How to Prepare the Calligraphy Studio?
Aside from simply ensuring that your tools and accessories are laid out in an organized manner, the placement of the Studio itself is important for a truly traditional Calligraphy experience. Light, of course, is vitally important. Many calligraphers prefer to write with natural light. Placing your desk by a window will allow you to observe the world around you and ensure that, while you remain focused on writing, you are conscious of, and part of your surroundings. While good access to natural light is the ideal, this will not be possible for everyone. It’s always a good idea to find a good articulated desk lamp to ensure that you have direct light on your workstation. Selecting the light bulb is also important. It’s best to avoid fluorescent light, as this can tire your eyes out quite quickly. If your light creates glare on your paper, it needs to be further away or of a different wattage. If the light is to dim, this will also strain your eyes. If the light is too bright, or too close to your work, it can be very distracting.
How to Prepare your Table when Writing Chinese Calligraphy?
Before you begin writing Calligraphy, it is good to set up a calm and organized environment. As a traditional art form, Chinese Calligraphy is as much about proper context and tools as it is about just writing artfully. You will likely find that setting up in the traditional way is helpful in ensuring that all of your tools are readily accessible and that a muddled or confused work area doesn’t needlessly distract you. Aside from the Four Treasures of the calligrapher, a couple extra accessories will ensure easy cleanup and a placid and calming experience.
Firstly, finding a tablecloth is an important first step. As Calligraphy Paper is often quite absorbent, it is possible that the Ink will bleed through. As such, it is not advisable to write on a sheet that has another unspoiled one beneath it. This could lead to the ruin of one or more sheets beneath the one you are using. When it comes to your tablecloth, try and find something with a little absorbency, but also one that doesn’t permit the paper to slide around as you write. As such, it is best to avoid glossy synthetic materials.
Aside from this, a water reservoir of some type will be very helpful if you think you’ll be mixing Ink for more than one work. A spoon for loading the Ink Slab will also be helpful. A second water container for washing brushes will allow you to switch between works without having to get up and to do this. Many Calligraphers use a paperweight to ensure that the paper does not move unintentionally while writing. These may take many forms: square, round or long and ruler-like. When selecting a paperweight, make sure that it isn’t so heavy that it will crease the paper. Traditional materials for a paperweight range from wood to jade to bronze. It is common for these weights to be carved with designs and Characters.
Finally, a Brush Stand and Brush Rest will allow you to fluidly move from brush to brush, trying out different ones as your fancy changes. All of these tools should be arrayed in the manner shown so that you have ready access to them, but that the focus remains on the paper in the center.
What is a Mental Preparation for Writing Chinese Calligraphy?
Calligraphy is traditionally a quiet, meditative process. Doing Calligraphy when you are too tired or anxious can easily have a negative impact on your work. You will likely find that Calligraphy is a welcome retreat from the chaos of everyday life. Preparing to write is of course a very personal process. Needless to say, you should try to clear and prepare your mind in advance of beginning. Writing first thing in the morning can be a great way to prepare for your day. Writing in the evening can also help you unwind and unburden yourself. In each case, making sure that your immediate surroundings are devoid of interfering stimulation will have the best result. Calligraphy should surely not be conducted in the presence of a blaring television!
The Concept of an Active Body and Mind when Writing Chinese Calligraphy
Many amateur and professional Calligraphers use other traditional Chinese meditative and exercise practices in preparation for writing. Primary among these are Qi Gong (氣功/ Ch’i Kung) and Zhan Zhuang (站樁/ Chan Chuang).
Qi Gong is a meditative practice of body movement that is meant to focus and exercise the Qi. Qi is a very important concept in traditional Chinese metaphysics. While it literally refers to one’s breath, this concept has further resonance with one’s essential living essence as both physical being and thinking, connected mind. Qi Gong itself does focus intently on the breath, both in movement and while static. There are numerous types Qi Gong practice.
Zhan Zhuang is less concerned with the meditative process, and more with aligning and perfecting one’s physical comportment. Zhan Zhuang often takes the form of very specific static postures that are maintained in order to strengthen and unite the entire physical form. Zhan Zhuang is related to various martial arts, and to traditional Chinese healing practices. Just like Qi Gong, there are many different types and schools of Zhan Zhuang thought and practice.
Even if you do not practice either Zhan Zhuang or Qi Gong, controlling your breath can help your calligraphy. It is best not to hold your breath when writing, even if you are tempted to do so: it will make your writing stilted and unnatural. Try to exhale smoothly throughout writing each character. The best time to inhale is when filling the brush, or between characters. At all times, keeping a regular in-out breathing pattern will give you the best results.