How did you get into calligraphy?
I started at a young age with general interest in painting, model-making and calligraphy. Calligraphy then took my full attention.
What are the 3 main rules of calligraphy?
There are no rules as such, but in general mastering calligraphy needs dedication, continuous practice and training of the eye and hand. This is applicable to all forms of visual art.
What’s been your favourite thing to write out?
Poems and quotes have a significant richness in content and meaning, that’s why they are a go-to resource of copy to use in calligraphy artwork. Traditionally though Quranic verses are the mostly represented in calligraphy all the time.
I was surprised to read that calligraphers need to train too!
Of course, it’s a very intricate craft and needs regular training. Arabic calligraphy, in particular, is complex and requires many years to master.
Can you make a career out of calligraphy?
That depends on other socio-economical and cultural factors. A master calligrapher with the right exposure and connections can definitely make a living out of calligraphy. Mediocre calligraphers can too, if they have good network and connections regardless of their artistic skills.
Do you need a great handwriting to become a calligraphy artist?
Not necessarily. Calligraphy is closer to high-detail drawing rather than regular handwriting. It is a different mood and mental set when you do a calligraphy piece compared to writing a normal letter for example.
The art has been called therapeutic. Do you find it helps you relax?
Yes, the level of focus and movement control it requires makes it similar to meditation.
Do you obsess over your art?
It is very important of course for me. And the fact that I spend long days or weeks working on each piece makes it very valuable and special.
Do you consider calligraphy a dying art?
No, I don’t think it is. There are many young calligraphers who emerge all the time.
Is it now necessary to combine the art of calligraphy with modern artistic expressions?
Of course, and actually there have been many attempts in that direction since the mid 20th century. I started a few years ago with a new body of work that represents calligraphy as a pure form of abstract art, and it has a unique characteristic.
New royal Meghan Markle had a side job as a calligrapher! Do you feel the art came back into the spotlight after that particular revelation?
Not really – maybe this news will apply to a specific audience but calligraphy, lettering, and typography have been under the spotlight for so long. In the west, calligraphy started to catch up again in the past 10 years via social media while typography is part of graphic design practice since the beginning.
Are hand cramps and other physical strains all too common for you?
No and it should not be. I think that is related more to how the calligrapher is taking care of their general health and condition and how they manage the stress of their work.
What inspires you?
Everything around me can be a source of inspiration. I find motion, music and change very inspirational. Also the shapes of the dunes and waves have this visual value that I relate to.
What importance do you think calligraphy holds in today’s digital age, where we write mostly onto screens?
Calligraphy is becoming more of a form of art and novel craft. It’s not about writing or copying books nowadays and not just because of the computers but it’s also due to the technology of printing, which was invented hundreds of years ago. Calligraphy now is about making words look unique and beautiful, and in some cases abstract, rather than making them legible.
What advise do you have for those who would like to pursue calligraphy?
Patience and studying on regular basis. A lot of practice and dedication. It’s a demanding field.
Majid will be holding sessions through September on calligraphy basics and Arabic calligraphy. Visit www.tashkeel.org/workshops.