Philosophy About Chinese Calligraphy

P9: If You Practice the Wrong Way, You Still Have to Practice

Practice is very important to any artist. Sometimes I would read a lot because of my longing for knowledge and I eventually neglect my practice schedule. There are many, many good writers about Chinese calligraphy. They combine the art with various theories from Zen, mind, virtue, religions, literature, physics, esthetics, philosophy, and so on. Some publications are quite illuminating and enticing. We find human being as a very interesting creature to create different ideologies from many sects of knowledge. However, it’s common to be “high in the eyes, low in the hands” ( 高手低, a Chinese term that depicts good insight yet not enough skills.) There is nothing improved if we don’t actualize and just have knowledge. Some say “If you practice the wrong way, you still have to practice.” This is quite right. However, insight should keep us asking ourselves honestly and constantly, “Am I practicing in the right direction?”  

Any obstacle in the complete round of the cycle of creation can weaken, disrupt, or cripple the art. Artists may have difficulty accessing their deepest level of insight because of technical deficiency. Thus, there should be a balance between knowledge and application. If one is highly skilled yet lacks of insight and depth, he is just an “artisan.” If one is both skillful and insightful, then he is truly an artist.

I personally arrange time in the proportion of 60% practice, 30% reading articles and research and 10% thinking without practice and reading. Usually after I have practiced for a while, I do some research while my mind and body need to relax a little bit. When I get away from practice and reading, I contemplate different topics and maybe explore possibilities.

Since there are so many styles in Chinese calligraphy, a final word is that always practice patiently, slowly, carefully, and systematically. Be sure to choose a quiet time and room to practice. Try to minimize interruption by friends, family, TV or any physical and mental deficiency. If you fuss and fume for immediate results, you may be sadly disappointed. (Only after we have reached a higher level, it’s not necessary to practice systematically. Systematism is the death of spontaneity, and spontaneity is the very soul of art.)


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