Inspired by the canal area next to the Centre81, the leaves and flowers and shoots at the banks of the gently moving waters, we enjoyed some easygoing doodling and sketching with pens, pencils and coloured pencils. Relaxing and fun 😄
Kindly supported by West Dunbartonshire Council and Flightpath
The last of our series of free events related to Japanese calligraphy and meditative practice was Shakyo copying – tracing a sutra. We started with a talk where Blair discussed the history of Shakyo (and of course including the famous story of Genjo / Xuanzang c 602 – 664 which was popularised in the Saiyuuki / Monkey Magic series, itself based on the fictionalised Chinese novel Journey to the West) and his experience of participating in Shakyo practice in Soto shu and Hosso shu temples in Japan taught by monks and calligraphy masters, connecting with wider zen practice.
We then had a look at the structure and some of the many meanings in the sutra, the shortened essence or heart of the massively longer epic Dai Hannya (as the monks call it) or Vast Perfection of Wisdom Sutra. Then we approached this session like a period of meditation, working peacefully and being absorbed into the very process of tracing each character of the chosen Heart Sutra. This is a very tranquil activity best done slowly.
In many ways it is also very different from Shodo calligraphy (which we explored in the other groups in this series), such as we worked on many small characters in vertical rows with small kofude brushes, grinding our own ink (listening to the sound as we did so and noticing the speed of the grinding) and connecting to the sutra rather than working with large brushes and kanji in the much more dynamic process of Shodo.
This type of Shakyo group working with the these traditional materials and methods and looking deeply at the ideas in the sutra is new to Scotland and the UK, and we were delighted to host this and see the participants engage wholeheartedly, enjoy it and want to practice it further. Thanks again to the GB Sasakawa Foundation for their support for this project.
At Kagyu Samye Dzong Tibetan building we had a large turnout for this free Shodo calligraphy group (apologies to those we couldn’t accommodate) and enjoyed a gentle introduction to the way of Sho.
Before working on the kanji characters, we talked about the history of Shodo and kanji characters, and Blair’s experience in Japan and in particular with calligraphy and meditation. We looked at the traditional materials, from bunchin paper weight to shitajiki felt mat to suzuri inkwells and fude brushes, pausing reflectively to notice and feel the textures such as of the hanshi paper.
In the peaceful atmosphere of the garden room (where groups such as the Glasgow Zen Group or Tibetan Buddhist group meditate) we worked on several kanji and built up to working on Koumyou 光明 – radiant light or luminous brightness – in the kaisho style and tensho styles.
We also had time to try some of the strokes practice, and some participants also experimented with using the brushes to write fluidly in English alongside the kanji characters.
In this session generously supported by the GB Sasakawa Foundation, our group of adults with children were able to try out Japanese calligraphy for the first time and find out about some of the history and culture behind the beautiful characters.
The participants enjoyed the challenge and variety of making an enso circle in a single mark – reflecting their experience and being in that moment, and in some ways a meditation in itself. Time to breathe, relax and connect helped to settle into the calligraphy, but folk were very quick to get going and try out the kanji characters.
As we have worked a lot with natural materials in this group previously it was ideal to try out characters such as moku 木 – wood, and kumo 雲 – cloud.
The younger participants engaged very readily to the older tensho, kinbun and kokotsubun styles – back to the shell and bone language which evolved into kanji. We considered the connections to the old Scottish Pictish and Viking Norse visual languages and found these to be closer than we would have thought.
At Zen Heart Brush this time we worked with the characters for Shodo – the way of writing. 書 Sho/ kaku can mean to write, to draw or to paint so has a fairly broad range of interpretation. Lots of horizontal strokes in this character!
道 Dou/ michi – meaning way, road, teachings such as Buddha way – visually varies a lot from tensho to kaisho styles, especially the foot moving forward on the left side (hen radical), itself meaning walk or advance. We looked briefly at the roots of meaning of this Chinese character which are ancient and shamanic.
We first had some fun loosening up with some markmaking before working on the kanji character 古 ko / furui for old or ancient. Exploring the oldest bone carving style of character was really fun in addition to the tensho and kaisho styles.
鏡 Kyou/ kagami meaning mirror had a lort more strokes to work with but we enjoyed the contrast with the ko character. This relates to the old Chinese bronze mirrors.
Combining both kanji together with the resulting sound Kokyou, has a very old Chinese meaning – mirrors are the origin of yin and yang and regulate the body eternally – as well as a later meaning in Buddhism – in the ancient mirror nothing is discriminated, everything is shown.
Continuing from last week’s theme of spring growth we probed the branchy twisting shapes within trees, more easily seen before all the leaves come out.
Thinking about the graceful shapes and sense of wisdom that trees convey, we were free to make more artworks and find connections between roots, branches, seeds, shoots, buds and the energetic positive feeling of Spring.
Using coloured pencils and pens we each drew our own tree of life.
The buds of spring and shoots, and young green leaves inspired us over two nights at Maryhill Art Group. We used our senses to look closely at the buds, daffodils and other spring shoots and flowers we had brought in, also smelling the scents.
After some leaf like curvy doodles with organic shapes in various colours, we listened to some poetry and words about the spring, the changing season, and seeds sprouting.
to sleep a night
below cherry blossoms
Different types of coloured pencils were used fro drawing, some finer and more delicate as well as chunkier richer coloured ones. These were ideal for giving a sense of the delicate colours at the start of this season.
Freedom in open spaces and big marks! Continuing from last session’s rocky theme of rocks under the earth in Glasgow, we took this into wider dimensions with more spacious scenes of sea, islands, birds.
This was influenced also by the rock and raked gravel dry gardens of Japan and China garden design, which placed carefully chosen stones of particular shapes into spaces to create a harmonic landscape world of mountains, seas, waterfalls and forest.
Fine pens as well as prockey pens and metallic pens were ideal for drawing from our expanded amount of stone – one of the participants kindly brought a beautiful collection of stones and minerals of mesmerising colours and textures.
In the second half of the group we used black ink and different types of brushes to explore totally different ways of markmaking, still keeping the textured or smooth feel of the stones, and with the spaciousness of the sea and garden spaces.