Digital Artefact: Learning Japanese Calligraphy

I’ve always been intrigued by Japanese culture. I was given the opportunity to study the language and culture for one year in high school but the class only taught the most basic of things. In the past year, I have also developed an interest in typography and brush lettering. This style of lettering has been developed from more traditional forms such as Japanese calligraphy, or Shodo. The research I have conducted surrounding Japanese calligraphy and how it works as an art form is a combination of personal narrative and outsourced information and data. My methodology followed Ellis, et al’s Autoethnography: An Overview. I would be using this method of research to describe and analyse my personal experience as a way of understanding this cultural experience (Ellis, et al 2011).

For my digital artefact, I created a three-part series that showcased myself using different application methods to learning the basic skills of Japanese calligraphy. As traditional shodo takes many, many years to practice and perfect, I would only be attempting to learn the stroke order of the hirigana alphabet. I explored both traditional and contemporary methods of application, which can be seen in videos two and three of the series.

Before even attempting to put a pen/ brush to paper, I researched methods of setting up materials and the correct way to prep new tools. It was during this process that I really had my first epiphany. I was so intrigued with the idea that there were so many rules out there when it came to shodo. Being told that I have to sit up straight and have two feet on the floor while writing out characters was more challenging than I thought it would be. I’ve always had poor posture and I tend to slump when I’m writing, drawing or typing, but after actually putting this rule into action, I was able to see why it may be so important in the art form that is shodo.

From this whole experience, I concluded that the more traditional form of shodo was a lot easier to learn. It was far more enjoyable to use a brush and ink to learn than it was using an app on my iPad. The common theme I found with using an app was that it was near impossible to predict the pressure you were placing on the screen. This, ultimately, affected how the hirigana character looked. I also found it difficult to feel immersed in the experience as I was simply just dragging my finger around a screen. It was such a contrast from using a brush and getting ink on my hands and fiddling with the paper. In saying this, the app also acknowledged that it was just a learning tool. When I first opened the app, it had three little ‘Must Reads’. They said “Paper, writing brush and ink are the best and proved method for calligraphy/ practicing…” and “The idea of this app is to help [focus] on the structure of glyphs and mastering the essence of calligraphy”.

All three videos contain some form of voice over. This was just to provide some context into what I was doing, what I was trying to achieve, and how I felt looking back on the experience.  This experience has instilled in me the fact that shodo is an art form and it has allowed me to understand why it is so highly regarded in Japanese culture.

Part 1: Learning the Strokes

Part 2: Saying Bye to Practice Guides

Part 3: Going Digital

References: 

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589

Kim, T. (2017). Hiragana Practice Exercises – Learn Japanese. Guidetojapanese.org. http://www.guidetojapanese.org/learn/grammar/hiragana_ex

MAIKOYA. (2017). Japanese Calligraphy (Shodo). https://mai-ko.com/japanese-calligraphy-shodo/

Schumacher, M. (n.d.). Japanese Calligraphy, Calligraphy in Japan & China. Onmarkproductions.com. http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/calligraphy1.shtml

Shodo-japan.com. (n.d.). SHODO JAPAN|書道ジャパン. http://shodo-japan.com/

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