Apparently Picasso said, “Good artists copy. Great artists steal.” Or as the wise King Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
One of the reasons I prefer calligraphy over drawing is that drawing is not my forte. When my handwriting is on what I call “good behaviour,” accentuated by a smooth pen with the perfect point, a sheet of thick paper, on a just-right surface, I can write something and it can look artistic or beautiful without me doing much else to it.
I may not have been born with stunning supermodel looks, but I was given great penmanship. Some of my artist friends think in images a lot, but for me, I love the forms of the letters themselves. I like to play with how letters fit together in a word, or in a phrase in a given space.
There’s a certain je-ne-sais-quoi that I love about the pen nib gliding across a physical page. During a defining time of transition and decision making a few years ago, I switched my journaling from paper to electronic, because I type faster than I can write. The thoughts were flowing too fast for me to journal old school with pen and paper. But after the transition passed, I went back to my beloved pen and paper.
When I’m working on a piece for someone who wants some elements of drawing included with the words, I usually have a freakout internally. I fight the usual barrage of doubts, “What if I can’t draw the style they’re looking for? What if I can’t draw the item in a way that is intelligible and recognizable?”
But then, I am saved by the act of stealing. I google to find what other illustrators have done. And then I copy it in the most simple style that I can. For example, I’m working on a piece that is to include a golden retriever. How in the world do I draw it so that it looks like a dog and not some abstract art or worse, a butchered animal? Fortunately, as a calligrapher, the words are the main focus, not the images. (To be clear, the act of thievery today in the image above is a stolen quote, not a stolen image.)
Oh my! Did you catch that? I almost missed it myself… That’s the first time I’ve ever called myself that! It totally just slipped out on its own. Looks like we’re back to a Day 1 declaration: I am a calligrapher.