Language learning opens me up to topics I have never explored before. Today, the simple act of wanting to be able to write hanja (Chinese characters) has led me to experiment with brush pens.
When I started learning Korean, my inability to write Hangul was a sticking point to taking notes, so I taught myself. Now that I am expanding to include hanja, I need to learn how to write them. Chinese characters look difficult to this novice eye, so I am just taking it one step at a time.
At first, I thought I would order a Chinese calligraphy set. There were a dizzying array of choices, but I did not know how to judge which set would be best. I tried practicing with my watercolors and poster paints, with some cheap brushes, with pretty unsatisfactory results. My whiteboard with marker was a bit better, but the tip quickly frayed and the ink did not flow, plus the hard tip could not flex to produce the strokes. I began to suspect I needed the right paper, ink, and brush to even begin to get results.
Around this point, I realized the difference between writing hanja and Chinese calligraphy. I only need to write hangul and hanja, not do calligraphy. Just as in English, I can get by without writing calligraphy. With my lack of artistic skill, even painting a straight line is a challenge. I don’t have familiarity working with brushes. I can not draw. So I have no intention of mastery, just a desire to dabble a bit and see what writing characters is like.
Brush pens are like the modern equivalent of a brushes. The ink is inside of the pen. Compared to grinding the ink stick and using a goat-hair brush, it seemed an easier way to get started as a beginner.
It was difficult to know which brush pen to try. I learned there are different tips, firmness, fineness, elasticity, ink flow, and pigmentation. I learned brush pens are used not only for Chinese writing, but also for applications like Sumi-e Japanese ink painting, manga, Western calligraphy, and artist ink drawing.
I ended up ordering this from Amazon.
- Platinum Japanese Chinese Calligraphy Fude Brush Pen(fine point / soft brush) Refillable Cartridge Type $7
- Kuretake Sumi Brush Pen with 3 refills $19
- Chinese Character Practice Book – Tian Ge Ben – Package with 5 Practice Books $5
- 35 Sheets Calligraphy Practice Paper 24 Grids $5.77
The inexpensive Platinum pen is a hard nylon tip with no flexibility. The more expensive Kuratake pen is flexible nylon bristles.
Here is my very first attempt to use the Kuratake pen. The ink is smooth, lovely dark, and the flexibility of the brush tip has great potential. I know this is awkward, poor handwriting, but it is a start. Compare to above with a ball point pen.