Visiting an Arabic Calligraphy Workshop

A few weeks ago I went to a calligraphy workshop. My first ever. I found out about it when one of my students, who knows I like stationery, told me that a calligraphy workshop will be held on the premises of my employer (a university).

The student told me that the workshop was organised by the students’ Islamic Society, so I assumed it would be Arabic calligraphy, but wasn’t sure and couldn’t find out more online.

Well, I went there and it was Arabic calligraphy after all. As I don’t know anything about Arabic script I thought this would be an opportunity to learn more about it. When I asked I was told that the workshop is suitable for someone who doesn’t know Arabic.

I paid my £3 fee, but it all turned out a bit different than expected. I expected to use tools somehow similar to a dip pen and parchment, but instead, we wrote with colour markers on easel pads. I am still not sure how Arabic calligraphy works. Someone wrote with a board marker on a white board and we copied that sentence again and again. The idea was that you vary the look of the letters (if that’s the right word, are they called letters?) to look good ..but as I don’t even know how the letters are supposed to look like I wasn’t sure how they can be changed or varied while still staying recognisable to someone who can read Arabic.

No idea whether this looks good or not.

It was an interesting experience, but it would be nice to make these events more inclusive by making them less of a ‘you copy down what’s on the board’ exercise and giving some explanations about the writing system.

I wonder whether there’ll also be Western calligraphy workshops in the future.



4 thoughts on “Visiting an Arabic Calligraphy Workshop”

  1. Markers are popular in Western calligraphy classes too. Maybe people find them less intimidating than pen and ink? I kind of understand because dip pen nibs can be quite finicky, but on the other hand I could never warm to markers. Nothing can quite beat seeing (and smelling) liquid ink pool on paper 🙂

    I hope you will continue to share your insights into Arabic calligraphy (especially how they produce thick horizontal and thin vertical strokes).

  2. Thank you for your comment.
    I didn’t realise that markers are also popular at Western calligraphy classes.
    I don’t think there’ll be more insights into Arabic calligraphy. As far as I know this was a one off or at least a rare event.
    In this class the thick and thin lines were produced by rotating the pens which had chisel shaped tips, very much like a Stabilo Boss text marker.

  3. Even at Hallmark, we practiced traditional western calligraphy with chisel tip markers when training. Actually, we start with pencil.

    But I do agree that it would be interesting to have an Arabic calligraphy class for non-Arabic speakers that at least provided some sheets with the basic letterforms and some rudimetary information about the language. I think it would be a great way to educate people about the language and even some of the cultures that use the Arabic language while also getting to play with calligraphy. Cultural education through art.

  4. Thank you for your comment.
    Starting with pencils sounds great ;^)
    After there company run calligraphy classes?
    The idea of an Arabic calligraphy class you described sounds wonderful. They should have something like that.

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