Sunday, June 12, 2011

Rainy season preparations: Calligraphy and Tea.

Rainy season is coming along with the exciting typhoons. According to the KMA weather website the first typhoon of the season will miss us, hitting Osaka instead.

Lately I've been stocking up on tea to prepare for the weekends when its too rainy to go outside. I also set up my calligraphy set on the veranda. Here's a shijo I wrote a few weeks ago:

 Trees point angrily at sky,
black branches sprout like old vines.

Cherry blossoms floated like cloud!
spring here is a cold grey thief.

Grind the mok, paint a scroll,
only tea can save us from him.

Mok is charcoal that comes in stick form, sold at any art or stationery store here, used for brush form calligraphy.

Years ago I bought a cheap calligraphy set at a small 문벙구/stationery store. It came with everything but the paper. (화선지 is korean for calligraphy paper sold anywhere you can get a good stick of mok). The set (pictured to the right here) cost only 12,000 won ! It might be hard to find, although it might not. You'll have to check your local MoombangGu.

 I recommend this set to anyone starting in on Asian calligraphy; Japanese Korean Chinese: the line strokes are all the same just varying characters. Over the years I'd been upgrading the parts of it: I got a more expensive pointier brush, a stone 벼루 instead of the plastic one in the set, etc.
Another good purchase was a good beginners book on calligraphy. I recommend 꽃들 한글서예/flowers Korean calligraphy. I got mine at the calligraphy & paper store in Nampodong. Its great as it shows you how to make each individual brush stroke. I still have much to learn with calligraphy, having taken only 3 months at a calligraphy hagwon and 1 semester at a college here so I don't plan on teaching it for another year.
For those interested in learning and finding their Korean skills lacking I recommend getting one of your friends to set you up for 1-2 months at one of the calligraphy hagwons. The teachers mainly instruct you by drawing a few lines for you and then you try it. Its instruction by copying little langage ability is needed as you're learning a skill. The only vocabulary you'll need is up, down, left and right (things you can get with a decent level 1 Korean). The only other vocabulary you'll need is : 

화선지: white paper
붓: brush
먹: your charcoal ink stick. You grind this down in your 벼루.
벼루: graduated stone for grinding charcoal into the water.

Really, that's it. Then its class time: where you'll follow the teacher, doing as they do. At the hagwon I spent 4 classes doing horizontal lines. Then another month doing verticle lines. This summer its circles for me and presto! I'll be able to do hangul! All at the Sawyeah hagwon. (I got alot of other instruction from the college but more on flowers and teapots later)...Don't let the langage barrier stop you! Make the effort ! Fear not : you can only win. --MWT.