Saturday, July 8, 2017

Light and shadow can add sparkle to your letters

Song of Solomon: timeless love poetry in a contemporary calligraphy.  

Early in my acquaintance with calligraphy, my goal was to lay down a heavy, uniform stroke of ink on the page.  My teacher soon cured me of that!  "Calligraphy is not silkscreen; the texture of the paper should show through the ink."  He encouraged me to see that calligraphy was similar to music; when a soprano starts to sing, you still want to hear the orchestra behind her.  And her voice will vary from strong to soft, just as ink can vary from dense to translucent.   
The letters in "My beloved is mine" (in the post Light and Shadow, July 1, 2017) display this subtle, coveted calligraphic quality called sparkle.  You start with a firm downward pressure.  Then as your pen moves through the middle of the stroke, you ease up the pressure, to make the flow of ink paler.*  Then you gradually increase the pressure again.  
The finished letter stroke will be darker and wider at the ends, paler and slimmer through the middle.  And it all takes place in half a second.  You will benefit from practicing, to achieve the same tone for every down stroke that follows.   

Watch for it when you look at calligraphy.  And try it yourself.  Your page really will sparkle.  

*This effect is easier to achieve with water-based ink.  It's still something of a high-wire act, as the tone of the ink will change when you hesitate or speed up, revealing any failure of nerve.  And the light pressure may leave one edge a little ragged, like the uncorrected y or b above.  But you can always go in and touch it up.  It will keep you from the calligrapher's temptation--overwriting a stroke to get it right.

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