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Inktober Day 1

day_1_hyakka_seihou

百花斉放 ひゃっかせいほう HYAKKA SEIHOU “A hundred flowers blooming” A blooming of the arts and sciences. I thought it was a fine sentiment to begin Inktober with.

I won’t be doing this every time, but I wanted to show a little of the background work that goes into this seemingly simple piece. Alas, I had no one around to take pictures as I actually brushed things out, but here’s an outline of the process.

百花斉放 is a yojijukugo, a four kanji character compound that acts as a proverb. There are thousands of these in the Japanese language, many of which came from Chinese works, which can make them a little challenging to translate. Jim Breen has a collection of them here, although I’m not sure what order he used. I found mine via this book here which was put together by my shodo teacher, Tony K. Skeen. In this book, the yojijukugo are in kana order (a,i,u,e,o/ ha, hi, fu, he, ho…etc) and therefore easier to find.

The first thing I do when I find a phrase I want to brush out is to cross-reference. In doing so, I double-check the translation, figure out the stroke order, and find examples of the style I want to brush out. This takes me across at least 3 or 4 dictionaries (or the internet if I can’t find what I need in the books).

1_prep_materials

I use the New Nelsons Japanese-English Character dictionary, Hadamitsky/Spahn’s A Guide to Writing Kanji and Kana for stroke order, and a 3-style Japanese Calligraphy Dictionary 現代書道三体字典 : コンパクト Gendai shodō santai jiten : Konpakuto (Modern shodo in three styles dictionary, compact version) by KISEKI Motohashi for the style examples.

Side note: if I am working on something for an SCA project, I will usually also try to find some style examples from extant historical documents. I know that there are some historical Japanese calligraphic dictionaries (I have seen a few), but with my middle-school Japanese, it’s hard for me to track them down easily.

So in the next four pictures, I cross reference each kanji from Hadamitsky/Spahn to the Gendai shodo santai jiten. I skipped taking pictures of looking up things in the Nelsons as it is a thick book and I couldn’t balance the camera!

2_hyaku_stroke_order_and_style_ref

Hyaku 百 meaning “100”

3_ka_hana_stroke_order_and_style_ref

Ka 花, which is the ON (Sino-Japanese) pronunciation of hana, meaning “Flower”

4_sei_stroke_order_and_style_ref

Sei 斉 meaning “equal” or in the case “all at one time”

5_hou_stroke_order_and_style_ref

Hou 放 meaning “release” or “set free”

So literally, one hundred flowers released at the same time, or as we might say more poetically in English “one hundred flowers blooming” or “a hundred flowers blossoming”. Translation: it’s both an art and a science! In this instance, the phrase is referring to a blossoming of the arts and sciences, like what we might call a golden era or renaissance.

I’d like you to notice a few things in these pictures. Compare the computer kanji that is in this entry to the written kanji in the larger book, and then the three examples in the smaller book. THIS is the difference between just writing kanji and doing calligraphy. One of the things I see so often is people using computer kanji as their basis for kanji used in SCA scrolls. NO. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS. It’s like using the Times New Roman font as an exemplar for a 14th century scroll!!

If you notice, the smaller book shows three types of writing for each kanji. From right to left (and remember, the Japanese read right to left, not left to right), the styles are Kaisho (block script), gyousho (semi-cursive script), and sosho (cursive script).

While I chose to use sosho for my phrase today, I still practiced the kaisho. The reason for that is to get the stroke order correct and notice how some of the elements transmute when used in cursive. The gyousho is very helpful for seeing how the change happened, and while it was and is a widely used form, I don’t like it much.

So next, I had to consider the paper I was planning to use. A merchant had sent me some samples of this handmade washi paper and I thought it might be nice to try. However, I had to take into consideration that the size is smaller than the paper I usually use, as seen below:

6_chosen_paper_versus_normal_paper_size

I often use phone book or newspaper to practice kanji on when I am trying to get a sense of the shape. Here’s a comparison of my small phone book paper to the sheet I wanted to use. I would have to keep the size difference in mind as I practiced.

7_chosen_paper_versus_small_phonebook_practice_paper_size

Again, I apologize for the lack of in-situ pictures. Here’s my normal set-up when doing brush calligraphy:

8_normal_set-up

Examples to the left so I can see them, brushes and suzuri (ink stone) to the right, paper up top. Bunshin paperweights hold the paper in place and below the paper is a shitajiki, felt that absorbs ink since it tends to seep through the paper. The garish plastic placemats are extra protection since I’m doing this work on my dining table!

So here are some practice runs on the various kanji, in both kaisho and sosho forms:

HYAKU

9_hyaku_practice_1_kaisho_sosho

10_hyaku_practice_sosho_form

KA

11_ka_hana_practice

SEI

12_sei_practice

HOU

13_hou_practice

And a few run-throughs of Hyakka Seihou. I’m messing a bit with the placement of the kanji in reference to each other. Sei especially wants to run larger than the others and is being a pain!

14_hyakka_seihou_practice_1

15_hyakka_seihou_practice_2

16_hyakka_seihou_practice_3

And finally, brushing the phrase on the special washi paper. I was actually going to do a couple of runs at this (because I wasn’t sure how the paper would take the ink), but the first one came out fairly well.

x_hyakka_seihou_finished

I actually wanted to do more practices, but honestly, there’s just a time when you have to do it and be done. It’s never going to be perfect to my eyes. The one thing I might have changed is leaving a bit more room at the left side for a seal signature. However, since I haven’t finished designing and carving my inkan (seal) yet, I felt the point was moot.

Hope this walk-through helps explain the process. The result is very simple and understated but there is a lot of work that goes on in the background!

Prepping for Inktober

Decided to try Inktober this year as a way to encourage me to get into a daily art habit. I’m sure there will be challenges, as this is always a difficult time of year for me, and moreso this year, but in art is solace.

I don’t intend to follow any prompts. My only goal is to do something inky. And some of it will be modern and not SCA-related, because I get a bit weary of how SCA takes over all my hobbytime. Anyway, I intend to try different media and different types of things. There will be shodo, sumi-e, regular ink drawings, maybe some knotwork? I just want to play with the medium. Most of my drawing experience has actually been with graphite and charcoal, so there is a learning curve.

Here are some sketches I did today (to ink during October):

hats_in_high_wind_sketch

kali_sketch

samurai_sketch

veil_roman_sketch

I also prepped by finding several yojijukugo (four kanji compound sayings, kinda like shorthand proverbs) that I want to brush out. Probably in sosho, but we’ll see how I feel on the day of. I’m using the book Yojijukugo: 4 Character Compound Reference Source for Japanese Brush Calligraphy by my shodo teacher, Tony Skeen. He’s been urging me to do this anyway, so Inktober is a perfect excuse.

With the calligraphy, there is a lot of prep that goes into each finished project. I get the kanji from the book, but then I need to look it up in Nelson’s Japanese/English dictionary, then cross-reference it to one of my exemplars (different sources based on the style). This is to get the stroke order and also get a sense of what the stylized kanji is supposed to look like. Next comes the practice, where I get comfortable brushing out the kanji and also working out size and spacing. I’ll brush the whole piece out a few times before doing a final one.

(Arrgh, that reminds me, I still need to finish designing my inkan stamp!)

With the sumi-e, I have some instruction books with some exercises to work through. While I would love to do some color work, I think I’ll stick with black and white for this month. Same thing with the knotwork. I’ve done some knotwork on scrolls in the past but never felt very comfortable with it, so I’d like to play around with it a bit. Maybe mess about with some vinework, too.

Really looking forward to this. It’ll be fun!

Arts and Sciences Streak–start over!

100_day_as_mata_1_reisho

Life happened and I had to start my 100 Days of Arts and Sciences from scratch. I’m on Day 6. Here’s what I’ve been doing so far:

Day 1: practiced Reisho style in Japanese calligraphy, sewing on kosode sloper (working on a new pattern), research on tanka poetry.
Day 2: tanka poetry research, hand sewing, recorder practice
Day 3: hand sewing
Day 4: hand sewing, garb research
Day 5: hand-sewing, kanji radical practice
Day 6: Tanka poetry research, started on new hyakushu (100 poem sequence) project, practiced soprano recorder, hand-sewing on kosode sloper

Art Streak, Days 13 and 14

Day 13: went to shodo lesson, took apart old meisen-silk haori. Not one of the better piece I have, although a nice black/grey pattern. It’s heavily patched, and I might keep those pieces as real-life examples of how patching works, since I seem to have fallen into a research hole regarding that subject.

Day 14: Worked on RUSH class outlines, exploring reisho files that my shodo teacher gave me to work with, went through a couple of fabric bins of old kimono I haven’t taken apart yet. Was shocked to find that some of them might fit me now that I’ve lost so much weight! However, doing proper kitsuke would be a challenge, as even thin I am tall, with broad shoulders and hips. Still, wondering how I might be able to adapt a few of the plainer (ie less obviously modern) kimono into kosode without having to take them completely apart? Obviously change the sleeves. Length isn’t a problem because of my height, but not sure about how the width would play out. May try one and see what happens. I never expected to be thin enough to have these come close to fitting.