Ancient Art for Modern Life: Calligraphy with Master Michiko Imai

Ancient Art for Modern Life: Calligraphy with Master Michiko Imai

Master Calligrapher Michiko Imai will be coming to ifarm on April 29th to lead a workshop from 1-3pm in traditional Japanese Calligraphy. Michiko studied for 26 years before receiving official recognition as a Shihan (master) in 1998. Her workshop will be the first of our 2017 Arts and Mindfulness program: We can’t imagine a better fit than the creative and meditative practice of calligraphy.

Below is an interview with Michiko on the practice and philosophy of calligraphy.

 

What does calligraphy offer to the modern world?

“The modern world is busy. Calligraphy involves training to forget about everything moving around you, to focus on what is important.

Smart, busy people often have a hard time doing calligraphy, actually. They try to figure everything out in their head first. You can’t practice calligraphy like that. Good calligraphy is a natural expression of your creativity, through the body and brush. We are not looking for perfection, we are just looking for a natural expression. ‘Failure’ is just a step in the creative process.

Many people think that calligraphy is very limiting because we have very specific characters we can use. However, the opposite is true. Calligraphy is training to bring our life to any moment, any creation, no matter what it is. The limitations help to bring out our creativity and gifts.”

calligraphy scroll

Examples of Michiko’s Calligraphy

What makes good (or bad) calligraphy?

“Many things. For me, simply, I get a feeling. I know a good line. Sometimes if the line is too perfect, or everything goes together, it can be boring.

We might start with a character, like the character for “one.” That is simple, right? It has a specific meaning. But when we write the character, we find there are many ways to express it. We can play with space and make the character big or small. Either is different- they create a different emotion in the human.

Similarly, if the character is a little unique, has a little chaos, a little life, it conveys something we can feel. That feeling is an important part of the work. Calligraphy is an art. I do not try to create exact replicas of characters- I try to create a feeling in the work and the people who see it.

Beginners have to spend significant time learning the basics of calligraphy, so they have enough understanding to develop their own unique style.”

What is a common mistake that beginning calligraphers (or artists in general) make?

“They think too much. They try to figure out the image first, then make their hand obey. They are hard on themselves when the image does not come out on paper exactly as they think it should. No. The way is to let your hand figure it out.

My teacher rarely explained how to practice calligraphy using language. She would hold my hand, holding a brush, and write so I could feel the brush strokes. She taught me the feeling of fluidity and a good line. Then she would leave!

It is important to understand the feeling and movements of the brush with your hand, not your head.”

calligraphy by michiko imai

Examples of Michiko’s Calligraphy

Can anyone practice calligraphy? How would they start? What are some pointers you would give?

“A beginner’s class is useful to master the tools, style, and techniques of calligraphy. There are many rules and approaches to calligraphy that are important to learn. That is one part of what my class will offer. However, you don’t need to take my class just for a meditation. If you enjoy making calligraphy, do it! Enjoy. Then if you want to learn particular skills, come to my class.

It is useful to have a high-quality brush when you begin, so you can easily make a good line. My workshops always include resources to find good, inexpensive brushes.

There are many rules to a language, but calligraphy is not just a language, it is an Art.  The goal is not to make perfect lines. The practice of calligraphy is to make your characters come alive with unique variations.

Simply choose some basic lines to start with, sit down, and try. Begin. Use cheap paper and create as much as you want to. You will learn by starting the process and enjoying it, rather than making it a challenge to face every day.

Practice in a time span that feels reasonable to you.. even if that is only ten minutes each day! That is a much more sustainable and consistent 70 minutes each week, rather than 35 minutes twice a week. Just get the brush in your hand and create something. Enjoy all the elements, even the “mistakes.”

We hope you can join us on April 29th to start a new year of art and creativity!

Click below to see more about the event and registration details.

 

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