Four years ago- in the midst of a stressful and fast paced life of a tax associate in an auditing firm, I come across a beautiful typography in Tumblr – I think it was Abbey Sy’s Tumblr account with the quote from John Green’s Looking for Alaska. I enjoyed looking at it (it also immensely influenced my reading list!) and for a time I thought I would only look at it.
And then suddenly I felt a nudge in my heart telling me that I want to do it too. I soon began doodling typographies whenever i’m stressed in my work area or just to start my day. It felt good but I know it was still a child’s play.
The more I got engrossed with it the more I wanted it. This soon became a quest to attend type exhibits where I saw works of Risa Rodil and CJ de Silva but it also opened another door: Alexis Ventura’s calligraphy.
That was the beginning of it. I soon began writing calligraphy using only my gel pen- I didn’t know what pen to use- I just shaded thick parts and boom! I thought it was done. I didn’t even know that the upward stroke must be thin and down stroke should be thick! I knew I was lacking so I attended a 3-hour workshop in Alabang (all the way from north) to know what pen to use and how to do it.
After that workshop- I remember all my dreams flowing down the drain. I cannot work on nibs and ink! I tear the paper when making thick lines and I splatter ink whenever I make round strokes. I didn’t even practice more. Needless to say – I failed at it! I stored my nibs and ink in the bottom of my things that will be labeled “things i want to do but i am not made for it”. I thought that was the end of it.
I turned my attention back to typographies. For a year it was good – it felt like I was doing what I want but I know I am still far from what I want and I’ll always find myself beginning to make calligraphy strokes and swirls and shading. So I guess that’s that. I’ll be making calligraphies using gel pen and shading only the thick parts. I thought I’ll be shading for the rest of my life.
But then I became frustrated why other people can do it but I can’t. So I decided to take a leap of faith.
Last year, I ordered online a calligraphy starter kit. I was working outside of the auditing firm now and a lot of time in my hands. I still have a nagging feeling that my money would go to waste. But I said to my heart to hell with it! I’ll just take one last try and if it will not work out i am going to finish this forever.
I soon began writing abcds like a kinder starting how to write. It was not an easy feat. I always has to scramble patience whenever I get so frustrated in doing what i can’t. And I also am not very good in practicing. I will do it for a week and left it to rot for months. I have a love and hate relationship with nibs and ink! I am not always doing my drills like most calligraphists do. But once in a while- I will feel a lightbulb blinking in my head and I just knew I had to write something. So I write. And practiced. And did some more.
When you catch your mouth mid-open while doing something- that’s when you know you’re doing what you love in all its fullness.
That’s what it’s like for me. I will stare at others’ swirls longingly wishing I could write more beautifully and will practice till I get it right. Or what I feel was right.
I didn’t realise that it was only a year since I’ve taken that leap of faith- that just one chance and then if it doesn’t workout I’ll forget it completely and look where it got me now? I was able to work on what my heart nudges me to do. And I am grateful for it. I didn’t even know I could write like my heroes do.
I guess the true sense of fulfilment in a calligraphist is not in other people sending you airs of appreciation whenever you’ve done something great – it is your writing sending waves of happiness to people whenever they see your calligraphy. That was what made me so happy last night. Because I never expected it! I didn’t even realise it can make others happy – I thought all along I’m just doing this for myself! (flashback to me writing all of their names and me thinking “why am I doing this?” “why did I land myself on this predicament?” and “oh no, nakakapagod pala siya but I have to finish what I started!”)
And I never felt so fulfilled in my calligraphy journey than last night.
Shiawase. And I remember a quote from Eleanor and Park: “Art was not supposed to look nice – it was supposed to make you feel something”. And I guess it did make them feel something.