Calligraphy is likely to be better if we’re writing words that matter to us. The fact that the words are meaningful to us somehow translates into better rhythm as we create the piece on the page.
While alphabet sentences have their place as we learn letter shapes, it’s not that inspiring to write “How quickly daft jumping zebras vex” multiple times, and is not going to entertain a reader for long either.
Part of being a calligrapher is about having one eye open for wonderful words to write.
Of course quotation books, great texts such as Shakespeare and Dickens, and poetry books are great sources. And with the internet, it’s easy to find amazing information (and lose amazing numbers of hours!)
But be observant at other times too – if you’re reading a novel and a phrase catches your imagination, make a note. Often books – fiction and non fiction – have quotes at the opening of chapters which can be worth remembering.
Song lyrics or words from a story you’re reading to someone else can be very moving (if you’ve not looked at fairy tales as a source of inspiration you might be surprised.)
Words on beermats, greetings cards and adverts might catch your eye – and of course our calligraphy does’t have to be serious all the time.
Words don’t have to be “old” or “classic” : Calligrapher, Richard Butler chose to write out a current and powerful speech by a politician, and it really shows you the possibility of using words from modern sources.
Lettering can also be done using the contents of discarded shopping lists – we don’t always have to be trying to change to world! David Jones is an artist and printmaker – this work is a large lino print.
(Make sure that you are not in breach of copyright rules if you’re planning to share your finished piece of calligraphy in any way though).
Build a stockpile of words
Build a stockpile of words you’d love to write – in a notebook or on the computer or even a pile of scraps of paper in a box – and save them for when you’re feeling stuck. Scraps of paper in a shoe box is a great method; A calligraphers ‘Lucky Dip’!
A final tip is one that we’ve enjoyed sharing with many classes, and seeing the inspiring results. Everyone is asked to take some time (often the week between lessons) to decide what their specialist topic would be if they were to take part in a quiz show. This brings people to topics about which they are knowledgeable – but more importantly, about which they care. Sometimes the topics are very personal, or linked to their job, and sometimes they’re just brilliant subjects about which the person feels passionate.
Try it yourself: now let that be the starting point for a piece of calligraphy. What is it about the subject that you feel inspired to write? Does it take you to factual sources, or something else?
Often a topic that you love can inspire multiple pieces of work – there are no rules that say you’re only allowed to write about a topic once!
Hope this gives you some ideas to keep the creativity flowing – We would love to hear what else works for you.