We had a peaceful shodo calligraphy session together meditatively brushing. The theme we brushed was Zazen zen sitting meditation, and we preceded this with enso 円相 brushing, which is a great practice in itself and helps you express and feel interconnection with all things and your own body-mind in a single stroke.
Blair has some experience learning directly from zen monks in Japanese temples so gave some pointers for the enso practice to bring spaciousness and relaxed focus to it.
He also explained the meanings of the za and zen in Zazen 坐禅 (Chinese: Zuochan, usually translated as sitting meditation) helping us discover the visual breadth of meanings in the two characters, and connection to Dhyana.
After working on enso Blair gave demos so we could brush zazen in the kaisho style (comparing styles by two teachers) and then the quirky older tensho style. It was interesting how much everyone connected with the characters, the meditation aspects and enso.
Thanks to participants for sending your images, lovely work, and Ken we like your digitised ‘Zen Kawaii’ cute zen, very funky.
At our monthly zoom shodo calligraphy group Zen Brush we embraced the spring breeze – with 春風 harukaze. There have been signs of spring here now, especially in the mild wind and sunnier days!
We brushed harukaze – spring wind – in the kaisho style, the two kanji characters combining really well with their flowing and graceful variety of strokes, some delicate and others heavier. Blair helped particiapnts with any difficulties they had with brushing the strokes and how to hold and angle their brushes.
After that we worked with the older more curvy and very mysterious tensho style, inspired by the great Chinese master 18th century master Deng Shiru 鄧石如 (Tosekijo in Japanese) who had a fascinating life immersed in tensho and shodo.
We had some spring themed and spacious poetry by Yoshida Kenko (14th C Japan).
The style of tensho was really liked and Blair will return to working with that at the group. Thanks to folks for taking part and also to those who sent their images (example below capturing the feel of the tensho), some had joined for shodo for the first time and Blair was really please to see them enjoying it, and writing their names on their pieces too!
There are some signs of spring here now, I can feel it in the mild wind too!
This month we brushed the characters from the spacious 初心 shoshin meaning first time, heart mind, or commonly as ‘beginner’s mind’. Writing this and discovering more about the deeper meanings of the kanji characters in this word that zen monk and calligrapher Suzuki Roshi beautifully used, was a lovely way to start practicing Shodo calligraphy together this year.
‘In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few’ (Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind) After some loosening mark making and strokes practice we worked on the more jaggy kaisho style, and also the curvy flowing sosho style which participants particularly enjoyed!
Here is the short hopeful and poetic quote by Shunryu Suzuki that Blair read at the group –
‘Before the rain stops we can hear a bird. Even under the heavy snow we see snowdrops and some new growth.’
Notice in the picture, in Blair’s bunchin paperweight there is the shape of a cow and the kanji for ushi 丑 cow. It was a gift to him twelve years ago in the last ushi year.
Thanks to the participants for taking part and sending their images.
Inspired by one of Chinese poet Han Shan’s Cold Mountain poems, we brushed the characters for autumn moon – shūgetsu 秋月, at our online Shodo group Zen Brush. Some of us were lucky to catch a glimpse of the waxing crescent moon in the early evening above the horizon glowing yellow or orange 🌙 before quickly sinking into a blanket of clouds!
First Blair talked about the two kanji characters and their background and styles, fascinating to see how the shape of the pictogram for moon 月 had changed over thousands of years, and within the older kanji for autumn 秋 the fire and light of the sun on the grain as well as the insect too in some versions.
After some demos we worked on each kanji in the more boxy kaisho style and then the fluid curvy sōsho ‘grass’ style which simplifies and connects many of the strokes. The style that Blair demonstrated of the sōsho is based upon the master Chiei from the 7th Century Sui dynasty. His work is often copied by Japanese calligraphers.
It was delightful connecting deeply with this thought provoking short zen poem by Han Shan, looking at calligraphy inpired by it, and then writing part of it in shodo ourselves.
Please see some examples by participants in these photos.
We brushed 愛 Ai – Love, care, affection, craving/ attachment – at our Monday online Zen brush Shodo calligraphy 書道 group in October. It was inspiring to work with this single kanji (Chinese character) as it is so delightful to brush in the shodo styles.
With demos from Blair, we explored the kaisho 楷書 style as well as the faster gyosho 行書 and the very flowing sosho 草書 style.
Exploring the older tensho 篆書 style and the fascinating meanings of each part of the kanji and also as a whole, how the kanji changed over time with the claw shape, the connection to heart – shin or kokoro ❤️ which is within the kanji, this helped us engage with it more deeply and bring understanding to each stroke and stroke order.
The three parts of the kanji combined has a connotation of heartrending as well heartfulness. The varied meanings, type of strokes and movement in this popular kanji make it a great one to practice shodo with and also a nice gift for someone you care for.
The group enjoyed how the kaisho more boxy style moved into the gyosho style followed by the sosho grass style. The sosho is looser and makes sense to be brushed this way after getting a feel for the other styles. Thanks to the group for sending us some of their images including a bonus picture from Laura of her enchanting Daruma dolls, the legendary founder of Chan and Zen.
妙法 Myouhou – all life and things wondrous – was captivating to brush in the kaisho and sousho styles of Shodo calligraphy 書道. On its own myou means mystery, or excellent, strange or wonderful and hou can mean method, teachings, dharma, or process ✨
It was a lovely group of folk at our Monday Zen Brush online group. As well as some relaxing marks to get used to the fude brush and some stroke practice, we looked into the inspiring origins and meanings of myou and hou.
The curious sheep god shape in the old kinbun metal engraving of hou was fascinating, one participant remarked that it looked like a climbing sheep 🙂
The group enjoyed the sousho grass style which is very free and open after the defined strokes of the kaisho. Thanks to the participants for sending us some of their images.
Myoho appears in the poetic Lotus Sutra, which has inspired so much calligraphy and ink painting in China and Japan, here is an example from the text full of beautiful natural imagery.
Here is an example of stamped calligraphy (this is kokotsubun shell and bone style). You can stamp on your shodo calligraphy, artwork, poetry or sutra copying, or anything else you fancy 😊
This example is of stamped artwork by Blair was inspired by the dynamic skyline of Tokyo, using Japanese gansai pigments.
To join our stamp making online by zoom, you only need pencil and paper to get started. Enjoy and practice working with traditional tenkoku 篆刻 materials or the simpler keshigomu eraser to carve your very own hanko はんこ stamp.
In this video Blair has fun stamping a few papers, using the L shape to guide the alignment of stamps for shodo (very handy!), whilst going for a more squinty off angle approach on the artwork, and stamping in the middle of an enso circle.
Stamping is such fun, the physical pressing down and moment of suspense to see the stamp impression. After first designing the 印 – such as name or artist name, then carving or cutting into stone or eraser. It is enjoyable to work on each part of the process.
Blair is carving his zen name, using the insho clamp and into cutter. He can help you translate and choose suitable katakana Japanese or Chinese characters for your own name 😊
This picture is of some reisho 隷書 calligraphy Blair was stamping a few days ago✨
At Zen Brush we worked with the graceful eight strokes of eternal eijihappoh 永字八法, also known as the eight principles of yong – getting a feel for them and having some fun with the flow of the brush.
Inspired by some Japanese haiku and old waka poetry we brushed 永平 eihei – meaning eternal peace – also the name of Master Dogen and his Zen temple Eiheiji- which is such a lovely combination of kanji characters.
It was great to see the participants on zoom enjoying the shodo calligraphy practice, and embracing the two styles this month – kaisho and the fun reisho which comes from the cliff faces of China. Many thanks to some of the participants for sharing images of their calligraphy below.
With a buzzing cry A bee shifts on the bloom sought By a butterfly Taigi