Sho: Japanese Calligraphy Paperback – 22 Dec 1997
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Top Customer Reviews
It is an excellent book to learn Japanese caligrafia, level is basic, but it is ideal to start. The exercises are very well distributed and esplicados, the movements are also well documented. The text is clear and concise, and very good general content.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
"Sho" covers quite a large range of subject matter--everything from interviews with sho masters to tips on selling your work at exhibitions to instructions on carving in wood, with little sidelights like Japanese monograms and brushes made of mouse hairs (and yes, there are step-by-step photos of actual brush calligraphy, too). Unfortunately, lots of these topics are discussed in just enough detail to make me want more, but not enough to satisfy me. The book lacks focus. In this respect, "Brush Writing" is much better--its author has wisely (I think) decided that a beginning text is not the place to drag in every topic under the sun related to sho. (Perhaps "Sho" is not meant to be a beginning text, but that's part of the same problem--I can't tell whether it's aimed at me, a novice, or at an expert, or at someone in between.)
Organization is a weak point as well. How to line your work (the equivalent, more or less, of matting/framing it) and sell it is discussed well before we get around to making basic strokes with ink on paper. Interviews are plopped in the middle of the book. There are two different discussions on brushes--one near the beginning, the other near the end. There's a blow-by-blow critique of a work in the author's collection that gives some real insight into how an artist imbued his work with emotion, but it uses technical terms that aren't introduced till later in the book. Take a look at the Table of Contents--I think you'll agree that it's all over the place. Great if you're a browser, not so hot if you're not.
Finally, and this is a big one for me, the typography of the book is just awful. It seems to have been produced on a dedicated word processor with a daisywheel printer (anyone remember those?) or something similar. Boldface print is clearly just overstrike. There is no italic. The font is something from the typewriter era. The book is formatted in two narrow columns per page, which are right-and-left justified with no hyphenation, producing many lines that have huge gaps between the words. It's painfully unattractive, to the point of being difficult to read. In a book presumably meant to appeal to Westerners who are interested in an aesthetic of writing, the ugly typography is a major flaw.
Having said all this, I'll repeat--the book contains a great deal of information which fascinated me, and I'm glad I own it. But if I'd seen it in a store, I'd never have purchased it.
In any case, do yourself a favor and order the Takase CD, which contains something like thirty videos of the sensei writing characters and critiquing student efforts, in addition to the usual written text about materials, posture, strokes, and so on. The videos on this CD will make any book you choose much more understandable.
I see that Amazon has added the "Look inside this book" feature. Please take a look before you buy!