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.


  1. Or maybe you profit from your research and excercises on an unexpected moment...
    Marian from Amsterdam

  2. How about mirroring the Arabic script and then writing it from right to left