It was a peaceful journey to Lenzie along the quiet paths and roads. When we arrived we found inspiring examples by Margaret of ink markmaking using a branch or twig from each of the varied types of trees in the grounds. Birch, Plum, Alder, Rowan, Larch, Fir, Hawthorn… and many other beautiful trees with their different character and textures.
After settling in, we began with a chat about the day with the theme of being with the transition of autumn into winter, the feeling of form and also space, and looked at examples of ancient markmaking such as Pictish symbols and runes from Scotland alongside the Chinese and Japanese characters. These were Kouyou 紅葉 – Autumn colours, literally crimson leaves – and Toukou 冬光 – Winter light. The tree runes shape from Maeshowe in Orkney was very similar to the oldest leaf shapes from ancient China.
We meditated sitting outside by the energetic fire, guided by Margaret, and were aware of the earthy form of the autumn leaves on the ground, the seasonal colours, the heat from the fire, the blue grey smoke and the way we could see through the flames in a flickering changing image. It started to drizzle and we headed back to the cozy workshop with some leaves, twigs and pine cones we had gathered.
Our markmaking with the Japanese fude brushes helped us loosen up, working with vertical and horizontals and noticing the different feeling in our body and core as we did this. Then we used the beautiful autumnal natural objects to make some marks, being amazed by the variety of textures possible, before trying out some of the styles of calligraphy, from the oldest methods carved into bone or later stone, Blair guiding some demos from different versions of the leaf and red characters.
We found it helpful to notice the very different ways of working using the brushes and natural objects, and how they related to the more modern styles such as kaisho or the more ancient styles such as tensho, which we found had more in common with other ancient marks.
After a tasty, heart warming lunch we had a short rest, then headed back outside into the west woods this time to meditate being aware of the winter light – standing by the trees. We noticed the light framed by the fragmented lines of branches while looking up through the trees, or through our hands, and the colour of the sky and the temperature of the space and air. It was noticeably cooling down as we were out! With the soft sounds of the bell we walked back together, picking up one or two more things to experiment with, some were just ideal for using!
Tealights were lit and these helped us be aware of the darkening cooler light outside and emerging warmth and intimacy inside the space. There was a final moment of radiant golden sunset light coming through the examples on the windows into the workshop.
Taking the two characters winter and light as our guide we continued calligraphy, and also had some fun playing with the materials and ink, the leaves and pine cones were just perfect for some direct printmaking! One of the participants had a winter squirrel named Syril who kindly supervised the last part of the day!
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