Nuria Garcia Masip is among the very few celebrated female calligraphers of our time. Her work exudes beauty, balance and effortless mastery.
Nuria is originally from Spain, but she studied with various master calligraphers, including American calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya and great Turkish masters Hasan Celebi and Davut Bektas. Nuria has exhibited and held workshops all over the world and has won several accolades for her art.
She is an inspiration. And, one of my favorite calligraphers. When she agreed recently to do an interview with me, I was very excited to hear of her experiences as a master calligrapher and get some helpful insights for our Scripts ’n’ Scribes students and visitors.
If you were to advise a calligraphy student about what it takes to become a master calligrapher and produce good work, what would you say are the three most important things?
I would say the essential thing is to be in love with calligraphy, to be "ashik" is what will help the students love every minute of the process, persevere and go through to the end, no matter the hardship. If this deep love is not there then the student will give up at some point. The next essential thing, which usually comes as a result of the first, is to find a true teacher belonging to the long lineage of calligraphers who can guide us through this path.
For a student just starting out what is the most important thing that they can do right away?
Find a teacher and then try to make calligraphy part of your daily practice. There are three types of practice: meshk "amali", writing and practicing your lesson, meshk "nazari", examining examples of good calligraphy (by this I mean the masterpieces of old masters) and meshk "hayali", imagining and tracing the letters in your mind's eye when you close your eyes. All these ways of doing meshk are important and will help the student greatly.
What inspires you to come up with your compositions?
I find a verse I like and then comes a lot of hard work and preliminary sketches. Some calligraphers choose texts because the letters already lend themselves easily to a composition, I tend to work the other way. If the verse inspires me, then I will work with it and see what comes out...sometimes it comes more easily than others, sometimes I have to change the whole concept, it depends.
What were some of your biggest challenges while studying calligraphy?
There were many challenges. I guess the biggest one is to just persevere through the whole process and not to think about results, just the learning. I remember once I burned my hand trying to put out a small fire a candle had caused near my work. The electricity had gone out and I was working by candle light. A paper towel caught on fire and I was so worried it would burn my meshk I instinctively put it out with my bare hands. I wasn't able to write for about a week and I remember feeling so incredibly sad, realizing the blessing of having a healthy hand in the light of my practice...it also taught me the importance of balance.
Who are your favorite calligraphers?
There are many, but apart from usual models we follow of Sevki Efendi, Sami Efendi and Nazif Efendi, I love Halim Efendi, Hamid Aytaç, Mahmoud Celaleddin, Kamil Akdik... There is also a very special place for Ahmad Karahisari.
Gallery of Nuria's work (courtesy of nuriaart.com)