Last fall, I had the privilege to sit with Zakariya hoca to talk about calligraphy and his experiences. But he shared with me more than just calligraphy. We talked about languages, poetry, past and current masters of this art, literature and of course calligraphy! For the next few months I will be sharing with you snippets of our conversation.
Benjamin Franklin once said, “energy and persistence conquers all things.” If there is a calligrapher that embodies those words, Shahryanshah Sirajuddin is one. We begin a new year of artist profiles with someone whose determination and love of calligraphy brought him to Turkey, all the way from Indonesia. His sincere journey to learn the art of calligraphy is an inspiration for us living in the west where classes and teachers are not so readily available. His story teaches us that with persistence and energy any creative skill, not matter how overwhelming, can be learned.
Spending years studying Arabic, living and working in the Middle East, I was familiar with the Arabic alphabet and calligraphy, but always figured that it was too hard to learn -- after all, even writing in Arabic was difficult for me, much less cultivating the patience and fortitude to master penmanship in another language. Especially since I am not artistically inclined, I balked at first.
Geometry is a universal language, and Islamic geometric design resonates/speaks to people, regardless of age, background, etc. I see this all the time in my workshops. People of course appreciate the beauty of Islamic geometric design, but it is also the ability they can develop to ‘read’ it, to understand it, that is enlightening.
In the art of calligraphy, the measure of the letters is also very important. A calligraphy artist works for years to write according to these measures. So, you cannot enlarge or shrink the letters as you wish, you cannot shorten them or elongate them as you feel. There are countless rules. But these rules further enhance the taste of this art.
I think the inspiration to follow this path has been fueled by a desire to be fulfilled creatively and spiritually. The practice of Islamic art combines these elements so completely, and in such beautiful ways, I’m sure I’ll always be learning more and creating more. The learning never stops, and the possibilities are infinite.
In his book, Outliers, pop psych writer Malcolm Gladwell said it takes approximately 10,000 hours of “deliberate practice” to achieve mastery in any field. Now this may or may not apply to every discipline, but in my opinion extended hours of practice is certainly needed in fields like art, music and sports. So, how long would it take to master roughly 16 different skills?