Thursday, September 5, 2019
Calligraphy update -- Arabic experiments
I've been faithfully doing my daily calligraphy, on two different tracks these days. I'm still copying a passage from each book I read, either the day I finish reading it or the next day. But on the other track I'm trying to find a style or styles of calligraphy that are less about writing and more about art.
I wrote about this a couple of months ago and some readers suggested that I try writing Arabic script, because it's beautiful and because I couldn't get distracted by meaning, focusing solely on the visual appeal. So I did dutifully try Arabic for a while. I found that writing from right to left was interesting and seemed to fire different neurons than when I write in European languages. But I also found that right to left doesn't work very well with a dip pen and ink that takes a while to dry. (New sympathy for lefties.)
More important, I had a hard time finding exemplars to work from. The Arabic alphabet sites that I found online showed individual letters but little help in how to combine them into longer "words" -- using that term loosely, because of course I had no idea of what I was putting together. I realized only after more research that all these letters, when written into words, emanate from a baseline, and the letter charts don't tell you whether a given letter goes up or down.
I had better luck with sites in which Arabic writers posted samples of their own handwriting. A great deal of variation, as you might imagine, and I enjoyed copying from them. But I never did develop any comfort level that would let me "write" several characters in a row -- even if I permitted myself to write Arabic-like squiggles that weren't exactly correct letters. In other words, I never could get myself into a rhythm that approximated the writing I saw on screen. I felt like an impostor and I think the writing looked awkward as a result.
I abandoned this approach, even though there were aspects of it that appealed to me. In particular, I liked the down-and-left stroke that resembles a fat J, but have found it difficult to incorporate into my left-to-right writing. So, an experiment that did not pay off. Maybe I quit too soon; maybe I should go back and try again.