Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"living lines"~ wobbly is a good thing

One of the basic goals of the etegami artist is to draw "living lines" (ikita sen). "Living lines" give the drawing character and is a crucial part of what makes etegami what it is, and not some other kind of art. To make a living line you must hold your inked writing brush at the very end of the shaft by the tips of your fingers, letting it dangle straight down toward the paper. This prevents you from having too much control over the pen. Too much control is not a good thing. Practice making lines on the rough side of a sheet of rice paper (hanshi). Hold your elbow in the air, approximately parallel to your shoulder. Let the brush move very very slowly over the paper, from left to right, progressing only 10 cm (4 inches) per minute. This is unbelievably difficult at first, and is a great strain on your arm. After you've practiced that a bit, start practicing lines from right to left. Then practice vertical lines: top to bottom, bottom to top. Then practice circles and spirals. All at the same snail-like pace. Practice some letters while you're at it, but at a more normal pace. The friction of the brush against the paper, the trembling of your arm, and the beating of your heart will travel down the pen shaft to the brush and make your lines wobble. The thickness of the lines will be uneven. This is a good thing. Practicing these lines is how we should start each etegami session. I confess I sometimes skip this practice. Skipping practice is not a good thing.

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