Are you sitting comfortably?
Professional calligrapher Janet Smith shares some of her favourite tips from sitting comfortably to having a break from your calligraphy!
If you’re of a certain age, you may recognise that phrase, from the start of Listen With Mother, a 15 minute radio show filled with children’s stories and songs. Even if you don’t remember the programme, the phrase has slipped into everyday use. The idea of the calming voice was to get the pre-school children to sit quietly and get the most from the programme. (I’m not saying that was always what happened, but that was the intention!)
In calligraphy and in all creative pursuits, we’d do well to heed that advice. Our success in whatever we’re doing comes not only from the skills and the materials enabling the task in hand, but how we’ve prepared ourselves.
It’s really all about planning – planning to give yourself the best chance to get absorbed into your creative pursuit, with as much of your brainpower as possible focused on what you’re doing. This is expressed well in a British Army Adage used widely in business too, known as the 7 Ps.
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Painfully Poor Production
Much of what follows is common sense and you’ll know about it. As you have a read, I want you to be thinking “Do I really DO that? Or do I just recognise that it’s a good idea?”
So, if you’re sitting comfortably, I shall begin.
Not everyone has the luxury of their own studio space – but that doesn’t mean you don’t have your own space, even if it’s half the kitchen table, available only when supper’s finished.
When you’re settling down to do calligraphy, try and make sure that your space is dedicated to calligraphy. If you put that unpaid bill or that kitchenware magazine into your workspace, it’s going to distract you. Put it to one side and deal with it when you’re not doing calligraphy.
If you’re not comfortable, you won’t write at your best. One of my favourite calligraphy tutors used to say that her piano teacher told her that you play the piano with your feet. That wasn’t a critique of her style (!) but a comment that if you sit in a balanced way, with both feet flat on the floor, you’ll give your upper body the best chance of performing as you want it to.
This is so true for calligraphy. I do see people in workshops sitting scrunched up, legs crossed, head off to one side of their board. In most cases they’ve got so absorbed that they didn’t notice what they were doing, and appreciate the chance to untangle themselves. Occasionally people say they’re more comfortable like that – and that’s fine.
Try sitting so that your feet are comfortably on the floor in front of you, back is straight and your shoulders are parallel to the edge of the table.
Assuming that feels comfortable, think about how you can set yourself up to write with the minimum number of adjustments to this posture.
Where’s my stuff?
Put the things you’re going to be using – pen, ink, brush, cloth etc. within easy reach. If you’re right handed and dipping your pen, you’ll want your ink on the right. But if you’re filling it with a brush, you’re probably holding the brush in your left hand, so have the ink on the left.
If you’re copying out some words, or using an exemplar, have them so that you just need to glance across to see them. (If you’re writing a poem that’s in a book, maybe copy it one a sheet of paper that you can tape it to your board).