A dummy’s guide to the art of writing

In the digital era when handwritten notes are a thing of past, calligrapher Achyut Palav is making all possible efforts to keep the craft of calligraphy alive. In a career spanning more than 35 years, Palav, an alumnus of Sir J.J. Institute of Applied Art, has widely travelled and conducted multiple workshops across India, occasionally collaborating with international artists like Paul Antonio. His most recent initiative, Callifest, conducted at the Achyut Palav School of Calligraphy explores the beauty of India’s varied language scripts and the art of fine writing.

‘Calligraphy’ painted by Achyut Palav. (Image Credits: Achyut Palav’s Facebook Profile)
1. The Write Art:

In layman terms, calligraphy means ‘a beautiful handwriting.’ Since calligraphy is concerned about making text look visually appealing and aesthetic, it is often viewed as an element of design. Like various other art forms, it requires a lot of concentration. In order to express an idea on paper, one needs to master the perfect co-ordination between the mind and the hand. According to Palav, even one line or a letter requires careful deliberation about the space and its division.

Bringing the words alive on canvas. (Image Credits: Achyut Palav Facebook Profile)
2. Asian Origins:

The history of calligraphy, says Palav, is linked to the history of paper. Paper originally came from China and in the early fifteenth and the sixteenth century when the production and availability of paper increased manifold, it gave a major impetus to writing and documentation. Later, it was followed by the requirement for writing material and writing instruments —ranging from the early use of quill to ink pens.

3. Script Variation:

To master calligraphy, one has to understand the history and scripts of various languages. For instance, calligraphy in Devnagri script differs from the Roman script (English). In contrast to the English language, which is limited to 26 alphabets, Devnagri script is a combination of various interconnected elements like maatra and anuswaarTherefore, to write even a single letter in Hindi, a calligrapher has to move their hands four times whereas, in the Roman script, one has to maintain continuity. Chinese calligraphy, on the other hand, is pictorial in nature.

A sample calligraphy of Devnagri script by Achyut Palav. (Image Credits: Achyut Palav’s Facebook Profile)

4. Of Brushes & Pens:

Like many other art forms, calligraphy too has evolved and undergone several changes. The primitive bamboo and reed pens have been replaced by the more sophisticated foam brushes, markers and coit pens. There are a thousand different styles of brushes. Unlike the initial days, calligraphy is no longer limited to the conventional style of black and gold ink. With changing technology and new calligraphic tools coming into the picture, the style palette is a wide-ranging one. Now, a calligrapher can choose for himself as to how many colours he wants to add to his artwork.

Calligrapher Achyut Palav’s craft goes beyond the paper. (Image Credits: Achyut Palav’s Facebook Profile)

5. Career In Creativity:

Gone are the days when calligraphers used to earn a paltry sum. Now, there are several fields ranging from fashion to electronics, for a person with calligraphic skills to choose from. Even designing jewellery, visiting cards and nameplates often require extensive use of creative calligraphy. Palav emphasises that like all creative work, excellence in calligraphy depends on talent, patience and hard work.

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