writing implement

Topics related to learning Mandarin Chinese.
Locked
rathpy

writing implement

Post by rathpy » Tue Oct 15, 2002 11:19 pm

I want to write Chinese characters better. Specifically, I want to be able to draw the strokes more authentically, with the varying thicknesses, and stylish heads and tails. Using a biro or pen to write good characters is a practical skill in itself, but obviously it's not possible to draw a character with the same beauty as with a brush. I tried a purpose-built flexible felt-tipped pen with a flexible tip, but I don't think it's that much of an improvement over a pen (perhaps it's just me). A brush would be the only real way to have a chance to reproduce standard looking characters, but I'm guessing the downsides would be: (1) potentially spilling or splattering ink all over the place; and (2) having to draw such big characters. Are there any reasonable modern alternatives to brushes (that can yield the same effect)? How small a character can you write with a brush?

Regards,
rathpy
Thomas Chan

Re: writing implement

Post by Thomas Chan » Wed Oct 16, 2002 9:35 pm

rathpy wrote:
>
> I want to write Chinese characters better. Specifically, I
> want to be able to draw the strokes more authentically, with
> the varying thicknesses, and stylish heads and tails. Using a
> biro or pen to write good characters is a practical skill in
> itself, but obviously it's not possible to draw a character
> with the same beauty as with a brush. I tried a purpose-built
> flexible felt-tipped pen with a flexible tip, but I don't
> think it's that much of an improvement over a pen (perhaps
> it's just me). A brush would be the only real way to have a
> chance to reproduce standard looking characters, but I'm
> guessing the downsides would be: (1) potentially spilling or
> splattering ink all over the place; and (2) having to draw
> such big characters. Are there any reasonable modern
> alternatives to brushes (that can yield the same effect)? How
> small a character can you write with a brush?

The paper used is also very thin, almost like newsprint or some paper
towels (the cheap kind used in public restrooms), so the ink can easily
bleed across the page. From a western viewpoint, the paper is actually
a sheet of paper folded in half, so that you can insert a thicker sheet of
paper in between as a blotter or a model sheet (i.e., you can see through
the thin paper, so you can "trace" the characters printed on the model
sheet). (You can probably make up some model sheets by printing out
some characters in a kai font.) Fortunately, the ink is water-soluble, and
washes out of a lot of things (unlike india ink).

I've seen some pens with flexible brush-tips in art supply stores, but I've
never tried to see if they'd behave like a traditional brush. As you say, for
practical penmanship rather than artistic calligraphy, native writers would
just use a ball point or fountain pen (I suppose those gel pens that are
popular now would also work well)--even pencil, too, but all of these create
lines of identical thickness. Western-style calligraphy pens and quills with
their angled nibs would be even less appropriate.

There are brushes of various sizes--some of them have bodies that are
slightly thinner than a pencil. Looking at some old leftover paper here,
it seems the squares are 11-12 mm wide and 10 mm tall. There are six
columns per page, with 18 squares per column. (There are probably
variations in the actual number of squares and columns depending on
the paper.) There's nothing wrong with starting with writing bigger
characters on paper with bigger squares, though, say, 15x15 mm--it's like
how elementary English-speaking students start out writing on ruled paper
with giant rows. There's also paper where the squares are very huge,
like maybe 50x45 mm, which are divided into a nine square grid (or sixteen,
or perhaps with diagonals thrown in), where the grid allows you can
balance the positioning and proportions of your characters. There's also
blank paper, so after you "trace" your model sheet and remove it, it looks
like you've written them yourself. :)

I type more than I handwrite, but I'd say that the most maddening thing
about composing in ink and brush besides the potential mess is the fact
that you'd better have what you want to say planned out ahead of time--
there are no erasers! (But this problem is not unique to ink and brush
writing.)


Thomas Chan
tc31@cornell.edu
rathpy

Re: writing implement

Post by rathpy » Thu Oct 17, 2002 8:22 am

Thank you, Thomas. ' Much appreciated as always.
Locked