Saturday, June 26, 2010

今日の習字. (today's calligraphy!)

Today we "finished" the iroha—that is, we began studying the last six hiragana characters. 先生 gave us hentaigana to look at for next time, and some examples of 連綿 renmen, connecting kana into continuous lines. Just two characters at a time so far, more as we gain in skill. 今度ね。

We took a break from my new 晝陰靜 hiru in sei to do two characters from the last set, 雲 kumo and 飛 to(bu), in new sousho styles on white paper. 先生 and I picked out some favorites from the Masters; I wrote 雲 in the style of 吳昌碩 and 飛 in the amazingly tight and blotchy style of someone whose name I can't make out at all. I also tried this really daunting 飛 by (I think) 楊維—

It can be tough to sound out the name of a Chinese calligrapher. In 吳昌碩, 昌碩 may be shouseki; 吳 seems not to live in Japanese, beyond the name of a harbor near Hiroshima, but may be.... Scratch that. I'm going to go full-on Chinese with it and say his PinYin name is WU Chang-Shi or WU Chiang-Shuo or something else along those lines. And...やった! *rah* It is. So now I'm savvy enough to figure out that 楊維楨 is YANG Wei-Chen—not this one, but this one—from the Yuan Dynasty, 14th century. Funny, because apparently Wu lived 1844–1927. But I guess variety helps. 先生 says it's good to practice from calligraphers who wrote during the Tang dynasty (7th to 10th centuries) because their work tends to be the least idiosyncratic / the most standardized.

(Ha—this site of the National Palace Museum refers to Yang's "wild cursive script" that "mirrors in many ways the troubled times of the late Yuan dynasty". I guess his 飛 does, too. 先生 wasn't into that 飛 but said I could try if I wanted to, so in some down-time I did. I think I see the logic of the movement, but I couldn't make it look coherent as Yang's does. The thing is, he connects everything and keeps all the lines thin, so his 飛 comes out looking like a Picasso. This history of Chinese calligraphy actually quotes Yang.)

The Unknown Master's 飛 is certainly strong. It enters very lightly but coils the first hook-and-dots into a tight little ball and then condenses the vertical and the swipes into a seriously thick descending line. The second hook also is heavy, but at the end of the low stroke it suddenly lightens and trails up to a powerful ending 点. For me, the last hook stroke in this sousho is difficult because I enjoy it so much: often I drew it out along the bottom and pulled in on the upstroke, as I like to do, and I ended up with something more like 龍 ryuu, dragon. And then one time, somehow, it read as 兎 usagi, a bunny rabbit. 不思議なものだね。

As for 雲: after 先生 corrects, I usually rewrite the page a few times, so of course the 漢字 get darker and darker. Seeing a 雲 on the trash pile, 先生 had the inspired idea to "darken" my 雲—why shouldn't we do it as a storm cloud, with a really bold entrance? So I started doing it that way, with a ton of ink in the opening strokes (雨) and then a subtle trailing-off afterward. Cool effect—total 滲み at the top and then neat 掠れ at the end. 楽し過ぎてやばい!

Once when we were all looking through a book of 書, 先生 pointed out a kanji written along the edge of some examples that meant "in the style of". She read it as リン rin. Wondering what that might be. Per Saiga, there are a few decent candidates, but the best so far is probably 随, which means "following". 僕の一番好きな「飛」は、知らないマスター随だよ。

ところで: I like it when kanji are their own radical. There's something impressive about it—like they're so unique that there's no comfortable way to categorize them with anything else. You go, 飛.

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