December 10, 2009
By Anonymous

When I was little, I used to watch my mom carefully blend ink, water, and stone dust on a piece of stoneware into a thick substance for calligraphy. She would then use an expensive, special brush to transfer her words and symbols into a piece of work. The smell of the ink was somewhat nauseating and I could understand neither the fancy characters nor why there wasn’t any color besides black. The only thing for certain was the serenity on my mom’s face as she gently stroked the paper. One day, when I couldn’t find a small paint brush to finish art homework, I naturally picked up the calligraphy brush. It felt soft and silky like the hair on my Barbie dolls so I decided to dip it onto a watercolor palette and paint. As the brush flowed spontaneously across the paper I understood that it was as valuable to my mom as my dolls were to me.

For hundreds of years my ancestors have passed calligraphy down from generation to generation as a means to tell our family’s history and stories. In third grade I began to learn calligraphy at home. It was a painstaking task, preparing the ink and stone, folding the white Chinese paper, and holding the brush properly. Discipline was strict; for hours I had to sit on the floor in an awkward position and write Korean words or Chinese characters that looked outlandish and made very little sense to a nine-year-old girl. But as I grew older so did my interest. I began to understand its cultural importance, respect the stories being told, and appreciate its artistic allure. Each stroke of the brush brings life a proverb, quote, or snapshot in time of what I am expressing. When I share a part of myself with others through this cultural treasure it gives me a sense of accomplishment and pride that cannot be compared.

Words, like those in this essay, serve an exact purpose for a preferred audience, but calligraphy with its flowing, artistic characters adds a dimension that stimulates the viewer through its visual interpretation. Yet, both media have rules which must be followed. Once, I spent over five hours on a very large piece of work that had all the traditional elements required of the art. In my haste to finish I added a comma at the very end, a fatal error in the art of calligraphy. As I look back to move ahead I can see that even with the freedom of expression afforded to writers and artists, too much water in the ink or a misplaced punctuation mark will affect the outcome.

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