Shufa and the fashion illustration_part I: what is shufa?

I was so happy to receive Gary Tu, a fashion illustrator and artist from Taiwan, Taipei – who came to visit me for 3 weeks. I am still amazed of the beautiful things we discover together and I gathered all the information to share it with you. I will try to make a post about the stages we went through, but I am not convinced I will succeed because of the amount of new things learned in such a short time. First of all, we studied shufa. And I will give you a quotation I found on the internet – to better and correctly explain about this art. “Chinese calligraphy, also called Chinese brush calligraphy or “shufa”, is a high art form unique to China. Many Asian cultures have originated their own calligraphy styles, but China’s is unequaled because of its beauty, grace, and history. The artistic value of the calligraphy is found in the rhythm and lines.

It is an outlet for the artist to practice self-discipline and concentration as well as to release his innermost thoughts and emotions. Many Chinese regard it on a level above music, paintings and statues, and equal to poetry as a form of self-expression.” Usually, a brush is needed for calligraphy in Chinese and Japanese culture, but keeping in mind that calligraphy is just a form of expression, anything can serve as brush as long as you transpose your feelings into paper. I discovered a nice thing related to brushes on Beyond calligraphy site here. “According to an old Japanese tradition brushes that have “passed away” are to be buried at a Buddhist or Shinto shrine”.


This is a beautiful story and you will discover some more deep thoughts because I wrote them during my studies with Gary. In the Asian art, everything is deep, nothing happens by mistake or has no importance. Even the way you breathe or hold your brush can affect your writing. You will ask why the calligraphy is so important in the study of fashion illustration.

Well, to create a perfect fashion illustration you have to practice a lot. And you have to coordinate your brain with your hand, because usually, the hand does what it wants. You will have to fight with your hand’s inertia and train it to express a whole range of lines: curve, straight, sensitive, soft or angry lines. Shufa trains your hand to learn these lines and helps you discover an eye, a nose or the hair in your hand’s slowly or alert moves. And to understand this, see my ink strokes below. See the eyebrows in this exercise?

To go further, we studied some more shufa to be able to draw the hair using just some strokes. I used a special horse hair king size brush, a middle one and a small one. Gary mentioned this as a rule in fashion illustration, and I agreed to it. Even if I did not see this written somewhere, I liked the result and this was enough to convince me to actually use all the 3 sizes to make the perfect hair texture.

Another rule was to never use water. It is not good to dilute the power of your dry brush. Use it dry and make the movements, as the arrow shows below (see A, B, C strokes). At the end, when you will have a powerful, black surface for the hair, use a wet brush (don’t add any color, nor black, just use water) and use one side of the face to trace your water stroke. This will create more volume for your hair (see 3 E). When you finish, just add some fine lines (see 4F) to leave the impression of some small rebel hairs.

And at the end, as a conclusion regarding the calligraphy and how one should achieve the perfection in this art, here is a beautiful thought found on Japanologic site.

“The world is a sacred vessel. It should not be meddled with. It should not be owned. If you try to meddle with it, you will ruin it. If you try to own it, you will lose it.” Stay tuned for the second part of this article that will be posted tomorrow.

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