While I am on the subject of Chinese calligraphy, here’s some info.
Chinese writing dates back to over 5000 years ago. Chinese characters evolved from pictographs to more abstract ideograms to the modern-day character, which bears a slight resemblance to its pictographic origins. The characters are divided into 3 main categories : pictographs , ideograms , phonograms.
Since 2017 is the Year of the Rooster/Chicken, I will show you the progression. “Chicken/rooster” 雞 is a pictograph. You can see the evolution of the character with my calligraphy on the left: from the pictorial seal script (the first one at the top) to the modern day character (the second one) and also in my grass style( the third one).
On the right is my interpretation of the origin of the word. From the pictorial seal script, I turned it back into a design of a chicken.
I am based in Toronto, Canada where Chinese calligraphy and painting supplies are available but not the best nor the cheapest. I have been asked by my art followers where I get my supplies and if I can recommend some place where they can buy them too.
Here’s a small corner of my art studio. The antique chest has been with my family for a long time, and we brought it with us when we moved from Hong Kong decades ago. I bought a lot of supplies when I was travelling in China and Taiwan. I did buy some brushes here in Toronto, but they are almost double the price. I love seals, and I had them custom carved in China as well as here in Toronto. I actually carved one myself, and my scroll mounting teacher carved a couple for me too.
When I visited China last year, I made a special trip to Xiling Seal Art Society 西泠印社 on Lonely Hill Island in the middle of West Lake in Hangzhou to buy the original 西泠印泥 (Xiling Vermillion Seal Mud in a Ceramic Pot ). Got some brushes there too. They also displayed the seals of famous painters like Qi Baishi, Pan Tianshou etc.
Then while visiting Taiwan, I bought calligraphy brushes and painting supplies at the 100 year old Lam Sam Yik shop. They made the largest brush in Taiwan seen in the photo below, but to my surprise, they also sell makeup brushes now…I guess fewer people buy calligraphy and painting brushes nowadays so they have to branch into a new business…people not only are not interested in calligraphy now, with the widespread use of smart phones and computers, they can’t even spell or write : (
Since my art followers cannot travel to Hong Kong, Taiwan, China or Japan to get them, I have now compiled a list here of some reasonably priced supplies you can get at Amazon. They are good enough for beginners to give it a try and not waste a lot of money if you end up not pursuing it. Actually the quality is not bad, just not ultra-professional, so even intermediate users will find them satisfactory.
I will update this list as I see more suitable supplies. I have bought suminigashi inks on this list from Amazon. If you can read Chinese, you can also try buying direct from China via Taobao where I bought my seal carving supplies. The supplies are cheaper but the shipping is more expensive. But if you can’t read Chinese, it gets confusing.
If you are not sure what the painting supplies are comprised of, you can read my article about The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)
This is inspired by the ancient poem from the Tang Dynasty by Du Fu with the phrases “What am I like here and there wandering, one lone gull between heaven and earth hovering” 飄飄何所似 天地一沙鷗
This is part of my Flow series. Heaven and earth is created with free flowing ink on water. The Chinese characters on the top right are “heaven and earth and one lone sand gull”
“Sailed Past Ten Thousand Hills”
This is a more abstract piece of my “Flow” series. The landscape is created with free flowing ink on water. I added a tiny boat with a Chinese brush. It is inspired by the Tang dynasty poem by Li Bai. The calligraphy on the painting is a phrase from that poem, “The skiff has sailed past ten thousand hills”
I did this custom calligraphy, 諸行無常 (impermanence), at the special request of a musician who grew up in Japan but has moved to the United States. I guess this has special meaning to him. It is part of the Buddhist quote: 諸行無常 諸漏皆苦 諸法無我 涅磐寂静.
These are the Four Seals of Dharma , the four notions about the world which form the basis of all Buddhist teachings:
諸行無常 – All phenomena are transient – impermanence
諸法無我 – All phenomena are empty and selfless
諸漏皆苦 – All emotions are ultimately painful
涅磐寂静- Nirvana is true peace
This is the feedback he left for me:
“I asked her to create a specific four-character Chinese proverb, which she quickly produced within a day or two after I ordered and promptly posted to me.
Having grown up in Japan, I spent many hours in calligraphy classes. I know that her work only took minutes to create, but I know that this is the result of decades of intense training. The result is intensely beautiful. Her brush technique is impeccable, her expression is elegant, there is a subtle strength and grounding that I can feel through her brushstrokes. She is a superb artist.”
Thank you, S. Ichiro, for such encouraging words and your support!