A Master Calligrapher is like a Supermodel?


Our new teacher encourages everyone to practise on newspaper. This is the teacher’s sample. 

This month we started our new term at the calligraphy school. After a two month winter break I was keen to get back but felt a tad guilty that I hadn’t got my paper and brush out once (no, not even ONCE) during the break. :( The new year’s resolution to practise every day at home was all forgotten.

I recognised some old faces from my class last year, but the number of students has dropped from more than 10 to 4! Maybe the thought of another exhibition at the end of the year scared the others away, or maybe they have moved to another class. I don’t know, but anyway, we have some new students and a new teacher too so the mood has changed – this teacher is a lot more chatty and so the class is more relaxed. But it’s harder this year. Last year we started with the easiest calligraphy stroke called 예서 (ye-seo) which has rounded ends and jerky strokes that look like bamboo. Here’s the teacher’s sample:


But this year we have started on a more tricky style called 초서 cheo-seo) where the width of the stroke changes getting gradually thicker at the ends before gently tapering away. So you need to have more control of the brush. Here’s the teacher sample again:


I think we all worry about getting the strokes perfect and that means making them look exactly as they do in the teacher’s sample or the textbook. But the teacher says that EVERYBODY’S calligraphy is different. Our strokes are as unique to us as our silhouette and walk!

I imagined us all standing in a row. And yes, we would all have a unique silhouette. But of course ‘unique’ doesn’t necessary mean good! I’d be the relatively tall, chubby one at the end with posture issues – I slouch! :(

I always thought that walking was pretty straight forward (!) until I watched America’s Next Top Model and discovered that it’s not so easy after all. ‘Look at the state of her walk‘, I found myself saying out loud at the TV as the nervous wannabe model stumbled ungainly down the catwalk. Miss J clearly wasn’t impressed either because as everyone knows who has watched the show – a key to becoming a successful model is to develop a cool signature walk.

My brush stumbles and staggers across the page like a new model’s walk. But even a novice model can get from one end of the catwalk to the other, the question is will she ever be able to get there in style?



A year at the Calligraphy Academy

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to practise calligraphy more! At the end of last month I completed my first year at the calligraphy school and we are now on winter break, so Wednesday afternoons are free until March when the new term starts. But we ended the year, rather excitingly, with an exhibition of all the students’ work!


Exhibition for calligraphy students for 2013 was held in December at the Calligraphy Museum 

calligraphyAnd here is my final work. I must confess that although I did practise a little bit at home throughout the year, I wasn’t overly diligent until that day in late November when the teacher gave each of us newbies a different poem to practise. (Up until that point we had all been practising the same characters) and he pointed out that we all had to practise hard for ‘THE EXHIBITION’! 😮

That’s when the ‘cram practising’ began – I knew my work wasn’t going to be fantastic, but by this point I was just trying to avoid embarrassing myself.The teacher told us to bring our three best pieces in to class and he would choose the best of the three. To makes matters worse, we also had to start practising the smaller characters which are written down the lefthand side of the exhibition work (which tell us the name of the poet and the name of the person who wrote the calligraphy). And as the small characters are written with the SAME huge brush we use for the larger characters, trying to get them right is VERY FRUSTRATING …We were all cringing I think when we had to hand in our final piece. But the teacher says that no one is EVER happy with their work. They ALWAYS feel that they can do better.

In my poem, the writer feels nostalgic after saying goodbye to his friend who is going back to his hometown. The writer reflects on time passing by and wonders when he too can visit his hometown. The teacher chose the poem for me and I think it’s very suitable since I’m away from home too. 😥 (BTW the poem is read vertically from right to left)


The exhibition space: My work is the first on the left

But I have to say it was fun to see my work mounted on the wall! We all had to pay 40,000 won to cover exhibition costs. But this included having our work mounted onto a scroll which was rolled up after the exhibition and boxed for us to keep. :)

Calligraphy and Anime at the Seoul Art Centre

Despite the rain (we are in FULL RAINY SEASON right now) I was DETERMINED to get over to the Art Centre and see the Sin Saimdang – Lee Yulgok calligraphy exhibition. It can be tempting to remain draped over the sofa with barely enough strength to flutter a fan in this level of humidity, so I was pleased with myself as we set off. Lee Yulgok (1536-1584) was one of the most prominent Confucian scholars of the Joseon period.  And he appears on the 5,000 won note! They were clearly a very famous family as his mother Sin Saimdang’s image is on the 50,000 won note. She was seen as a model of Confucian ideas. You can see images of Korean money here.

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Review of term 1 calligraphy class

art centrecalligraphy museumIMG_1104

I’ve reached the end of the first term of my calligraphy class. (March 6 to June 19 2013) 100% attendance too, so gold star for me! 😉 

Before I started the class I wondered if it would be worth traipsing ‘all the way’ over to the Art Centre each week, since there are probably plenty of calligraphy classes much nearer my house. But it definitely IS worth it and here are 4 reasons why: 


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Calligraphy Class Week 13 How to Read a Calligraphy Dictionary

calligraphy dictionary

I bought a calligraphy dictionary this week recommended to us by our teacher. It’s compiled by a Japanese scholar and calligrapher who spent many years researching all the different styles of calligraphy. And there are lots!

The dictionary was published in Korea in 1985 and hasn’t been undated since then – it weighs 3.5 kg so it’s already pretty comprehensive! (I didn’t think about that when I had to carry it to an English class afterwards and then home. My bag was already quite heavy. Oh my poor shoulders! :?)  Then I had to work out how to actually use the dictionary … Continue reading “Calligraphy Class Week 13 How to Read a Calligraphy Dictionary” »

Calligraphy Week 10

calligraphy academy

There’s a calligraphy exhibition on this week at the calligraphy academy showcasing the best work from this year’s national calligraphy event. It all looks fab…

calligraphy academy

Not quite there yet 😉 And this has been a tough week for me, the beginner, with some pretty tricky characters. Here’s one of them. Help! …