Students explore calligraphy artform at Writing House


Student practicing Calligraphy at the Writing House. Photo by Matt Hembree (C’20). 

By Alicia Wikner
Executive Staff

The Writing House recently hosted a Brush Lettering and Calligraphy event where non-residents were invited to try their hand at the art of writing amongst other artists and beginners.

The event was organized by Cayla O’Hair (C’18), who jokingly explained that she knew how to do “fake calligraphy,” where you outline the letters and then fill them in, but that using one brush to write letters in single strokes was still a bit of a challenge.

With a table full of practice worksheets, letter making templates, and colored pens, the participants were encouraged to write letters to friends and family. The available inspiration pictures featured everything from classic English calligraphy, something most are familiar with, to examples of Arabic script, with some attempting Russian and Mandarin Chinese traditional writing.

The word “calligraphy” comes from the two Greek stem words: “kallos,” which means beauty, and “graphein,” to write, highlighting that calligraphy is very much an art medium.

“The Oooh! Was my favorite,” said Joe Hunt (C’20), referring to one of the basic calligraphy swirls, and not the letter O (as initially thought).

Calligraphy has a rich history, spanning from Europe to East Asia and the Middle East. In China, there is a variant of written Chinese that can be seen as the Chinese version of cursive writing, which essentially needs to be learned separately from standard written Mandarin, since the characters usually look significantly different.

Arabic calligraphy involves the use of a qalam reed pen, which allows for the sharp angles and flowing transitions associated with Arabic. A specific script Arabic called Kufic script appears to have been developed specifically for religious purposes.

Thomas Greenberg (C’19) enthusiastically commented, “I never knew calligraphy was such a versatile medium.”