10 September 2009
Chinese Calligraphy and Painting
In addition to our three regular classes and our internship, we have the option of taking an extracurricular class during our time in China. While I was initially disappointed in the sparse selection (okay, so there was only one offered), now that I have been to two classes, I am so glad that I’m taking it!
Every Tuesday afternoon, we go to a middle-aged man’s house (at least, I would assume that it is his house) to learn traditional Chinese painting and character calligraphy. You know all of that Chinese art that you see on the streets and in the movies, with some ink and a lot of white space? That’s what we’re doing, in a nutshell. Our instructor is apparently quite famous, in Suzhou, at least. He speaks very little English, and his method of teaching consists of painting something for us to copy with the occasional stroke on our own paper. Yesterday, he actually took my hand and moved it along the path in which it needed to travel - that really doesn’t happen too much, so I must have been really screwing it up. Anyway, it took a while to get used to, but now, I like it.
At our first class, we jumped right into painting, recreating scenes of a stone, bamboo, and a mountain. Yesterday, we switched gears to calligraphy and wrote the characters for “big,” “under,” “horse,” “people,” “day,” and “white.” I assume that we will alternate weeks between painting and calligraphy. I prefer the painting, but I do think that his calligraphy looks really cool (just not mine - YET.)
I just want to say that the ink that we use smells SO...GOOD. It’s like incense or something! Oh, that might not make sense if you haven’t taken Chinese with Zhang Laoshi or traditional painting with this guy (I don’t know his name)...you do a little something like this:
1. Take brush out of the water in which it has been resting.
2. Swirl brush in the water on top of the block of black ink.
3. Squeeze out the extra moisture by pressing the brush on the side of a bowl or the ink...plod.
4. If painting, paint. If writing calligraphy, make sure that the brush is held upright with three fingers. Then calligraphate. Calligraph-fy? Mayhaps it is only “write calligraphy.” Thoughts?
So, that’s basically what we do for an hour and a half. It’s harder than it sounds.