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.
Inspired by the rocks under our feet in Glasgow, from the carboniferous to the metamorphic hundreds of millions of years ago. We drew and doodled from our rock collection as well as from our imagination, thinking about lava rising up through the sea to create mountains, and rocky hills lowering to valleys and streams with animals and people active below the peaks.
Our doodles were tectonic and very craggy.
Working on black paper with oil pastels helped us explore rocky textures, and enjoy trying out some funky colour combinations. The weight and feel of the stones and rocks helped to guide us. Some of us drew or wrote words about what rocks an rocky places meant for us.
We also had time to relax, thinking about this theme and feeling nice and grounded!
To begin with we did some short meditation together, just grounding and breathing, settling, and then touching the materials which everyone enjoyed. Then we poured the sumi ink and straight away they were making marks with the fude brushes and engaging with the pictorial aspects of the characters, and the shapes of the strokes.
They were especially keen to try the tensho and kinbun styles of characters, and we chatted about the meanings behind these and how they related to our experience of being connected to nature. There was a fair bit of experimentation in this group with the children exploring the dense quality of the ink and also the hanshi paper which was is a lot thinner they are used to.
明 akarui – bright was a nice kanji that was enjoyed, and also 春 haru – spring – and dai 大 – great – with other kanji also being worked on. The meanings and rich visual language of each character was quickly absorbed by the young people.
Secondary school young people at the Friday night North United Communities group embraced Japanese writing and Shodo calligraphy. The group had some meditative time first to feel the textures and weight of the materials, such as the types of fude brushes, suzuri ink well and bunchin paper weight, and to settle and breathe deeply, before beginning.
Kumo 雲 – cloud – was especially popular in the kaisho style. And with a few participants being anime fans such as of Natsu Dragneel, so we worked on natsu 夏- summer – as well as a bonus!
Some young people also enjoyed working on kokoro 心 – heart or mind. One young participant even worked on the hiragana syllabary which was fantastic and we explored some of the pronunciation of these as well as the kanji characters.