a world of two dimensions with an effort to create something of three dimensional world.  My teacher even expressed this idea as “to create a universe on a piece of paper”.

For this purpose, you must be very careful about the color and amount of the ink both being absorbed in a brush and after being put on paper, which also can be somewhat enjoyable work.

(2) Secondly, the art of calligraphy basically is monochrome.  And this reminds me of the words by Andy Warhol, a central figure of the pop art, “Colored world is ubiquitous, while monochrome world can not exist without conscious intension to create it”.  Sort of unnaturalness of only black and white and various tones and shades between them contrarily contribute successfully to expand and work up people’s power of imagination.

And again same as the previous point, great importance should be attached to being very careful as to the color and the amount of ink.

(3) Thirdly, although calligraphy is a kind of art, it always deals with characters that definitely are the most practical stuff that people use.  As a matter of fact, people use them on clerical works and even when they want to confess their feelings to those they love (if you call it “practical”, that is).

Having said that, in Japan, a traditional belief in the power of words has been around for a long time, that, roughly put, is, spirits dwell in words and speech, accordingly, if you keep using positive language, things will look up, and the converse is also true.  In short, language will impact people’s lives.  You can easily understand that deifying language like this will make characters be materials for art.

In view of this, it is quite natural that calligraphy involves characters or letters with meanings and their aggregation like poems and axioms.

You can choose your favorite passages by your favorite poet or writer, or you can write the whole things as well, if you like, as materials for your works.  Or, you can write only one letter that you are fond of.  Or maybe you even could choose some mottoes to energize yourself, as the results or your own works will surely please you when you display them near you.  You can, of course gratify others by giving your works of your own making, that is, something very special.

(4) Lastly, please note that until only about a couple of decades ago, except for printed matters like books, magazines and newspapers, in almost all situations, letters were written by people.  Hence, practicing calligraphy meant learning how to write neat letters.  Moreover, especially for young women, having ability to write neat and easy to read letters was quite an advantage in the society.

However, in this day and age, machines write neat and easy to read letters for us.  Accordingly, I think in the art of calligraphy we should pursue creations that only humans can realize full of distinct personality and emotion of each creator with feeling of joy of life.

Here, I would like to mention as conclusion, what I always value in my own practice and advice to the Yushokai participants as well is “to try and create a universe on a piece of paper as an activity of self-expression with materials like my favorite letters, words or poems with my own hands and not using machines; to give pleasure to others and as well as myself by enjoying seeing the works in our lives”, which coincides my teacher’s ultimate goal, “pleasure of calligraphy in daily lives”.

Now, I would like to present small works below for instance, that I created for the purpose.


“Dream”, “Flower” and “(having) Fun” … all of these are my favorite letters, that is, I like both their forms and meanings.  I am sure you can’t create things like these by using machines.  Also, I think their small size will make them fit in average rooms and hallways of common Japanese houses nowadays.

I wonder what you thought about this article.  Would you like to try to create your own works to give pleasure to yourself or someone you really care by practicing calligraphy from the basics.

What would you say to grinding an inkstick on an inkstone to prepare for proper practice of calligraphy while enjoying the pleasant fragrance of the Indian ink, developing your ideas and finally making your one and only creation?

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