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No Mistake - My Chinese Calligraphy Art

The Chinese symbols I chose for my artwork here are, reading from the bottom to top:

Devotion, Harmony, Freedom, and Beauty

I created this artwork a few years back and I am sharing it now for the first time. It is probably one of the most involved art pieces I have ever worked on, it took several steps, and dedicated months to complete.

Although Chinese calligraphy art appears to be simple and easy to do, make ‘no mistake’, it is crazy challenging (at least I found it to be!) I almost gave up several times, especially in the beginning as I was learning how to do it, but fortunately I stuck with it, and it got easier as I went along. That being said I will now share a little of the story on how this was created.

Before I begin the story, I want to mention the entire art is made of many different mediums, including a piece of wood as the back board, acrylic paints, 3d photography, origami paper, cut cardstock, foil, soapstone carving, red paste stamping, and of course the Chinese calligraphy which I created with special hand prepared ink and brushes on traditional rice paper. The complete artwork I mounted onto the back of a frame with a deep inset to create a shadowbox.

So, let's begin…

It all started one day when I was over at a friend’s house and I was admiring the handmade Chinese / Japanese calligraphy art they had hanging on their wall. I wondered how it was done and I asked a lot of questions about it. Then I kinda forgot about it. A week or so later I went into a thrift store, I didn’t have anything particular I wanted to buy, but I had a feeling I was going to find something special. Then I came across this little unassuming black briefcase. With no labels or explanation. Hmm… I wonder what it is?

When I opened it up, inside was an entire Chinese calligraphy starter set, brand new, complete with inking stone, brushes, paper, and more. Only 10 dollars, ok I’ll take it :)! (...but I had no idea what I was getting into!)

Even with the help of a book my friend lent me, I still found it extremely challenging, from mixing the ink to the right consistency, to holding the brush with the right pressure and angle, to keeping it in constant motion and not ever stopping, to getting the strokes and symbols to look right, and most of all to making no mistakes! If you make a mistake you have to start all over again, ey! (as I said before, I almost gave up) But as with some arts, they take practice. Here are some of my attempts to get it right...

I finally got the hang of it, and created the four symbols I wanted to say in my art. Again they were: Devotion, Harmony, Freedom, and Beauty. I carefully mounted the very thin rice paper to layers of hand-cut colored cardstock with a delicate glue. Then at some point I started the surrounding background art.

After painting the background with branches of cherry blossoms, I took actual photographs of cherry blossom flowers, an egg in a nest, and two turtle doves, and I printed them out, then I shaped them into 3D form before mounting them onto the painting. In order for the symbol squares to mount I ended up using gorilla glue. So I used many kinds of glue, both delicate and strong for different parts of the artwork.

Then I guess you could say I signed my artwork in 3 different ways.

My first signature was the most complex to make. I made a custom artist chop stamp, a traditional Chinese calligraphy seal, which I carved into blocks of soapstone. Again just as challenging, the soapstone was not as soft as I imagined it would be and not so easy to carve! Also I had already decided on making two, one a dragonfly and the other a butterfly, the symbols I carved into them read “Imagination Creation”.

It was a little tricky because you have to carve the symbols backwards so when you stamp them they read forwards. Then the other tricky part was getting just the right amount of red paste on it, not too little, not too much, before stamping, this also took a couple of tries to get it right.

Dragonfly reads: Imagination

Butterfly reads: Creation

Then underneath of the seal, I signed my artist signature like I do in most of my paintings, as you may recognize here. And finally to complete the inner artwork I added a 3rd signature, by signing my spirit name in Chinese symbols, which reads here : Wind Dancer

After mounting it to the frame, I sealed the back with a designer handmade chinese paper, and braided a black cord that I attached to the sides for hanging it.

And voilà…

Like I said, it was very involved. The experience intensely required no mistakes to make the calligraphy magic happen. Unlike many of my other arts, mistakes are easy to fix, and even beneficial because they almost always transform into something better then I imagined. But here even the smallest of mistakes would require starting over again, and of course lots and lots of patience! But I did it, and I got the art to prove it, ha! ;)

But seriously, the only real mistake would be a world without any art and beauty in it…

Enuff said.

See you around Blog Magic!

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