East Asian Calligraphy Research, Year One

As longtime readers may recall, I moved to Japan in April of 2008 to study East Asian Calligraphy at Shikoku University on a two-year research scholarship. (Newer readers can read all the sorted details starting here.)

Now as April 2009 begins and I’ve reached the halfway point of my tenure, I thought now would be a good time to show a couple examples of my calligraphy, and to write a little about the experience so far.

Regarding the calligraphy: it takes a long time to gain proficiency. I’ve read many accounts of East Asian calligraphers that started when they were schoolchildren and didn’t feel satisfied with their work until they were in their fifties or sixties. So as you might imagine, my work, the result of just one year of practice, is far from masterful. But okay, enough with the excuses, let’s take a look at it:

This is the first display piece I ever did, roughly six months ago. The brushwork itself isn’t too terrible, but the balance (both for the internal structure of the individual characters, and how they all relate to each other) is pretty dreadful.

Balance and composition wasn’t something I thought much about when I first started. I was more focused on brush technique. I’ve now come to the conclusion that good balance is much harder to pull off than good line work. I’d rather my work be balanced well than have well rendered lines (if I had to pick just one).

Here’s something I did for a large group show in Tokyo. Funny story behind this piece, but we’ll save that for another time.

Here are two of my most recent pieces. They turned out okay, I guess… I’m still a little lukewarm about my work in general though…

I have a few more things I was going to post, but I don’t have photos of them handy, so maybe some other time.


I came to Japan to study calligraphy because I thought it would help me improve my comics (more details about my reasoning can be found here and here). I had high hopes for the experience, but I wasn’t expecting any miracles. I’ve been drawing comics since middle school, so I figured the best I could expect at this point would be an incremental improvement, just a coat of polish to what I have been establishing over the past fifteen years.

Instead, my lone year of East Asian calligraphy studies has had something of a revolutionary effect, providing me with a whole new way of looking at the medium of comics and the nature of lines. I feel like the experience has opened up whole other avenues that beg to be explored, and I hope to have an opportunity to do in the coming months (and years).

Related to all that, I have a little announcement, which I’ll reveal next week. Can’t wait, can you… (*cough*)

  • Jason

    It’s great that you’re even in Japan studying calligraphy:)