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Those of you who are learning Chinese characters through Chinese, Japanese or even Korean, you may find that learning the characters is similar to learning drawing itself.
Chinese characters are pictograms, which means you're essentially making a small drawing in a small square-enclosed area. These characters require memorising, and writing them from memory essentially works up your muscle memory. Sometimes if you don't write or see a character for a while, you forget how to write them. So you use techniques to recall them eg. associations (woman + child = good 好 ). If you learn Chinese calligraphy, you hold the brush in a special way and use long, smooth strokes to write the character. It takes a lot of time to learn the characters, and you should keep working on it everyday to be good.
When you're learning figure drawing, you're making a drawing in large rectangle-enclosed area. Bone structures, muscle locations require memorising, and when you draw them out from memory you're using your muscle memory. When you draw them so much your hand practically draws it by itself. If you don't draw for a while, you tend to forget how to draw... And it helps if you use techniques for recalling the human figures eg. simple shapes for the overall form. I find long, loose strokes to be effective in getting my shapes right. Learning to draw (especially the human form) takes a lot of time, and you should keep working on it everyday to be good.
So what do you guys and girls think?
There is some similarity, yes.
But with figure drawing, you don't want to make the process 100% automatic, or you'll end up repeating the same stereotypical thing over and over again and miss the point of figure drawing.
There are lots of things that can and should be committed to muscle memory; most of them are basic and semi-basic mark making stuff that is best done without stopping to think. You don't want things like poses or proportions or anatomical structure positions in muscle memory; those require thinking.
If you ever watch old chinese people practicing water calligraphy on concrete or stone in the park, you'll understand just how apt this comparison is.
They play with the size and lines of the characters, incorporate the structures of the drawing surface and manipulate the wetness of the brush to uniquely and interestingly portray the characters that they are drawing while retaining their meaning.
In the same way, an experienced artist who has years of practice drawing the human figure will be able to subtly or dramatically emphasise, de-emphasise, distort or otherwise alter their image of a person.
Both the calligraphist and the fine artist are able to put their own spin on their subject matter because of their deep intimacy and understanding of it.
For the contemporary western mind, I think the closest analogy to Calligraphy would be graffiti, in that the presentation or stylisation of the 'lettering' can alter, or even take precedence over the inherent meaning of the letters.