Well, I took my first calligraphy class yesterday, at Bay Arts, a place I like so much I bet I could live there pretty comfortably. Art, culture, nature…this place has it all.
I had a charming sojourn to calligraphy class, first seeing a large outdoor sculpture of arms and hands rising up, which instantly reminded me of my future as a person learning calligraphy. So I snapped a pic of it. Then, I went up to someone at a desk in a lovely gallery and asked where the calligraphy class was being held, and she said, pointing behind me, “Go through that door and up the dark pink steps.”
Dark pink steps.
Um, yes, please!
See this photo and think "Pink Lotus" and you'll know what thrills me.
Then I got to calligraphy class.
Because I am left-handed--I'd emailed the teacher to let her know--I had a special seat at one of the large tables where I wouldn’t bump anyone. I am used to this. In a class of 13, the only other lefty was Shelly, who sat next to me and who shared with me throughout the practice session her difficulties. I shared mine with her. They were strikingly similar.
Being a lefty scribe is no easy thing. In fact, our teacher had placed a handout on top of Shelly’s and my course books laying out the problems and solutions to being a lefty scribe. The biggest problem is that, the author says, pens are like people: they don’t like to be pushed. Nibs don’t like it, and ink has a life of its own, requiring drying time, so moving your hand as you scribe away from ink, from left to right, makes generally much less mess than drawing your left hand over the ink as you move from left to write with your left hand over the paper. Smudgeroo. I had ink on my fingers, calligraphy gloves, and I smudged ink on several of my exercise sheets by the end of the class. I even asked Shelly before I left if I had ink on my face. I know myself well. I didn't learn much about the 'solutions' part of being a left scribe. That's next week's class.
I learned two other vital things in my first calligraphy class, which got me terrifically excited and looking forward to learning and not feeling so strange being a lefty once again in a righty world.
The first—Oh Em Gee who KNEW?!—is that calligraphy is not writing.
Yes, it is not. Our teacher told us calligraphy is not writing. But it’s not drawing, either, she said. It’s somewhere in between.
Here’s the problem with that: My handwriting sucks. (It’s really, really bad.) And...I can’t draw.
What chance do I stand to survive in Calligraphy City?
No one can answer that yet. Just because I come to calligraphy with two strikes against me—left-handedness coupled with bad handwriting and very low drawing skill—does not mean I can’t scribe a nice note to a loved one or address wedding invitations should someone ask. I won’t know till I try where calligraphy and I will go together as a team.
The second thing I learned yesterday—and Oh Em Gee who knew THIS, either?!—is that calligraphy has both a physical form and a meditative facet to it.
My ears perked up when my teacher said that. Form and meditation! Sounds...like...YOGA!! Yay.
First, she said, we do not scribe with our hands. We scribe with our bodies.
OH I CAN GET DOWN WITH THAT!
We have a posture to create for the health of our bodies as we sit hour after hour scribing. We have a posture that we create that we then position in relation to the paper and the table or surface upon which we are scribing. In particular, we scribe with our shoulders and arms. We need to gain muscle memory and forget our hands as tools for mere handwriting or (as in this case) mere click-click typing on a laptop keyboard.
We are capable of so much more!!!
Then--and this rocked my world completely--the only thing I really understood in our first three-hour lesson without jaw-dropping awe, is that--oh, and this part is meditation in motion!!—when we are moving the pen while scribing, we inhale on an upstroke and exhale on a downstroke.
I was very good at that, despite smudges and my lack of slant due to poor pen positioning....so I left feeling inspired. Down the pink stairs, past the hands reaching upward like the trees...
I have homework to do from now till next week, and I’ll do it! Yoga meets the ink.