IT professional Sachin Shah has a flair for writing that reflects in his stunning calligraphic creations
The writing on the wall
My earliest sources of inspiration were ancient manuscripts, which I used to study and research in the library. I am particularly inspired by the illuminated letters used in the manuscripts. I also find historic monuments and architecture inspiring, especially the inscriptions in Roman script. Nature and its colors also play a large role in all my creations.
It all started when I was studying electronics engineering in Mumbai – I found our journals very boring and technical, so I started decorating them with ornately styled titles. This led to my friends and classmates wanting to get their notebook covers styled by me as well, and gradually, my audience grew. And then I came across this beautiful book on calligraphy which I studied carefully. We had no tools back then so I started making my own. I also started teaching calligraphy with whatever little knowledge I had at that point. This happened for maybe six years, before I started working with an IT company and my calligraphy lay forgotten. However, a few years ago, I was inspired to pick up my pen and start writing again. There was no looking back.
That one pen, one bottle of ink, and one diary has grown into more than a hundred pens, a range of bottles of ink, and a whole closet of writing pads and sheets of paper.
Communicating through letters
Calligraphy is all about feeling the letters. I usually adopt this mindset when I get a new brief. What do the letters want to communicate, what feeling should the audience get when they see my calligraphy…and I try and incorporate that feeling into the final artwork. Although I use hundreds of different tools to write, I just love writing with broad dip nibs. The Gothic script is my favorite – I simply love the bold thicks and thins of the script.
I wouldn’t say that I am a self-taught calligrapher. My teachers have been Gothic and Romanesque text on monuments and other ancient historical sites. The challenges of not having a mentor, though, are numerous. Because I have no way to find out what works and what doesn’t, I experiment with a lot of things like new techniques or calligraphic tools. And many of my experiments are not successful. Having a mentor eliminates this experimentation. There is no need to try out different techniques or tools. But I do really feel that unless you experiment and fail, you don’t get better.
Travails of technology
My day job is as Vice President – Global Services, Thirdware Solution Ltd. in Mumbai. It’s quite difficult to balance my professional life and passionate pursuits, but I make it a point to write for at least an hour every day. Fortunately, my profession involves a lot of travel, so I try and catch up on calligraphy at airports and on flights. I am really proud of being associated with the Modern Reformation magazine where my designs were printed on the cover page and some inside double spreads.
I am concerned that the art of calligraphy will be soon forgotten in this digital world where you can quickly create fancy lettering on many apps
on an iPad. Being in the technology industry, I value the importance of digital tools, but many people are taking this up without sound understanding of the anatomy of letters, which you can get only when you write with your hand, and that too on paper or canvas – not on a screen. The joy of seeing wet ink from your nibs on a fresh paper is unparalleled.
Going forward, I want to spend more time teaching calligraphy. Our country doesn’t have a world class calligrapher simply because we don’t have direction and the right knowledge to pursue it. I would like to change that.
This article was originally published in POOL 97.
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