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The Quest for Perfect Form


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Tibetan calligraphy can be done using a hand-made reed pen, a brush or a steel pen. The proper way to hold the pen is with the thumb and index fingers. The middle and ring fingers are drawn up into a fist and the little fingers is extended, forming a surface for the hand to rest on, as well as providing greater stability. The thick and thin pears of the letters are made by twisting the pen with the thumb and index fingers.

Source: Sacred Calligraphy of the East by John Stevens

Ink, a chinese discovery, has been one of the 'treasures of the literate; along with the brush, paper and the ink-stone.  These stones were carefully selected, then carved, and finally decorated. They had two wells hollowed out in their surface: the smaller to hold water, the larger in which to rub the ink tablet to produce a fine powder which would then be diluted with water. Using the best stones and skillful mixing, one can obtain the 'five shades of black'.

Source: Chinese Calligraphy by Edoardo Fazzioli

Calligraphy may be defined as freehand in which the freedom is so nicely reconciled with order that the understanding eye is pleased to contemplate it.

  Encyclopaedia Britannica











As 'a' is the first letter, the Absolute is the beginning of the world.

Tirukkural (ca. 4th century A.D.)

'Draw this line only as you feel it to be the most worthwhile act of your life...'

Paul Reps, Poet-calligrapher, in Square Sun, Square Moon

A profound dedication inspires those who practise Calligraphy; it is a spiritual force, a sadhana. From the seeing hand it demands the eloquent stroke; accurate in timbre and tension and spatial balance, informed with visual energy and excitement. An unerring sense of relationship is called for: of writing tool to surface, or content to form, making the very character of every written character relate Calligraphy to writing as a specialised discipline, with all the control and creativity of a primary art.

It is said that form is the soul of Calligraphy, and in the scripts of the world are fine examples of how writing tools and surfaces affect letterforms. Chisel on stone produced angular, austere characters. Stylus on palm leaf created curvilinear scripts to adjust to the veined and brittle surface, with lampblack smeared into the lines written -- giving rise to the word 'lipi' from the Sanskrit root 'lip' - smear.

Birchbark (bhurjapatra) and etched copperplate have made their contributions to the formal quality of wiriting. Paper and brush, with inks in 'five shades of black', made Calligraphy a vibrant, vital art in China and Japan. The quill, gliding over the smooth surfaces of parchment and vellum (made of sheepskin and calfskin, respectively), created the intricate patterns of the illuminated manuscripts of Europe.

The hands of inspired writing masters the world over, produced texts that were 'strokes of genius' in composition and design.

It is the broad nib that gives the pen its constructive and educational value. it is essentially the letter making tool.

Edward Johnston






...take well known principles of alphabet design and apply them to a non-alphabetic set of symbols. The broad edged pen, held at a constant angle will give a definite bias to the stroke.

...I do find many points where it is necessary to twist the pen or use the corner for certain effects. The two large glyphs were written with a brush, and both show this process.

Peter Fraterdeus


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