Through history, the qualities of Japanese calligraphy supplies, known as the Four Treasures, have been relentlessly studied and discussed by countless Eastern artists and scholars. I pride myself on linking with this tradition by presenting my own thoughts on the Four Treasures of Japanese calligraphy.
When practicing Japanese calligraphy and sumi painting the four tools -ink stick, ink stone, brush and rice paper- become your intimate friends. You discover their strengths and weaknesses, get to know their qualities, spend time with them and enjoy their presence. They become more than mere Japanese calligraphy supplies. That is why Chinese and Japanese poetically call oriental art supply The Four Treasures.
Understanding and getting familiar with your Japanese calligraphy supplies is fundamental for the proper practice of Japanese calligraphy. Japanese calligraphy supplies are very different from Western art supplies. Thus if you are a beginner, first the Four treasures may be mysterious to you, but if you get acquainted with them, you will discover that they give you real freedom to create.
What are Japanese calligraphy supplies?
For calligraphy, the best is a white thick paper of solid consistency on which the brush can glide effortlessly, strong round brushes that are long and light, and black luminous ink. The ink stone should be large and convenient so that the calligrapher can grind the ink properly. I know of no bigger joy than having these four treasures on the table of your studio and quietly create artworks.
Xie Zhaozhe, Ming dynasty
|The brush – The Japanese calligraphy brush is perfectly designed to perform all the movements necessary for shaping the Japanese characters. It is very soft, supple and elastic, and shapes infinite forms —from a small dot to a bold brush stroke.|
|The ink stone – The Japanese ink stone is a natural stone with a flat surface for making ink. Compared with the other three, the ink stone is the one treasure that can last your whole life. It is therefore the very soul of your art studio, and its presence becomes inseparable from your calligraphy practice.|
|The ink stick – The Japanese ink stick is a small solid stick that you grind on an ink stone to get liquid ink. Making fresh ink is a skillful way to let your mind calm down and to reach the right mental state for brushing your calligraphy.|
|The rice paper – Japanese calligraphy rice paper is a porous paper that has the ability to absorb a great quantity of ink without changing the original shape. The porousness is not only on the material level, but also on the energetic level as the energy of the calligrapher is stored in the paper.|
|Watercolors – Those of you who go the way of painting along with calligraphy may be interested in the world o Japanese and Chinese watercolors.|
The beauty of Japanese calligraphy lies in its simplicity, and the four treasures are the tools that help you to achieve it.
There is a tendency to use cardboards, bottled ink, and to play down this art to a flat and quick writing. Yet Japanese calligraphy is so precious because it possesses uncommon subtle values that can only arise from the interplay of the genuine four treasures.
To attune to this interplay is a voluntary process that requires effort, but I don’t know of any other tools that allow you to create this wonderful dance of the brush than the true Japanese calligraphy supplies.
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