Closeup photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes on white paper using a big brush
Calligraphy Strokes in Black and Red
Last updated on November 4, 2020

Do you ever feel today the
call of the non-digital?
A desire for cunieform?
A hankering to learn the Tibetan Naxi Dongba script?
A regret that your handwriting has gone illegible?

Closeup photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes on white paper using a big brush
Calligraphy Strokes in Black and Red

This summer, I have been dedicating my non-earning-a-living days to learning HTML and CSS, the pixel world of the web. It is a world of grids and boxes-within-boxes and automatic wraps. Nice. Elegant.

Medium shot photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes  using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Calligraphy Strokes in Black and Red

And complicated like all get out once you get beyond the basics. Not that I do not love the logic of this; I do. The detective part of my brain finds it very satisfying. And it goes well with my love of Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, and all things interactive.

Medium shot photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes  using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Calligraphy Strokes in Black and Red

We know That the Tail

of a Garamond or Times New Roman letter calls to mind the calligraphy brush. Serif letters are partly about the soft or hard landings of letter strokes. These landings link to the adjacent letterforms and are still believed by many to make for easier reading than sans-serif letters.

Bob Wing rolling out white paper on the grass in preparation for making his big brush stroke.
Bob Wing Preparing Paper for Big Brush Calligraphy
Bob Wing cutting paper for calligraphy
Bob Wing Cutting Paper for Big Brush Calligraphy

However

the more pixels I count during my HTML/CSS days, the more I want to escape the box confinement. The digital world we inhabit today was not born of rounded shapes, body shapes, cell shapes, or star shapes. I sometimes miss those shapes shut out of my screen world. Nature is not square.

Medium shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke with red stroke painted by workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass where you also see the bare feet of the painter
Making the Final Red Calligraphy Stroke

Handwriting, Drawing & Brushwork

And so on July 25, 2005 I registered once again for a day working with Barbara Bash, well-known Big Brush calligrapher and Buddhist teacher. A remedial course for those of us still wanting to write, draw, or paint by hand.

Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by  workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Big Brush Stroke by Workshop Participant

Even though we love the digerati world, there can be something missing for us in days when we work only on digital devices. That something is working with the hand and pencil, hand and pen, hand and brush. I am not new to this path, having studied off and on with Bash since 2005, but I do forget and my handwriting is still illegible.

Long Medium shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke with red small stroke painted by Barbara Bash using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Big Brush Stroke by Barbara Bash

When Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche once said, ‘It is possible to make a brushstroke that expresses one’s whole life’ I took that to mean a very LARGE brushstroke. This was the beginning of my Big Brush practice.

Barbara Bash, Big Brush The Journey
Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by  workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Big Brush Stroke by Workshop Participant

Photographs in this Article

were taken at the week-long Big Brush Workshop held at Skylake Retreat Center in Rosendale New York July 2005.

Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by  Philip Foster using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
Big Brush Stroke by Philip Ellis Foster

This was a brush and sword workshop led by Barbara Bash and Bob WingThe big brush strokes were done by instructors and participants during the last day of the course.

Barbara Bash and Bob WIng: Instructors for the Big Brush  and Sword Workshop
Barbara Bash and Bob Wing

Gallery

Photographs from 2005 Big Brush Workshop held at Skylake Retreat Center in Rosendale New York © 2005 Barbara Kristaponis. All rights reserved.

  • Medium shot photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
  • Barbara Bash with a big brush and Bob WIng with this sword
  • Bob Wing rolling out white paper on the grass in preparation for making his big brush stroke.
  • Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
  • Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by Philip Foster using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
  • Long Medium shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke with red small stroke painted by Barbara Bash using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
  • Medium shot photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass
  • Closeup photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes on white paper using a big brush
  • Closeup photograph of red and black calligraphy strokes on white paper using a big brush
  • Bob Wing cutting paper for calligraphy
  • Medium shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke with red stroke painted by workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass where you also see the bare feet of the painter
  • Long shot photograph of black calligraphy stroke painted by workshop participant using a big brush on white paper outside on the grass

More Information


© Barbara Kristaponis 2014-2021. The Good Page.

7 thoughts on “Digital Type & the Brush

  1. So wonderful Barbara to gaze at this images from our workshop together and also take in your musings about hand and form and how we still long for the body shapes, the curves of nature . . . I feel it is possible to keeping finding ways to touch in, counterbalance, go deep onto the paper, into a conversation, into a moment. Thanks for your good thoughts about all this !

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  2. I love this Barbara, thanks for sharing! Especially the quote “It is possible to make a brushstroke that expresses one’s whole life” vs. the digital necessity of our daily lives. You’re right in that we inhabit round shapes and yet we’re taught about straight lines and boxes (and we most learn them to succeed!). This looks gorgeous and also fun!

    Like

  3. I am reminded of the classes I sat in with Marshall McLuhan at the University of Toronto some years ago. Especially 2 frequent statements.

    The media is the message. Hence different media, different messages.

    The content of new media is old media. Hence the blog about brush strokes.

    Like

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