Session Seven: Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy


Which way up?  This image is actually upside down; excerpt of an abstract calligraphy by Wei Ligang 魏立剛 b1964

In this the penultimate session of the course, I would like to encourage the students to become creative.  Although there is a set ‘form’ in the way Chinese calligraphy is traditionally presented and I will cover this in class, contemporary artists demand licence for change.

It’s a departure from my methods so far.  Until now, I have asked them to adhere strictly to rules and copy the models I supplied to them.  Studying the masters and copying their brush strokes.

Now that they have their basic techniques, they must each work towards completing an artwork and presenting it as if for exhibition.

Some students take to this new way of working immediately and others will resist.   Not all will revel in creativity and variety.  There’s safety in following those before us and unknown dangers in creating new paths, sometimes arduous if ultimately satisfying.

The tyranny of history weigh upon us.  Who are we to ignore and defy those early disciplines?

Creativity is built on knowledge.  Nothing comes from nothing.  Although the students have had but six weeks of study and experience, some more diligently than others, all came to class with toolboxes of knowhow.

Someone is taking a break from a renovating job: could he not paint on a plank or even a wall and photograph the result?  A draftsman may want to return to his Indian ink and fine nib and draft an outline of a character.  The cook may use icing or fashion a cookie cutter.  The watercolorist may do it in colour, gardeners in flowers, potters in clay and so on.

One year I asked students to come up with an artwork after learning three strokes – one of my favourite pieces was created that day.  Students have surprised me in the past;  I hope they continue to do so.


A satirical piece by Huang Yongyu 黃永玉 b1924


“Rain laden clouds concealing half a mountain” by Huang Maozi 1913-2012

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9 Responses to Session Seven: Introduction to Chinese Calligraphy

  1. Cynthia says:

    Love that…”creativity is built on knowledge”. So true .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. taphian says:

    wonderful paintings, Mary, you are a good teacher, regards Mitza

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right. Learn the rules first. Even Picasso could draw once

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Jan Schaper says:

    Great information about the creative path, Mary. Your students are fortunate to have you as a teacher! Much of what you said reminds me of both my meditation and karate studies . . . the traditional basics being the foundation and the doorway to personal creativity . . . creativity that honors both the past and the present.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. arlingwoman says:

    I love this! I imagine some people take to creative freedom and some don’t. Teaching is a tough assignment, even if voluntary!

    Liked by 3 people

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