Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Learning shodo with Taki Kodaira

To learn shodō (書道), a form of Japanese calligraphy, one should be calm of mind, maybe with a view of cherry blossom. Instead I'm ferociously chewing off my lipstick and by the end of the class I look like Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

I have a brainwave.  I'll ask my friend Peter to join the class for moral support. He's a graphic designer with a latent talent for long-range shooting, which is all about focus, waiting for the right moment and doing the tricky sniping stuff as you breathe out, just like shodō. I'm hoping he'll be a shodō black belt in no time.


On our way to the next lesson at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, we pass the TfL lost property office with its affectionate window display, including a flat iron left on the number 23 bus in 1934. 

Peter mentions a mutual friend. 'Half his flat's in there,' he muses. 'And a lot of his portfolios.'


I've done some drawings in a calligraphic style but calligraphy is not drawing, not the same at all. This is Ayumi LaNoire performing on a golden pole:

But in class I'm struggling to be spontaneous. over and over again.  



Wednesday, 13 March 2019

Right or wrong: my struggle with kanji

Home is where you hang your hat. But in ancient China, home was where you sacrificed animals to propitiate the gods, so the early ideogram for 'home' depicted an animal on a slab.

I'm at the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation in London to learn the rudiments of kanji, the pictorial writing system imported to Japan from China in the fifth century AD. Here is the modern kanji character for 'home', drawn swiftly and beautifully by our teacher, Taki Koraida:

It's about to get difficult. I'm left-handed and it's obvious to me that the strokes, sweeps and upticks of kanji are designed by right-handed people. 'If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning' (Psalm 137). 

To prepare for this calligraphy course I've switched to using my right (wrong) hand in life class:

But, as Taki reminds us, calligraphy isn't painting or drawing. So my 'look - wrong hand!' performance isn't much good as preparation for kanji. At life class I have a moan with another left-hander. His family rejoiced when he fell out of a window and broke his left arm at the age of ten. They mourned when, once the plaster was removed, he remained a southpaw.

To be continued.