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Calligraphy techniques, history shared in First Tuesday Speaker Series

By Staff | Jun 21, 2019

From right, husband-and-wife Butch Smith and Annie Smith practice the beginning strokes of calligraphy during the First Tuesday Speaker Series at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on June 4. Tabitha Johnston

SHEPHERDSTOWN — The art of calligraphy may no longer be taught in our public school system, but for several local residents, desire to learn the art is still strong.

During the First Tuesday Speaker Series at Christ Reformed United Church of Christ on June 4, Rev. Gayle Bach-Watson led a workshop on the history and art of calligraphy.

“In my other life, I’m a medieval reenact. When I first started, I was doing a lot of services, I was helping the fighters stay hydrated, and then I got very fascinated by the Arts,” Bach-Watson said about the Society for Creative Anachronism, Inc. “In our society, every award comes with a scroll, and they were so beautiful!”

After becoming interested in the process of scroll creation, Bach-Watson said she had to learn the basics from mentors within the society.

“One of the things you need to start practicing calligraphy, are regular quadrille graphic paper, college ruled notebook paper or you can line your own paper,” Bach-Watson said, as she invited attendees to practice basic calligraphy strokes with calligraphy pens, paper and example texts, provided by the church.

Some of the implements used for calligraphy were on hand for attendees to look at, including colored inks and pens. Tabitha Johnston

“I always pencil in my work, before I begin, with a regular old number two pencil,” Bach-Watson said, mentioning this technique prevents mistakes in the final product. “Write very lightly, and use a white Hi-Polymer Eraser, because it will not damage your paper.”

As the attendees drew out the series of basic calligraphy strokes, Bach-Watson gave them tips on how to manipulate the pens and explained the origins of calligraphy.

“Some of the earliest calligraphy we have is from Asia,” Bach-Watson said. “In the Far East, ink comes in sticks on blocks, and you would peel off the ink. You would then mix a little water with your ink.

“Most Chinese and Japanese calligraphy uses a brush, not a pen, because the strokes are broad and fluid. In the West, you use quills or pens,” Bach-Watson said, mentioning the best ink she has found is from Japan. “It flows so smoothly and is great to work with.”

While Bach-Watson said the art does require a lot of practice to become accomplished in, she encouraged attendees to put in the effort, because calligraphy has a variety of practical applications.

“One of the greatest things about calligraphy, is that it’s a living art. Calligraphy has continued to change and grow, each artist putting their own spin on everything,” Bach-Watson said. “Once you know what you’re doing and feel comfortable, you can start taking artistic license.

“You can do this — it’s much more satisfactory to be able to send someone a letter addressed in calligraphy,” Bach-Watson said, mentioning she has used calligraphy on wedding certificates and in other forms of personal correspondence.