About six months ago, I announced that I’m writing a book about East Asian calligraphy. I’ve continued to work on it since then, and thought I might devote a couple more blog entries to it. I’ll start off with an elaboration of why I’m writing the book in the first place.
There are already a number of informative English language books about East Asian calligraphy (such as Chinese Calligraphy [The Culture & Civilization of China] published by Yale University Press). But all of the books that I’ve come across have the same shortcoming: they read like they were written for people who already have a firm grasp of the subject.
East Asian calligraphy is a form of creative expression that doesn’t really have a Western equivalent. As such, its tenets must be explained from scratch if it is to be meaningfully understood. Most of the “introductory” books about East Asian calligraphy that I’ve read fail to provide this context. They launch straight into technical discussions about dynastic periods and picto-ideographs and script subcategories without adequately explaining the big picture. I often have a hard time making it through these books, and I’ve devoted the past eighteen months to studying the subject.
There is a real need for an English language book that introduces East Asian calligraphy in a way that is both entertaining and layperson-friendly, and it is my hope to create a book to fill this need.
Next week I’ll write a bit about what makes East Asian calligraphy unique from other art forms.
Comics are big business here in Japan, which has led to standardization in their creation and distribution. The vast majority are the same size, and in black & white. Even artistically, they’re pretty homogenized (within their respective genres). All boys comics look the same, all girls comics look the same… even “weird” comics all tend to look weird in the same way.
One thing I like about American “alternative” (i.e. “non-superhero”) comics is that they are obscure enough that a standardized way of creating them has never really emerged. This forces every cartoonist to reinvent the wheel, but it’s good in that it leads to a lot of artistic diversity; much more so than in Japan, even though comics are a million times more popular here.
Apropo of all that, the above clip is probably the weirdest inking method I’ve ever seen. Does that guy really draw all his comics that way? I dunno, but it’s pretty cool.
Above is one of my favorite Betty Boop cartoons. It gets particularly good at around the five minute mark, and wraps up with one of the most bizarre, non-sequester endings I’ve ever seen in any cartoon/movie/comic book.
Betty Boop is an interesting case. She’s almost universally known, but most people have never seen any of her cartoons. I bet people would be surprised by how weird they are. These days, Betty exists only to sell mundane, crappy mall merchandise.
Japan has a lot of characters like this. The grand daddy of them all is of course Hello Kitty, the character equivalent of Helvetica, so generic that it/she can remain in style decade after decade. Snoopy is also big here in Japan, but most people don’t know he comes from a comic strip. Stitch from the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch is also big, but I doubt most people have seen the movie he comes from…