New Goals

少出門 Leave the house less. Stay home. These words sum up 2020.

As we finally wrap up 2020, it’s time to review past goals and make new ones.

I’ve been working on 草書 cursive script, following 十七帖 Seventeen Modelbook by 王羲之 Wang Xi Zhi. There’s still a lot to do, so I’m going to keep working at it. I found that since I focused on seal script and clerical for quite awhile, cursive script seems somewhat intuitive compared to other scripts.

I need to get back to studying seal script. I was pretty focused on studying the seal script radicals for awhile. At some point I couldn’t focus anymore and shifted to other things. I think I might be ready to get back to it because I do need work on more seal carvings.

Do you have new art goals for 2021? Or are you just sticking to what works best now?

Calligraphy in epigram SS 2020 ad with Gong Yoo

In a previous blog post, I explored brush writing and calligraphy in the drama Goblin (aka Guardian: The Lonely and Great God). The drama was broadcast at the end of 2016 to early 2017. I wondered if Gong Yoo had used a brush in other projects, since it seems he has some experience with calligraphy.

I didn’t have to look far. Gong Yoo wrote with brush and ink in the epigram Spring/Summer 2020 ad campaign.

Some photos showing him writing in a book.

One of the photographers for the ad posted some photos as well. The second photo is a bird’s eye view of the book.

The summer version of the film ad has footage of him writing in the book about 13 seconds in.

The spring version of the film ad shows him writing with a larger brush and a larger piece of paper at the 10 second mark. It also shows a glimpse of the full paper when he’s done writing.

The aforementioned photographer captured the writing process of the larger piece in the third photo of this IG post.

The paper in this photo looks like the larger piece Gong Yoo was writing.

From the two ads, we see that Gong Yoo holds his brushes at different heights depending on the size of the word he writes, similar to what we saw in Goblin.

The epigram ad is a clothing ad, but is also advertises Cheongsong County as a travel destination. There’s a Korean paper making factory there. They also have a center where visitors can experience paper making.

Can we assume Gong Yoo wrote the whole piece in the second ad? It’s possible that a calligrapher was hired to write the beginning, and he only wrote the last stroke. But that seems a bit much for an ad. If the point was to showcase the paper of the region, the ad company could have tried something else if he wasn’t comfortable writing. It’s clear he’s familiar with a brush, since he also paints some pottery in the first film ad.

It’s pretty interesting that Gong Yoo has done at least two projects involving brush writing, and he learned calligraphy as a child. It’s one thing to have taken classes as a child, and pretend to write in a TV show where scenes can be edited. But writing as part of a campaign ad, which seemed to portray everything genuinely and sensibly, would mean that it was something he was comfortable doing on the spot. I’m inclined to think that he might actually practice calligraphy in his spare time. Or perhaps I’ve been influenced by the power of advertising? ^_^

Update: Management Soop posted behind the scenes photos of the epigram ad photoshoot. The fourth (and last) photo is a wider view of the setup for writing in the book. It wasn’t until I saw that photo that I realized Gong Yoo is kneeling to write. I’m more convinced now that he must practice calligraphy regularly.

Brush writing and calligraphy in the Korean drama Goblin

I really like seeing instances of brush writing or calligraphy in modern media. In dramas, it tends to come up only in historical dramas because brush and ink were the writing tools back then. However, the Korean drama Goblin (also known as Guardian: The Lonely and Great God) from 2016 is an interesting example due to its storyline. There are spoilers ahead, so if you want to watch the drama, do not continue reading!

All screencaps were taken from watching Guardian: The Lonely and Great God on Viki.

I won’t go into the whole plot of Goblin, but instead focus on two characters: Goblin, a 939 year old immortal played by Gong Yoo, and, Grim Reaper, an angel of death played by Lee Dong Wook, who become housemates in modern times. The drama has some great cinematography, and I really liked the scenes of them writing.

Grim Reaper does the work of guiding souls into the afterlife, which apparently involves a lot of paperwork.

This is a super impressive shelf and collection of paper. I’m jealous.

We see Grim Reaper quickly write some words, and his chosen writing implements are brush and ink.

Lee Dong Wook does a great job handling the brush and writing. However, with TV shows, it’s never really clear if the actor does their own writing, or if there’s editing with a hand double.

The Goblin has multiple brush writing scenes.

He writes with brush and ink during his past life as a Goryeo Dynasty military general.

Then during modern times, writing at a temple.

This is where it occurred to me that the drama made a point to get the brush grip correct. There is a difference in the height of the hand on the brush: lower on the brush for writing smaller words, and higher on the brush for writing larger words.

There’s probably a hand double for the up close writing footage, but for the footage from further away, what are the actors doing? More on that later. ^_^

There’s another brush writing scene towards the end of the drama.

There seems to be a continuity problem in the sweater sleeve. In the close-up footage the sweater sleeve is entirely black, but in the wider footage it looks like there’s a white shirtsleeve along Gong Yoo’s wrist. It wouldn’t be surprising if there was a hand double for the close-up footage.

Then what were the actors writing during filming? It actually comes up during a behind-the-scenes special! Specifically, during filming of the Goryeo Dynasty writing scene.

We have our answer! Gong Yoo was actually writing during filming, just not what ended up in the drama. He also wrote his real name in Chinese characters on the right page. I’m really impressed that he took calligraphy before third grade.

I had a lot of fun picking out the scenes with brush and ink. It was a nice surprise. I’m also really surprised that calligraphy came up in the behind-the-scenes special. Are there movies or TV shows that you’ve watched that unexpectedly had calligraphy scenes?

New goals

As we enter into the second half of 2020, it’s time to take a look at past goals and set some new goals.

To be honest, I stopped focusing on my prior goals once shelter in place and work from home started due to the pandemic. I wanted to do things based on my reaction to the new situation, instead of forcing myself to do something I wanted to do pre-pandemic.

I did spend a few months working on 隸書 clerical script, and studied some clerical script from bamboo strips. It didn’t last long because I started feeling jittery and wanted to work on something with more movement. I “jumped ahead” (from my old goal) and am working on 草書 cursive script, specifically 十七帖 Seventeen Modelbook by 王羲之 Wang Xi Zhi. I’m probably going to keep working on it for the rest of the year.

I also focused on studying seal script. I think it will help my calligraphy and seal carving to be more familiar with seal script radicals. I’m still working on a couple of seals and will continue to carve more. I haven’t quite figured out how long it takes me to finish carving a seal. Maybe I’ll find out as I practice more.

How have your art, calligraphy, or seal carving practices changed since the pandemic?