Kanji anyone?

nina's picture

[Not sure which forum this is best to post to]

For a flyer I need the kanji for Reiki: 霊気
I started out with Adobe's beautiful Kazuraki, which is rather unbeatable in the overall context. However, it does not contain the «» kanji. So I've tried to put this together in Illustrator.
The top «rain» radical is based on the «» glyph; for the bottom part (which is not a radical), I figured the structure is similar to the bottom-most part of the «metal» radical («») with the vertical stroke doubled, so that's what I've tried to reproduce.

Before I do much more refining, I'd be really grateful if someone could confirm if this makes sense in terms of stroke order, and/or if it's legible / looks OK? (I took an intro to Japanese at university, so I have an idea of how to write kanji, but it's really too basic for «extrapolating» calligraphy.)

maxgraphic's picture

Hi Nina,

I'm not a native speaker and am generally baffled by sosho, but I think the top horizontal line probably shouldn't be touching the two verticals at the bottom and should probably also be narrower. The proportions between the two elements seems a little off. Here's a less-simplified version that I've used in another project for comparison:

nina's picture

Max: Oai, it looks like I actually left out one of those horizontal strokes!! (The top one below the «rain» radical.) The one that is there is supposed to be the one below it… :-\ Thank you very much for the eye. I'll report back with a revised version hopefully tomorrow.

Takeshi: Thanks for the examples! I did look at a few other fonts, however Kazuraki is so very simplified/reduced that I have trouble «extrapolating» how this would be designed in its specific context.

Jongseong's picture

Kazuraki isn't full-out sosho but still suggests faster brush strokes than the Kaku Gyo or Manyo Gyosho samples above. Note that the Manyo Sosho sample above is based on a different construction of the bottom radical, closer to that of the original 靈.

Here's a quick mock-up of the sort of construction I would use:

maxgraphic's picture

That looks great, Jongseong, but doesn't it look a bit too good? Kazuraki is so blobby and loose. Not that I have a better suggestion.

Jongseong's picture

Kazuraki does give that loose vibe, but when you look at the individual kanji the basic stroke skeleton is quite well respected. When you compare the same passage set in a true sosho and Kazuraki side by side it would be more evident, I think.

What Kazuraki does simplify is horizontal arrays of simple strokes ('dots' as we call them in calligraphy), as in the top radical for 霊. The bottom part doesn't lend itself quite so well to that type of simplification, though you could probably go further than what I did above and make it basically two wide Zs stacked together plus the vertical strokes (another thing: vertical strokes seem to resist simplification in the Kazuraki style).

Of course, since Nina only needs the two characters 霊気 and the Kazuraki 気 has a particularly loose feel, I think she has much more room for experimentation.

riccard0's picture

So, Nina, how it ended up looking?

nina's picture

Hey, apologies for the silence. The project was interrupted for a while and I've actually just started to work on it again now.

In case anyone's still/again listening – does the new version I'm working on (on the right side) look structurally correct now? It still strikes me as potentially less loose than I'd like it to become, but maybe I should first make sure I haven't forgotten any parts… thanks.

Jongseong's picture

Structurally, it looks correct. The bottom part of the 霊 could use more space as it is rather dense at the moment. One of the design features of Kazuraki is the huge variation in the relative size of the characters which allows those with lots of strokes to breathe. There is no reason for 霊 to be so much vertically shorter than the 気 despite stacking more horizontal strokes, so you can enlarge the bottom part of the 霊 somewhat.

The top and bottom parts of the 霊 do not align vertically; the bottom part is shifted too far to the right. Kazuraki is designed to be set vertically, and its characters, as free-flowing as they are, still respect the central vertical axis.

I'm not sure how much looser you can get while making sure that the glyph fits Kazuraki. But as I said, if you're only using the two characters so that there's no need to harmonize with the rest of Kazuraki, you might experiment with a full sosho structure. But you'd need the help of someone who knows more about Japanese sosho calligraphy to make sure that it's in fitting with this style of calligraphy (Kazuraki is not sosho in terms of kanji structure despite its cursive feel). We don't use the character variant 霊 in Korea as far as I know (we use 靈), so I'm out of my depths here anyway.

nina's picture

Great, thanks much for your eye and input. I'm tempted to leave the general structure in this overall direction, but I will try opening up the lower part of the 霊 and shifting it left a little (although I would like to maintain a slight off-vertical axis to the entire word, to make it more dynamic). Will be back with a new version...

Jongseong's picture

A more micro observation about the bottom part of your 霊 is that the strokes seem to be packed too densely in the middle. The part where two 'dots' lie on either side of the two vertical strokes (the two dots form a horizontal stroke here since it's a fast hand) is much narrower than the horizontal strokes directly above and below. This isn't fatal, but it goes against what one would expect based on calligraphic expectations of distributing strokes to achieve the optimal interplay of the black and the white. In calligraphy, the 'dots' would come right after the part shaped like ㅠ, and one would instinctively place them to take up a bit of the empty spaces on either side of the vertical strokes.

Look at how this part is treated in the examples of the character SATG posted above. The two 'dots' are quite prominent in each case. Roughly, you would expect the bottom half of 霊 to fill out a trapezoid.

I'm not convinced that an off-vertical axis would make the composition dynamic rather than just clumsy. To me it would be like an otherwise exquisite western calligraphic composition with a wobbly baseline or bad spacing between letters—the misalignment will be at odds with the carefully composed forms and proportions at the character level. A wobbly baseline could suggest dynamism for truly carefree fast handwriting, not ornamental copperplate calligraphy. And don't let the flowing strokes fool you: Kazuraki represents a finely tuned style of calligraphy, in Western terms closer to copperplate calligraphy than freehand scribble.

nwourms's picture

Would either Max or someone in the know please identify the font used for the Kanji in the second post? I've been searching in vain, but I can't find the font that has the same quality of brush strokes. I just love how the "ki" strokes are bold and connected, without any degradation to legibility.

maxgraphic's picture

Sorry, I didn't notice the new post.

It's DFPSNGyoSho from DynaFont. I got it in a box set years ago.

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