Saturday, March 14, 2009

Calligraphic Cross-Training


There’s much talk in the calligraphic world about freedom vs. discipline — and mini-battles sometimes take place between those who advocate disciplined, legible work and those who prefer expressive, abstract and/or illegible work.

It seems to me that calligraphers — more than most artists — are like athletes. Our work depends on years of disciplined practice, but comes down to “a performance”, a given moment when tool touches down on paper, vellum or canvas. A crucial moment because ink is indelible. Too loose and we make a mess. Too tight and the performance appears strained.

So, like athletes, are we not wise to cross-train? Like a runner who lifts weights, we can retain freshness, balance and longevity if we vary our workouts. Sometimes, a disciplined workshop where we focus on form, later a crazy experiment which may or may not work. Always, at the end, a bit of analysis of what worked and what didn’t.

Yes, there is the risk of the inexperienced calligrapher who might “injure” themselves by flourishing long before they have the skill to pull it off, just as a runner might strain a muscle. It will set back their career, leave them floundering for a bit. But it is also part of the process of learning to find the sweet spot where spontaneity meets control and the results soar.

13 comments:

Jo Miller said...

Well said . . . . Well said!

Meade Design Group said...

I think you are a mix of the best of both. I can see the discipline but I can see a sense of freedom in your work. Your work has always a fresh approach that I really enjoy.

I want to see more of your work - Alice - don't be that humble girl - show us the goodies :)

James Pickering said...

Excellent article - I share your views on this subject.

James

nikheel said...

Loved this organized chaos, Alice!!
very very well said!

Kathy McCreedy said...

Very well said, thank you! I was just contemplating what class to sign up for at the 2009 conference, trying to figure out whether a very structured letter form class would be best, or should I have fun and explore and experiment with a less formal, more "intuitive" class. Thank you for reminding me there are no rules for how I chose to pursue my lettering education... and I trust you are correct... eventually I will find that "sweet spot". Many thanks!

mary.lawler said...

The analogy and the concept are well crafted. You have made a case for both spontaneity and control and the option to pursue either or both. Each is valid and the mini battles accomplish nothing, but fodder for lively dinner conversation.

Nicole said...

You are too correct my friend. Thank you for the thoughtful post, I was just waging war in my head over the loosey goosey ways that my disciplined hand cannot seem to create. Cross training needed here.

Purple Berries said...

You've just talked about the crux of my Masters Thesis - Legibility vs Expresionism. A truly fascinating and neverending debate!
Can one exist without the other? I might find the answer once I finish! Only 40,000 words to go.

Karen

Maximiliano R. Sproviero said...

awesome, as regards type, i prefer a mix between disciplined work and expressive work.

Keep it up!

Authors said...

A very thoughtful post. We are two artists who have dabbled a little into calligraphy and your blog is a treat to us. We would be honoured if you can visit our blog at http://fromourpalette.blogspot.com/ and give us your views. Also please let us know if we can blogroll you.
Parvathy & Pushpa.

Yves leterme said...

Wonderful metaphor, Alice. Now I can feel like an athlete even when I'm sitting at my desk all day.
Great thought.

Cindy Yount said...

What an excellent idea! That might even make a nice journal theme......left page for left brain, right page for right. :) Great blog!

Kathy McCreedy said...

Your site is beautiful, I really appreciate the work that goes into it! And I especially appreciate this post, it reminds me to be patient with myself and to trust! Many thanks, Kathy