Islamic calligraphy has always fascinated me. I studied Persian, Arabic and Urdu as part of my degree and travelled widely in Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan in the 1970s. I really like the flowing lines and geometric styles, and the way abstraction is used to create artwork from words. These techniques could also be applied to more figurative drawing styles like fashion illustration. This is an area where I have only just begun to explore the potential.
I am particularly interested in the techniques of some contemporary calligraphers who use watercolour and ink to create word paintings from poetry.
Edited and extended from the Wikipedia links below
Islamic calligraphy is the artistic practice of handwriting and calligraphy, based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. It includes Arabic , Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy. It is known in Arabic as khatt Islami (خط اسلامي), derived from the word ‘line’, ‘design’, or ‘construction’.
The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly tied to the Qur’an; chapters, and excerpts from the Qur’an is a common and almost universal text upon which Islamic calligraphy is based. Deep religious association with the Qur’an, as well as suspicion of figurative art as idolatrous has led calligraphy to become one of the major forms of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.
Instruments and media
The traditional instrument of the Islamic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen normally made of dried reed or bamboo; the ink is often in colour, and chosen so that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their effect. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen.
Islamic calligraphy is applied on a wide range of decorative mediums other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and inscriptions.Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment were used for writing.
Beginning in 692, the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing visual depiction with words. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value. Generally the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur’an. By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions onto elaborately patterned silks. So precious were calligraphic inscribed textiles that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions. A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse, used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the Abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer near Caen in northwestern France.
As Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples set by well established calligraphers, with the exception of secular or contemporary works. In antiquity, a pupil would copy a master’s work repeatedly until their handwriting is similar. With the spread of Islam, the Arabic script was established in a vast geographic area with many regions developing their own unique style. From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began to developed in Turkey, Persia, and China. The most common styles are divided into:
The oldest form of the Arabic script developed around the end of the 7th century in the areas of Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. It was the main script used to copy Qur’ans from the 8th to 10th century and went out of general use in the 12th century when the flowing naskh style become more practical, although it continued to be used as a decorative element to contrast superseding styles. Contemporary calligraphy using this style is also popular in modern decorations.
The Archaic Kufi consisted of about 17 letters without diacritic dots or accents. Afterwards, dots and accents were added to help readers with pronunciation, and the set of Arabic letters rose to 29.
A common feature is the rigid, angular, linear strokes and shapes of the characters – a modified form of the old Nabataean script. The style later developed into several varieties, including floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared kufi. Common varieties include square Kufic, a technique known as banna’i.
With the rapid expansion of Islam, a cursive called naskh first appeared in the 10th century and is the most ubiquitous style used in Qur’ans, official decrees, and private correspondence. It became the basis of modern Arabic print. It was standardised by Ibn Muqla (886-940 A.D.) who establish systematic rules and proportions for shaping the letters, which use ‘alif as the x-height. This was later expanded by Abu Hayan at-Tawhidi (died 1009 A.D.) and Muhammad Ibn Abd ar-Rahman (1492–1545 A.D.). Variations include:
Thuluth is developed as a display script to decorate particular scriptural objects. Letters have long vertical lines with broad spacing. The name reference to the x-height, which is one third of the ‘alif.
Riq’ah is a handwriting style derived from naskh and thuluth, first appeared in the 9th century. The shape is simple with short strokes and little flourishes.
Muhaqqaq is considered one of the most beautiful scripts, as well as one of the most difficult to execute. Muhaqqaq was commonly used during the Mameluke era, but the use become largely restricted to short phrases, such as the basmallah, from the 18th century onward.
A cursive style developed in the 14th century by Mir Ali Tabrizi to write the Persian language for literary and non-Qur’anic works. Nasta’liq is thought to be a later development of the naskh and the earlier ta’liq script used in Iran. The name ta’liq means ‘hanging’, and refers to the slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a hanging appearance. Letters have short vertical strokes with broad and sweeping horizontal strokes. The shapes are deep, hook-like, and have high contrast.
is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early OttomanTurks in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It was invented by Housam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–1566). Spaces between letters are often narrow, and lines ascend upwards from right to left. Larger variation called djali are filled with dense decorations of dots and diacritical marks in the space between, giving it a compact appearance. Diwani is difficult to read and write due to its heavy stylization, and became ideal script for writing court documents as it insured confidentiality and prevented forgery.
Sini is a style greatly influenced by Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush instead of the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is HajjiNoor Deen Mi Guangjiang.
Sue Coe (born 1951) is an English artist and illustrator, currently working from upstate New York. Her work is highly political, and part of her activism. Having grown up next to a slaughterhouse, she has been particularly involved in trying to stop the animal cruelty that takes places hidden behind its walls. Her work is often directed against capitalism, focusing on issues like sweatshops, prisons, AIDS and war.
She uses a realistic drawing style, sketching what she sees in slaughterhouses, prisons and sweatshops – having developed strategies for getting permission to draw and talk to people there. These sketches are then used as developed drawings in charcoal and other media, painting and printmaking, often published as illustrated books and comics. Her illustrations have appeared in a wide variety of publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Nation.
She is an artist I want to study more for insights into political illustration, particularly ways of portraying very upsetting situations and linking striking imagery with activism.
Represents ‘professionals who bring architecture to life’. Their illustrators / SAI members A–Z section shows a wide range of different approaches. www.sai.org.uk
A group of architects influenced by avant-garde art movements who playfully challenged assumptions about modern architecture. All of their work was presented as proposals, through drawings and collage. A very different approach to representing and visualising architecture through drawing.
The Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA)
Has a series of online workshops, videos and other resources exploring architectural history, drawing and design. Useful to gain a broader perspective on architectural ideas. www.architecture.com
Michael Blower archive
Examples of British architect Michael Blower’s sketchbooks are available via the website: http://www.vads.ac.uk
Photorealistic 3D and CGI imaging
Top of the list of Google Search for Architectural Illustration are companies doing photorealistic 3D and CGI imaging, some with animation. This is a very specialised field requiring a high level of 3D Digital skill – not something I could aspire to.
He sets up perspective views on a drawing board in the traditional way and uses a range of stencils for ellipses and curves, working with pencils, brushes and paint. His watercolour images are usually more detailed and accurate than his acrylic paintings. He spends more time doing the drawing than the painting. He also paints in oils en plein air – he likes to work fast with the changing light.
Lucia often brings together lots of photographic references and creates a preliminary collage as well as doing some sketches. Her actual illustrations are created on paper using ink, watercolour, pastels, pens or acrylic – though not necessarily all together. However she does use Photoshop to tweak and perfect a piece. Also fashion.
Clean with some Photorealism. Hand-drawn imagery and coloured digitally. Sometimes he combines drawn print designs with digital elements to build up an image. Sometimes, he’ll also draw his map designs using vector graphics.
Uses different compositions, and bold colors in a limited palette, often creating patterns. Most of her work is done using Photoshop and Illustrator, but she also combines hand-made textures, screenprinting and collage work. Also does Fashion.
I realily like the very basic stylised figures here. An architectural illustrator.
This is a very basic stylised video, showing use of eyeline and basic principles of capturing people in a scene. I like the variation between ink outline, then others started in wash.
Teoh’s tips for sketching people on location – contour drawing and don’t keep moving your head up and down.
This one is just inking in already drawn people. But I like the style.
Realitime videos by Meridel L. Abrams following of how she copes with the various challenges of sketching on location.The first is very rapid sketching of shoppers in a parking lot. The second more stationary outside a restaurant. Both done from a car.
Photography and other lens-based media like fibre-optic cameras, x-rays, remote cameras and video and new methods like magnetic resonance imaging have extended the ways in which we are able to see the world – for example freezing motion, capturing at distance and/or microscopically, giving views of ‘reality’ beyond out senses. Some illustrators are beginning to build on these new technologies in their illustration.
Some illustrators use stylised forms and flat colours:
Wellcome Trust: a global charity that supports biomedical research into human and animal health. The Wellcome Collection – a London-based gallery and online resource explores the connections between medicine, life and art in the past, present and future. www.wellcomecollection.org
Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art, Kew Gardens www.kew.org