Thursday, January 22, 2015

National Handwriting Day

Penguin by Zoƫ Friend

January 23 is National Handwriting Day.*  Is there anyone out there who DOESN'T long for better handwriting?!  I know I do, and as a professional calligrapher, I write for a living.  Here are four easy steps to take that can instantly improve your penmanship:

  • Get your elbow on the table.  Don't write standing up or lying down.  
  • Put two sheets of paper under the paper you are writing on.  
  • Upgrade your pen: from ballpoint to rollerball, from rollerball to thin marker, from marker to fountain pen, from fountain pen to calligraphy pen.  
  • Write on better paper. 

If you also take half a minute to warm up, your pen will write better lines and your muscles will make better letters.
Write, by hand, to someone who would like to hear from you.  You'll be glad you did.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it, " a letter, We have not better things to say, But surely say them better." 

*National Handwriting Day is on the birthday of John Hancock, who signed the Declaration of Independence with special emphasis.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Don 't give up on me

I'm out on sick leave.  Back soon.  Thanks for waiting.  

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A Zen master of the Thu Phap brush

I recently visited the monk Minh Duc who founded the Nuyen Khong pagoda and its gardens some 25 years ago.  I first found his work on the Internet, and after writing him a request, was honored to use it in my book Learn Calligraphy on page 78.  

My second visit included a camera crew that is shooting a program about calligraphy—mine and his—for broadcast in early April 2014 on VTV4.  The workshops I teach in basic Roman calligraphy seem to have raised general interest.  

Meanwhile, here is a demonstration of his technique, though he demurs at the term.  He says he harmonizes his writing with the landscape around him; certainly he has shaped the pagoda's landscape to harmonize with a Zen outlook on life.  “The present moment,” his follower explains to me, is what guides all good Buddhists.  

If the video does not play, view it here:

Thursday, March 6, 2014

1.4 Paper prep

Part of brush calligraphy's beauty is how the paper continues  to absorb the ink even after the brush has moved on. "Shhh," said one of my teachers, "Ink is working."   

To let your paper and ink accommodate the ink's flow, lay it over a sheet or two of  used  paper, and then on a mat of felt or a thin bamboo placemat.   This lets the air circulate  and keeps the ink from puddling on the hard surface. 
See the photo for the post below on February 11.  

Remember to let the paper and ink thoroughly dry before you hang it up - or else the wet ink will run down the page.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Note about translation

Note that my text is getting translated back and forth between Vietnamese and English, losing sense and sanity with every step.  I can't turn this off.  Any suggestions? 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

1.2 Brush introduction

Stiff brush. Opened soft brush now.  
If you have chosen to use a traditional calligraphy brush, you'll need to "open" it. This kind of brush is stiffened to keep the paste diluted with pointed hairs while it is transported and sold. Hold it in a thin trickle of water and gently massage the fibers until most of the point is softened.  
Re-shaped brush.  

Once you have opened your brush, you must keep it clean by rinsing it in water after each daily use, shaping the fiber, and hanging it up by the loop on the handle so it will dry in a point again.  

Friday, February 28, 2014

1.3 Materials: grinding your ink

Please view the video on my Facebook page while I deal with uploading it here.

If you plan to grind your own ink rather than just pour it from a bottle, you will need a shallow dish of special unglazed pottery or an inkwell made ​​of rough stone. Hold the ink stick upright, add a little water, and move it in a circular path.  You will feel the rough surface friction drag at it while a thin black sludge forms.  Add more water now and then. Be patient, and enjoy the relaxing, rhythmic, meditative motion.  

Grind enough ink for each day's practice.