Islamic calligraphy

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.

See Meriem Marsli’s calligraphy particularly use of different materials to create letterforms in the Alif Baa series

For other examples of contemporary calligraphy see Free Islamic Calligraphy

Al Talaq
Al Talaq

How to do it

Development and Styles

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.

Style typology

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:

  1. Kufic: oldest angular style
  2. Naskh (نسخ nasḫ): cursive style . With variants Thuluth (ثلث ṯuluṯ)  Ruq‘ah (رقعة ruqʿah)
  3. Nasta‘liq (نستعلیق nastaʿlīq) developed in Persia
  4. Diwani (ديواني dīwānī) developed in Ottoman Empire
  5.  Sini is a style developed in China. 
Kufic

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.

9th century Qur’an, an early kufic example from the Abbasid period
Bowl with Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century.Brooklyn Museum

Naskh

Muhaqqaq script in a 14th-century Qur’an from the Mamluk dynasty.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Nasta’liq

Nasta’liq calligraphy by Mir Emad Hassani, perhaps the most celebrated Persian calligrapher.

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.

 

Diwani

is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks 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 Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.

List of calligraphers

Some classical calligraphers:

Medieval

Ottoman era

 

 

Digital watercolour

!!To do a thorough review in autumn when Aps have been upgraded for iOS 11. Digital watercolour is a key feature for upgrade with faster processing speeds.

Currently my attempts are pretty crude. These will be explored for Assignment 4 on Aldeburgh.

Currently digital watercolour depends on transparency effects, edge effects, and deletion with water brushes to vary transparency.

Procreate

Good at very detailed drawings that build up gradually in textured layers using a combination of water brush shapes (including drips) and water eraser. Use alpha lock for edge effects. Has the most control over brush shape. Bleeds have to be simulated through smudge or eraser tool and edge effects. Due for significant upgrade in the autumn.

For the most beautiful effects I have found:

Basic effects:

ArtRage
Can get interesting effects with the canvas variants. Mainly focuses on edge effects.

Adobe Sketch
Watercolour brush is the only brush I would really use from the built-in toolset. It has really nice bleed effects that are fascinating to watch. Good for atmospheric abstract effects. But difficult to get real subtlety. Upgrade due?

Auryn Ink
Dedicated watercolour for more complex combined techniques. Has 3 layers that dry at different rates that can be controlled. But quite slow at higher resolution.

Tayasui Sketch
Can get nice Japanese watercolour effects with vector gradients for beautiful anime type effects. But not watercolour as such.

Auryn Ink

I have only experimented very briefly with this App – its rivals are Procreate – with forthcoming improvements to the waterbrush system, Adobe Sketch and ArtRage, all of which have interesting watercolour effects. See Digital Watercolour.

Dedicated App for watercolour painting.

The Auryn Ink website:  http://www,auryn.ink has images of art gallery-size paintings as well as manual, tutorials and FAQ.

Flickr group

Facebook page

App Details

The whole experience is rather more random than real watercolour happy accidents. But some really beautiful effects can be achieved, including layering and erasing that cannot be achieved on paper. 

Canvas: There is a choice of low, high and superhigh resolution. Rough or smooth papers with different textures that affect their ways of interacting with paint. It is also possible to control run and splatter.  

Stylus: Apple Pencil uses tilt and velocity for size. For quick washes the Sensui brush stylus is good. Fingers also work well.

Layers: There are 3 layers: wet, dry and fixed layers in one image that simulate the way watercolour layers and paper interact. It is possible to control evaporation, dry and fix layers to build up images.
An image layer can be inserted at the bottom for reference/deletion.
No blend modes.

Undo: is on a timer and has to be done before layer dries. Otherwise use eraser and paint over.

Brushes: four types of tip to combine with a range of ‘footprints’ and a variable eraser to get mask effects. There is a paint flow and size control. Using the Apple pencil size is also affected by tilt and velocity.

Colour: There is a central colour picker dialogue, with customisable palette for each painting. Holding down the brush brings up an eyedropper. Then as you paint you control interaction between water and pigment on the brush for transparency.

Output: as PNG only to iPhoto. Can send into the website to enlarge to large A1+ art gallery prints.

Text: No. They recommend  theTypedrawing app.

Social network: Link to Auryn Ink website and Auryn Ink Facebook page.

Art Examples

 

Tutorials and reviews

PDF Manual

Graham Dean

website: http://grahamdean.com

Videos: http://grahamdean.com/category/vidoes/

He is essentially a painter of identity. But more than the identity of the body, it is the identity of the soul as evoked by these sumptuous watercolours.

For Graham Dean, the body is a ‘holding-pen of emotions’, a ‘thinking body’ similar to the research done by Wilhelm Reich. His characters are the receptacles of these emotions, ideas, and memories. They are witnesses of the human condition and our complex relationship with the world. Our individuality, our identity is formed by this interaction of our inner lives which is constantly penetrated and altered by the outside world. Graham’s painting is an investigation between the inside and the outside, the surface and what lies beneath. Arms, faces, torsos, legs become interchangeable – anonymous but recognisable, The body becomes a canvas, torn and stretched, a vehicle for the imagination of the artist. The works are open to interpretation, free, as are the movements of watercolour, colours and sensual shapes.

(quoted from Dean’s website: article by Galerie Maubert, Paris. September 2011)

Early works

Foreign Correspondent
Photographer
Compartments

Body and emotions

New Small Oct 2014

Technique; ‘reverse archaeology’

 

‘Pigments suspended in water’. Contrasting layers of paint are applied separately on thick, handmade paper from Southern India.  Colour is  important: use of red accentuates the dramatic effect of green and yellow and juxtaposition of complementary colours. He exploits the differential viscosity, granularity and opacity of different watercolour pigments and the ways in which thick layers /dripped paint interact with water at different degrees of wetness/drying cycle. Paint glazes (multiple, transparent layers) create intensity and depth. Each sheet undergoes a process of tearing and overlapping to create a final new composition.

 

Eric Ravillious

Eric William Ravilious (1903 – 1942) was an English painter, designer, book illustrator and wood engraver. He grew up in East Sussex, and at the Royal College of Art (1922–5) was taught by Paul Nash and became close friends with Edward Bawden. In 1939 he officially served as a war artist, and died when the aircraft he was in was lost off Iceland.

He is particularly known for his watercolours of the South Downs, empty rooms and war paintings. His use of watercolour and limited muted palette to capture light, often overlaid by crayon lines, has a beautiful shimmering quality. He uses exaggerated perspectives, unusual viewpoints and abstract shapes to create drama, suspense and movement. The effect is often haunting – reflecting a mix of nostalgia and foreboding in the world destroyed by the war.

Sources:

CONSTABLE, F. & SIMON, S. 2003. The England of Eric Ravillious, Surrey, UK, Lund Humphrey.

Tate Gallery

Wikipedia

Dulwich Picture Gallery exhibition 2015

Selected images to music

Use of perspective

His use of two point perspective – slightly off – creates a feeling of claustrophobia, uncertainty and unease. The eye goes first towards the bed, strangely reflected in the ceiling of a windowless room. But then is taken down the empty corridor that appears to go upwards to nowhere and round a corner to the light. Is this an escape? Or a dead-end to nowhere? Or worse?

 

John Piper

John Piper was born in Epsom, Surrey, in 1903, the son of solicitor Charles Piper. He was educated at Epsom College and trained at the Richmond School of Art, followed by the Royal College of Art in London.[1] He turned from abstraction early in his career, concentrating on a more naturalistic but distinctive approach.

As a child, Piper lived in Epsom, at that time in the countryside. He went exploring on his bike, and drew and painted pictures of old churches and monuments on the way. He started making guide books complete with pictures and information at a young age. He studied at Epsom College. He did not like the college but found refuge in the art school. When he left Epsom College, Piper wanted to go to art school, to study to become an artist. However, his father disagreed and wanted him to be a solicitor. They agreed that John Piper would work for his father in London for three years, and then could pursue whatever career he chose. He failed the law exams and his father died soon after, leaving him free to become an artist. His work often focused on the British landscape, especially churches.

Piper was appointed an official war artist in World War II from 1940–1942.[1] The morning after the air raid that destroyed Coventry Cathedral, Piper produced his first painting of bomb damage, Interior of Coventry Cathedral now exhibited at the Herbert Art Gallery. Jeffery Daniels in The Times described the painting of the ruins as “all the more poignant for the exclusion of a human element”. It has been described as “Britain’s Guernica”.[2]

Piper collaborated with many others, including the poets John Betjeman and Geoffrey Grigson (on the Shell Guides[3][4]), and with potter Geoffrey Eastop and artist Ben Nicholson. In later years he produced many limited-edition prints.

Sir Osbert Sitwell invited Piper to Renishaw Hall to paint the house and illustrate an autobiography he was writing and Piper made his first of many visits to the estate in 1942. The family retain 70 of his pictures and there is a display at the hall.[5]

From 1950 Piper worked in stained glass in partnership with Patrick Reyntiens, whom he had met through John Betjeman.[6] They designed the stained-glass windows for the new Coventry Cathedral, and later for the Chapel of Robinson College, Cambridge. Washington National Cathedral prominently features his large window, “The Land Is Bright”. He designed windows for many smaller churches and created tapestries for Chichester Cathedral and Hereford Cathedral. He was a set designer for the theatre, including the Kenton Theatre in Henley and Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. He designed many of the premiere productions of Benjamin Britten’s operas at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, the Royal Opera House, La Fenice and the Aldeburgh Festival, as well as for some of the operas of Alun Hoddinott. In 2012 a major exhibition ‘John Piper and the Church’ examined his relationship with the Church and his contribution to the development of modern art within churches.[7] Piper wrote extensively on modern art in books and articles.[8][9][10][11] With his wife, Myfanwy Piper, he founded the contemporary art journal, Axis.

On 28 June 1992 John Piper died at his home at Fawley Bottom, Buckinghamshire, where he had lived for most of his life. His children are painters Edward Piper (deceased) and Sebastian Piper, and his grandchildren include painter Luke Piper and sculptor Henry Piper.

His auction record, £325,250, was set at Sotheby’s on 15 July 2008 for “Forms on Dark Blue”, a 3′ by 4′ oil painting made in 1936.[12]

Toko Shinoda

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Spanish slideshow of her work

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Toko Shinoda Exhibit by The Tolman Collection, Tokyo at Musee Kikuchi

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Google images

Toko Shinoda (篠田 桃紅 Shinoda Tōkō?, born March 28, 1913) is a Japanese artist working with sumi ink paintings and lithograph prints. Her art merges traditional calligraphy with modern abstract expression. She says she prefers her paintings and original drawings, because sumi ink presents unlimited colour spectrum. In printmaking, Shinoda uses lithograph as her medium. Unlike woodcut that requires chisel, or etching that requires acid, lithograph allows Shinoda to work directly and spontaneously on the plate with her fluid brushstroke. Shinoda’s strokes are meant to suggest images and vitality of nature. She says, “Certain forms float up in my mind’s eye. Aromas, a blowing breeze, a rain-drenched gust of wind…the air in motion, my heart in motion. I try to capture these vague, evanescent images of the instant and put them into vivid form.” Shinoda’s print editions are small, usually ranging from twelve to fifty-five, and after each edition has been pulled, she often adds a stroke or two of sumi color by hand to each print.

Life

Shinoda was born in Manchuria where her father managed a tobacco factory. Two years later, her family returned to Japan. Influenced by her father’s love of sumi ink painting, calligraphy and Chinese poetry, Shinoda practiced calligraphy since she was six.

Shinoda traveled the United States from 1956 to 1958. During this time her works were bought by Charles Laughton and John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet. Shinoda also became involved in the abstract expressionist movement of the time.

A 1983 interview in Timemagazine noted that “her trail-blazing accomplishments are analogous to Picasso’s”. Shinoda’s works had been exhibited in the Hague National Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, Cincinnati Art Museum and other leading museums in the world.

She turned 100 in March 2013.

Books on her work

  • Takashina, Shuji. Okada, Shinoda, and Tsukata: Three Pioneers of Abstract Painting in 20th Century Japan. Washington: Phillips Collection, c1979.
  • Tolman, Mary and Tolman, Norman. Toko Shinoda: A New Appreciation. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E Tuttle Company, 1993.