I often get asked how I learnt how to write Arabic calligraphy or if I can offer any advice for beginners. Here is a short beginner’s guide to getting started. I’ll try and develop this advice over time so be sure to check back!
1. Learn the Arabic Language.
If you are serious about learning Arabic calligraphy, then learning Arabic is a must. I’m not saying you have to master the language because as a non-Arab myself, I’m continuously learning about the beautiful language and its nuances; the more I learn about it the more I realise I don’t know! In my opinion, there is a difference between Arabic calligraphy and Arabic calligraphy art. I’ll write about this difference in a separate post but in short, writing Arabic calligraphy requires some understanding about the rules of writing Arabic letters whereas Arabic calligraphy art only requires one to be able to trace existing calligraphy works. So to really understand and excel in Arabic calligraphy, its important to understand its language and alphabet, even if it is at a rudimentary level.
2. Enjoy Looking at Islamic Art.
If you like Arabic calligraphy or Islamic calligraphy, you probably already love Arabic/Islamic art. Arabic calligraphy has always played a prominent role in Islamic art. You will find it in manuscripts, Qurans, on buildings, etc. and there are so many different styles that it really pays to look closer than normal. Look at how the styles differ, see how they are used, try and decipher complicated works of calligraphy, travel or search online for examples of Islamic artwork, both classic and modern and be in tune with whats going on.
3. Buy the Right Tools.
You need the right tools to write Arabic calligraphy. Yes you can get away with any pen or pencil if you want to write any script in its most basic form (without the thick and thin strokes) but to really write right (!), you have to have pens with the proper slanted nib. You can buy pens from my store or find them online elsewhere. You can even find tutorials online on how to cut your own bamboo ones but it takes some practise and I don’t advise it without a mentor. Alternatively, you could buy a Latin/English calligraphy pen for the left-handed because this corresponds to the same nib used by Arabic calligraphers.
4. Doodle Away.
Don’t be shy to see something you like and have a go at replicating it. One of my teachers recommended that I open the Quran (I have the Medina Mushaf) and copy passages from it because it is entirely handwritten by one of the top calligraphers of the world, namely Uthman Taha (more about him here).
5. Find a Teacher.
Don’t teach yourself unless you absolutely have to. You can learn Arabic calligraphy online but I myself haven’t tried that but I’ll see what thats all about in another post. Arabic calligraphy has traditionally been passed down from teacher to disciple and what you learn with a teacher in a week would take you months if not years to learn on your own. I cannot stress how important it is to have a good teacher who can correct your mistakes and advise you on where to improve. Especially when you are a beginner. You simply won’t see things a master does.
6. Practise, Practise, Practise.
Even if you are fortunate to find a teacher and you learn the principles of any given Arabic calligraphy script, you must still practise the art. Especially if you learn more than one script because each one has its specific rules and nuances and they are easy to forget if they are not revisited from time to time.
7. Don’t Stop Learning.
I don’t think any true Arabic calligrapher would claim they have mastered the art. There are just too many variables for anyone to claim they don’t need to learn something new. it pays to be humble and remain a student, even if you yourself become a teacher of Arabic calligraphy!
8. Don’t be Hasty. Be Patient.
Its very tempting to start selling your work and even publicising it but hold your pen (!) because there are plenty of pseudo Arabic calligraphers out there and you don’t want to be one of them. Instead, be as patient as possible. If you have gone through the other seven steps then you will already have developed incredible patience. Not everyone can sit for hours on end writing letters and then rewriting them over and over and over and over again. But its pure therapy. I’m sure you’ll agree.
This is what comes to mind now but be sure to leave a comment if you want to add anything or ask me about anything I have said!