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Calligraphy

In the word ‘Calligraphy’, ‘kalli’ in Greek translates into beautiful in English and ‘graphia’ into writing. Combine the two and what you get is an English word ‘calligraphy’ which means beautiful writing, also referred to as penmanship. It is a form of visual art wherein a broad-tip writing tool, meaning a pen or a brush, is dipped into a bottle of ink and used to express symbols and forms in an artistic manner.

At first glance, calligraphy may appear to be quite curvy and classical and it might take a bit of concentration to be able to decipher the individual letters. However, anyone who has had some exposure to Roman alphabets and classical typography will have no difficulty in reading or understanding calligraphy. This is because modern calligraphy has its roots in Roman alphabets since Roman script has probably been the only one which has been recorded over the centuries in the most systematic way possible. Given the widespread dominance of the Roman Empire, it was but natural for this style to be accepted in most of Western Europe as a means for writing and it soon became a standard.

Over the years, several styles of calligraphy evolved wherein each was an echo of the cultures and traditions prevalent in that particular region. To this effect, most of these forms developed parallel to each other and formed broad categories which are discussed as follows –

Western – Europe was the birthplace of western calligraphy and its first appearance has been traced to 600 BC when the Latin script was developed and incorporated for the first time as a mode of communication. Subsequently, the scripting style underwent several changes during each progressive century till the English script eventually made its appearance in the 18th century.

A typical characteristic of western calligraphy is geometric formation of alphabets and a strict adherence to rules owing to which it gives an overall impression of being rhythmic and regular. Like Chinese and Arabic calligraphic script, each entity in western calligraphy follows a particular order of strokes and is accomplished by employing tools such as a flat-ball or round-nip pen, a water-based ink for writing, brush and a knife for erasing.

East Asian – Having evolved in East Asian countries of China, Korea and Japan, this form of calligraphy is enmeshed deeply into the cultural fabric of the region and is referred to as shuta in China, seoye in Korea and shodo in Japan. Style of calligraphy in China varied as per the preferences of the ruling dynasty and credit for much of the script which is used today goes to the Song Dynasty.

Tools used for calligraphy in East Asia are referred to as ‘four treasures of study’ in China and ‘four friends of study’ in Korea. ‘Four’ in these phrases refers to four implements of writing namely ink, ink brushes, ink stone and paper and these are further supplemented by paperweights and desk-pads. There are several parameters that determine the final outcome namely the type, size and shape of the ink-brush, color and density of ink and eventually the pressure and direction applied by the writer.

South Asian – Calligraphy in South Asia is categorized as Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan and Thai wherein each is an off-shoot of the culture practiced in the land where it originated. Indian calligraphy emerged during the rule of King Asoka and was written on a variety of surfaces ranging from metal and clay to leaves and barks of trees. Style of writing was either Kharosti or Brahmi wherein the former was more prevalent in the north-west regions and Central Asia.

Nepalese calligraphy is based on Ranjana script and its derivatives and is used for writing Buddhist texts in Pali or Sanskrit languages. Tibetan culture portrays calligraphy on prayer wheels and has played a central role in the troubled nation’s culture for many years.

Islamic – For followers of Islam, calligraphy is the epitome of artistic expression and hence is widely used in mosques and religious texts. This form of calligraphy peaked during the Ottoman rule and particularly noteworthy is the Persian script which is probably one of the oldest as also the most versatile with its alphabets being horizontal, vertical, diagonal and shaped to resemble nails.

Drawing

Amongst the several branches that constitute fine art, drawing comes under the two-dimensional category and is one of the main forms of visual art wherein an artist leaves a discernible mark on a surface. Traditionally, paper has served as the most commonly used medium for drawing but over a period of time, using other types of surfaces that have evolved like cardboard, canvas, leather and so on, has become equally popular. A person who draws is known as an artist but if it is a technical drawing, then he is referred to as a draftsman or a drafter.

When viewed from a historical perspective, drawing is accorded a special place because it is believed to have been the earliest forms of expression, meaning it originated even before writing and languages. For some of the early humans who roamed the foliage covered planet and lived in caves, drawing was the only manner by which they could emulate their surroundings and experiences. It was this practice that eventually led to the evolution of alphabets and scripts that created permanent records of the spoken language.

Prior to the advent of paper in 14th century, the norm entailed drawing on wooden surfaces and tablets of specific sizes and shapes were created especially for this purpose. Invention of paper and its immediate proliferation into almost every sphere of life gave drawing the impetus of a rapidly growing form of fine art. In fact it began to be used extensively in the field of science and astronomy too wherein intricate diagrams were drawn on parchments to serve as records for teaching and future reference.

Tools that enable artists to create drawings vary from pencils and crayons to chalk, charcoal, ink and pastels. Likewise, the drawing sheet also comes in various shapes, sizes and quality and some of the parameters that are applied for judging the suitability of paper are its hue, texture and reaction to moisture.

Under normal circumstances, a sheet of paper is spread on a drawing board which in turn is based on a flat surface such as a table. While the artist holds the pencil in his hand, there are a number of tools that are kept close at hand like eraser, compass, ruler and a fixative. If ink is being used, then it is advisable to have blotting paper too in order to absorb any stray drops or strokes. Very often, artists use drafting tape to secure the paper to the board in order to prevent it from moving when the drawing is in progress. Another prevalent practice is to use an easel instead of a table so that it can be fixed at a suitable slant as per the artist’s convenience.

In drawing, the final appearance is often an outcome of choices made by the artist and techniques employed are different for pencil and ink. An artist who uses pencil usually follows the contour of main subject that is being captured and must guard against smearing. Similarly, artists who use ink for drawing employ hatching techniques like cross-hatching, broken hatching and stippling. Opting for charcoal entails subtractive technique wherein the drawing sheet is covered with charcoal and then erased systematically to acquire the desired shapes.

Depth in drawing is acquired through the concept of perspective wherein a one-point perspective with a single vanishing point is used for displaying objects on a flat surface. To provide more depth, a two-point perspective is used and there is a three-point perspective too which calls for vertical integration.

Whether it is doodling, shading, sketching, cartooning or drawing figures, the basic principles, tools and techniques of drawing remain the same across all forms.

Mosaic

Has it ever happened to you that you might have suddenly come upon a beautiful mosaic that you could not help but stand and gaze at for the next few minutes? What is probably a well-laid out collage of colored squares is actually a mosaic and it is a form of art that has endured through time since the 8th century BC. There was a time when mosaics were principally used to beautify places of worship and regal premises but these gradually seeped into the daily fabric of life to be displayed on tables, doors and walls.

Mosaics are believed to have originated for the first time in Greece and these were made of pebbles owing to the ease of fixing and not much scope in terms of colors. Owing to the shape and black-and-white shades, pebble mosaics were laid on footpaths and floors so that they could add an aesthetic touch without compromising on the functionality. Gradually these became an expression of art and it was during the 4th century BC that the color spectrum was expanded to include red and green.

As more materials and colors began to find their way into mosaics, this stream of art became more sophisticated and specialized and proliferated into almost every building ranging from individual villas to pubs and public halls. Even now, hand-made mosaics in Greece and Italy come for a premium, especially since the tradition is on the verge of dying out. Nowadays, pebble mosaics are a little rare to find as pebbles have been replaced by small square pieces named tesserae of other materials like glass, marble and chalk.

There are three different techniques by which mosaics can be prepared, each of which is described as follows –

Direct – In this method, the tesserae are embedded directly on to the base and on completion, the entire assemblage is fitted on to the final surface and attached with the help of an adhesive. Ease of transportation of such a mosaic depends on the type of surface used wherein stone or concrete is the heaviest and most difficult to shift while fiber glass is relatively lighter and hence easier to move around.

An advantage of the direst method is WYSWYG, meaning you can actually track the progress of the mosaic on a day-to-day basis and this facilitates rectification of mistakes as and when they occur.

Indirect – Modus operandi of this method entails fixing the tesserae upside down on a brown paper surface and this is then either framed or grouted from underneath in order to be fixed on to the desired surface. From this it draws that it is virtually impossible to adjudge the direction which the mosaic might be taking till it has been completed in entirety and by that time it is too late to make any changes. Transportation is another problem as is handling concrete given the importance of proper mixing.

That said, there are advantages of this method too, primary in the list being durability. Secondly, the outcome is totally flat, meaning it is perfect for walls and floors.

Double indirect – Most complicated amongst the three methods, the process entails placing the tesserae facing upward on a medium as per the desired pattern and then placing another medium on top of it. The mosaic is then turned over and installed in its desired location. Complicated though it is, monitoring the making process is what makes it worthwhile especially if there are human figures involved.

Currently mosaics are prepared through digital imaging wherein several pixels are arranged and re-arranged till the best fit is achieved.

Painting

As compared to its counterpart in the two-dimensional era of fine art, namely drawing, painting is a lot more fluid version as also one that is characterized by flexible dimensions. Mention the word painting and the first image that comes to mind is that of a colorful picture depicting a particular concept, theme or a landscape. But what are the important steps that could have led to such an outcome?

Following are some of the aspects pertaining to painting that every individual must be aware of from the moment he/she picks up the brush and swishes it across the canvas in a brisk stroke of hand –

Historical background – Prehistoric humans had a penchant for expressing themselves through art and it was during the Paleolithic Age that this form of expression reached its peak. Going by the cave paintings discovered on the walls of caverns at Lascaux in Dordogne region in France, it became evident that human beings existing during that era 20,000 years ago loved to treat the walls of the caves as their canvas but desisted from taking shelter in them.

Highlight of these ancient paintings were colors and designs wherein the paint was long-lasting enough to have appeared fresh even after thousands of years had lapsed. Designs revolved around large animals that roamed the land, abstract lines that gave the impression of forward movement and geometrical figures. Reed brushes, hollow bones and flat stones served as equipment to facilitate this form of art.

Perception of color – Unlike drawing, color plays a big role in determining the final outcome in painting and hence it is an aspect that every aspiring artist needs to develop. In order to cultivate a sense of color, you must first determine your inherent perception and for this there are several tests in place like Stroop Effect, tests to determine color vision deficiency, Isihara test and so on.

Having determined your personality type and psychology, it would be easier for you to understand why you tend to incline towards certain colors and settle for particular matches.

Shape of the canvas – Equally important it is to determine the shape of the canvas on which you are going to paint on. Square and rectangle are the two shapes that paintings are commonly found in and the answer to this riddle lies in the past.

Before the advent of paper, paintings were made on wooden surfaces which needed to be cut into a variety of shapes. Since a square or rectangular tablet was the easiest to cut, these shapes became traditionally synonymous with painting as an art. Next came canvas, a tenacious fabric which needed to be stretched over a wooden surface in such a way that there would be no wrinkles or folds to hinder the free movement of the brush. To this effect, a four-sided surface served as the best possible base that could cause a canvas to stretch uniformly and provide a stable surface.

Four-sided figure was also preferred owing to its compliance with the ‘Golden Ratio’ which was a standard form of measurement used by ancient civilizations like Egyptian and Greek to construct their pyramids and structures. Calculated as 1:phi, the Golden Ratio is believed to have a classical bearing and hence was extensively used by several renaissance artists, prominent amongst them being Leonardo da Vinci.

As a novice, you are likely to struggle when it comes to finding the right balance and a yardstick in such a situation entails using just the right amount that is not too much and is also not too little. Another point to remember is that while the painting is clear in depicting its subject, it should still have an element of mystery in substantial measure.

Print Making

Amongst the several branches that constitute fine art, drawing comes under the two-dimensional category and is one of the main forms of visual art wherein an artist leaves a discernible mark on a surface. Traditionally, paper has served as the most commonly used medium for drawing but over a period of time, using other types of surfaces that have evolved like cardboard, canvas, leather and so on, has become equally popular. A person who draws is known as an artist but if it is a technical drawing, then he is referred to as a draftsman or a drafter.

When viewed from a historical perspective, drawing is accorded a special place because it is believed to have been the earliest forms of expression, meaning it originated even before writing and languages. For some of the early humans who roamed the foliage covered planet and lived in caves, drawing was the only manner by which they could emulate their surroundings and experiences. It was this practice that eventually led to the evolution of alphabets and scripts that created permanent records of the spoken language.

Prior to the advent of paper in 14th century, the norm entailed drawing on wooden surfaces and tablets of specific sizes and shapes were created especially for this purpose. Invention of paper and its immediate proliferation into almost every sphere of life gave drawing the impetus of a rapidly growing form of fine art. In fact it began to be used extensively in the field of science and astronomy too wherein intricate diagrams were drawn on parchments to serve as records for teaching and future reference.

Tools that enable artists to create drawings vary from pencils and crayons to chalk, charcoal, ink and pastels. Likewise, the drawing sheet also comes in various shapes, sizes and quality and some of the parameters that are applied for judging the suitability of paper are its hue, texture and reaction to moisture.

Under normal circumstances, a sheet of paper is spread on a drawing board which in turn is based on a flat surface such as a table. While the artist holds the pencil in his hand, there are a number of tools that are kept close at hand like eraser, compass, ruler and a fixative. If ink is being used, then it is advisable to have blotting paper too in order to absorb any stray drops or strokes. Very often, artists use drafting tape to secure the paper to the board in order to prevent it from moving when the drawing is in progress. Another prevalent practice is to use an easel instead of a table so that it can be fixed at a suitable slant as per the artist’s convenience.

In drawing, the final appearance is often an outcome of choices made by the artist and techniques employed are different for pencil and ink. An artist who uses pencil usually follows the contour of main subject that is being captured and must guard against smearing. Similarly, artists who use ink for drawing employ hatching techniques like cross-hatching, broken hatching and stippling. Opting for charcoal entails subtractive technique wherein the drawing sheet is covered with charcoal and then erased systematically to acquire the desired shapes.

Depth in drawing is acquired through the concept of perspective wherein a one-point perspective with a single vanishing point is used for displaying objects on a flat surface. To provide more depth, a two-point perspective is used and there is a three-point perspective too which calls for vertical integration.

Whether it is doodling, shading, sketching, cartooning or drawing figures, the basic principles, tools and techniques of drawing remain the same across all forms.