The skilled calligrapher may create letters of great elegance, and the novice letters of great beauty. The former involves employing a skill with long-practiced mechanical precision, while the latter offers passion and enthusiasm and no fear of failure, because as yet there is no “wrong” way.
As calligraphers we are often trapped into the belief that beautiful writing is based on the creation of perfect letters. This is not to say that the rules should not be learned. We all learn to read and write by means of a universal set of rules referring to the construction of letters and so, through alphabets, we communicate.
Distinguishing Calligraphy from Fine Writing
On a superficial level I believe that we should be able to use the term “fine writing” to describe the pursuit of perfect letters. Let “calligraphy” refer rather to a VISION of beautiful writing, which pursues a personal concept of beauty through the spirit of language, image or text; through flow, gesture, movement and colour.
Fine writing is composed of rules, measurements, geometry and spaces. Fine writing marches across a page with relentless uniformity. Calligraphy is the expression of a moment, captured in the sweep of ink across a page. Fine writing is the crafted stroke which says “a” letter.
A competent “fine handwriting” is within reach of everyone. It requires diligent practice and observance of a set of rules, and of course the desire to acquire the skill. With vision and passion comes the “beauty” of calligraphy. We may all learn to paint a picture with technical precision and competence, but not all of us will have the vision to elevate that painting to the next level. Thus the practitioner of fine handwriting enters the world of calligraphy and the ever-shifting concept of beauty. And therein lies the eternal fascination for mark-making, of painting with letters – the enhancement of a utilitarian form, and ultimately the reduction of it to the motile simplicity of gesture, both real and implied.