One such object for me, is the chinese ink stick. By way of beginning, of hoping to describe this object – it smells like ancient earth, burnt wood, insects and, well, ink. What it actually is compressed vegetable soot (! sounds appetizing, no?) and a small amount of glue, which is sold in little boxes and is ground against a special stone with a bit of water added to make this unctuous, pitchblack creamy liquid… usable to draw with, calligraphize, and get all over your clothes. It is the THE original ink, before the liquid version was ever sold in bottles.
I got mine in a little shop in Taiwan, Real Ink™ being the number one paramount treasure I needed to take back with me. I lucked out, my superlatively awesome hostel was just off of a main street absolutely thick with calligraphy shops, and even a few art stores for good measure. I walked into one of those art stores and found that the world around, dispirited and oddly-haircut art kids look pretty much the same, at least I recognized the furtive, asymmetrical and kinda androgynous thang from back home. That, and the shops were so crowded with vertically stacked pastels, erasers and exacto-cutters that you basically had to exchange life stories with the boy in striped-shirt in front of you, just to pass by them and find where on earth they kept the brushes….
Eventually, among one of the many stores with automatic doors and shopkeepers who spoke not a drop of english, I found a place that felt… right. The owner picked a simple blue box up from the bewildering stack there available, and pressed it into my hand, and all I could do was celebrate that he was there to provide such a perfect scene – a stick *chosen* for me! Granted, he probably just wanted to offload one of them on me (he had a surplus), but I asked later at the hostel what the characters meant and apparently it’s something like “uneasy/strange balance/equilibrium”, which I LOVE. More than love. I embody! Good choice, random shopkeep, good show. ^_^
So now I use this stuff almost exclusively to draw with. The inking portion anyway. The colour comes later. And slowly, the thangkas are taking shape….
Current soundtrack… Roxy Music – Country Life