Shodo – A Japanese Art Of Persistence And Astuteness

A form of ‘restricted detonation on paper’, Shodo is an art of Japanese Calligraphy which means ‘technique of writing’. It is an elegant and gorgeous piece of art specialized in this part of the world. Another form of calligraphy known as Kanji uses Japanese characters with sound and connotation of image aesthetics. Where kanji is used to depict the intangible and indistinguishable idea of the world, Shodo portrays the most significant principals of ancient Japanese civilization and lifestyle.

A sturdy hand is not the only requisition to specialize Shodo. It requires alert, stable, and unambiguous state of mind with immense exertion and years of practice to be proficient in this form of art. To master Shodo, one should be able to act instinctively with a lucid mind instead of focusing on handwriting. As expressed by a Zen Bhuddha follower, Takuan Soho, ‘Not impeding the mind is the aim and soul of this art’.

Let’s have a look at some of the important and inevitable elements of Shodo.

History of Shodo

Although this form of calligraphy is considered to be a Japanese art, it actually originated in China. Japanese learned Shodo in early sixth century along with methods to make ink, paper, and brushes. Shodo was an indispensable element of basic education among the people in dignified ruling families. However, as time passed, common men started specializing this skill and it was soon a widespread knack.

Equipments of Shodo

Shodo kit essentially comprises of an assortment of calligraphy brushes, stone inkstones (there are ceramic and plastic inkstones as well), shitajiki (a black felt kept beneath the writing paper), colored ink, and paperweight. Shitajiki may sound an insignificant element of Shodo calligraphy to beginners. However, it is as essential as the ink and paper used for writing. The shitajiki paper has four white squares and six on the opposite side to make sure that letters of shodo are rightly sized and symmetrically correct when written on the main paper. It’s a must for students practicing Shodo. It is generally found in many sizes.

Colors of Shodo

People following traditional Japanese Calligraphy use black ink as it was the only shade of Shodo representation in the ancient days. However, contemporary art lovers have now started using all available vibrant colors which add attractiveness to this already sophisticated art. Bright orange-colored ink is used by calligraphy trainers to rectify student’s work. A common practice of signing, stamping, or sealing name at the bottom of the finished work is done with red ink.

Shodo Styles

Shodo can be learned and practiced in three fundamental styles. Kaisho (square style) is a form of Shodo in which the characters or alphabets are accurately sketched in a printed form. The edges are generally pointed than curved. Gyosho (semi-cursive) is a style of Japanese calligraphy where characters are drawn with a loose hand and the edges are slightly curved. Lastly Sosho (cursive) includes sketching with a very free and loose hand with sweeping and flowing movements. The characters in Sosho are quite curvy and attractive than those in other styles.

Learning Shodo

Most crucial and essential part of learning calligraphy is patience and practice. To gain expertise, it requires appropriate balance, stoking order, cadence of sketching characters, and accurate hand weight which is not perfected overnight or even within a year. The factors that influence the exquisiteness of any finished Shodo work includes, line sizes of the characters, intensity of the ink on the paper, and applied balance and weight.

While practicing this art, don’t forget that the straight lines be thick, apparent, and immaculate, while curved line should be fragile, thin, and mobile. Along with the technique, it is equally important to learn various characters that can be sketched in Shodo. When compared to western calligraphy, Shodo is much tougher because western art includes perfecting only 26 characters while Shodo has 48,000 characters to learn.

The essence of Japanese Shodo is not only in the beauty and elegance of the art but also the meaning of hieroglyph produced by the brushes. Along with the splendor and magnificence practiced by the hand of each student, Shodo transfers age-old wisdom and culture conserved by ancient priests and practitioners. Each line of this art is evocative, each curve is significant.

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