I’ll just apologize right off for the shadow. I don’t have a scanner and I haven’t figured out a good way to get a picture of my work without just holding my phone over it and taking a snapshot.
I let my calligraphy teacher know I had plans to go back to the States next year and told him I was serious about learning every bit about the art I could before making my return. He has graciously offered to keep teaching me from abroad, but I can also tell that he’s been making an effort to speed up my studies where he can in the weeks since I told him. Calligraphy, like anything worth learning, can’t be rushed. You practice and practice and practice, carefully studying your teacher’s corrections, and the time comes where you suddenly make a jump in skill. I can’t explain it, but it does happen. My once teacher told me that those jumps will come from time to time and I can attest to that. The point is, while you can’t rush the learning process on the whole, he has been making an effort to teach me some of the less skill-based aspects to the art. He told me when I made it to first Dan that he would get me a few dictionaries (not for free, of course). Well, I am only 2 kyuu and suddenly he has, in the past month, gotten me 2 important dictionaries. One is an example book of the works that our style is based on: “some dead guy” named 王羲之 (Ougishi). The other I received last week: A more general dictionary that you look up a character and find different famous examples of that kanji written throughout history. This is an especially useful type of dictionary if you’re trying to create work on your own.
Well, I’ve used it twice this week. Once to make the banner to this site – which I personally think turned out really well (because I used photoshop to finalize the kanji) – and once to write this work. I still need to keep working at this piece to really nail it down (so many areas to improve!), but it was fun choosing a saying that really moved me and trying to put it down onto paper by looking up the characters separately and finding a unified style that worked on the whole.
One interesting part of the Japanese language are these things called 四字熟語 (yojijukugo) which are basically compound words formed of 4 kanji. You cannot help but learn even intermediate Japanese without picking up a few of these. If you’re going for kanken like I currently am (I will defeat you 2kyuu!) then these are a necessity. Anyway, the more you learn about kanji the more fun these get (that, or I’m a complete dork) and the practice of shodo can end up revolving heavily around these compound words. You may have noticed that A LOT of Japanese calligraphy consists of a sheet of paper with only 4 characters on them. This is why.
Anyway, I came across this particular yojijukugo the other day that really resonates with the mindset that I’ve been in lately, for better or for worse. 内疎外親 (Naisogaishin). It means cordial on the outside, but detached on the inside. This could not describe me better at this point in time. Sadly, I’ve been pouring so much effort into improving both my Japanese and my art for the past who-knows-how-long, that I really can’t connect with people in the way that society tells me I should. I keep telling myself that it’s only for now – when I get my dream job as an illustrator, I can open back up – but who knows if there’s any going back once you start down this road…