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The New Calligraphy: Brushstrokes Into Pictures 2019-2021

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

With a cursory glance through my literary output this year, I found that this (my most recently-published offering) was indeed, something I had forgotten to write about.

I’ve self-published four books about my own art this year (I work in different media - various permutations of handpainted, and digital work), and I usually submit an article about each book at the same time that I publish it, but somehow, this one escaped me - I’d missed it out! I can’t let you go away without the lowdown on this one, so without further ado, let’s crack on:

“The New Calligraphy” evolved from some work I made doing two-handed Chinese brush painting. I acquired identically sized pairs of Chinese brushes, some outsize sheets of paper, and practised painting mirror-images ambidextrously. That is to say, hands/ arms/ brushes would move simultaneously, in a mirror-image of each other.

For me , it was a curious and rather delightful way to work, and one way of getting my brain, and both sides of my body, to work in sync. I’m a bit of on odd case, in that ostensibly, I am a right-handed writer, draughtsman and painter. I cannot replicate these fine motor skills or control with my left hand, for toffee. However, this is untrue for me in the sports field; this is where arm strength comes in. Bizarrely, I am a left-handed archer (I possess a bow for horse archery, which unlike your conventional bow, enables one to shoot from both sides); and also, a left-handed golfer (an erstwhile coach, was more impressed by my left-handed whack, than my right).

So for me, there was something of a philosophy behind this Chinese brush painting; it was not exactly Zen, but as near as would tame my flea-like attention span. Not content with too much symmetry, I’d mix things up a bit, sploshing a different colour with each brush here and there, or adding some other surprise element.

However, there came a time where I needed to take the making of the imagery a step further. By nature, I like my work to be very exacting, pedantic, neat and detailed. I likely have rampant OCD. Some people love a simple, broad-brush, hand-drawn approach; I, am more one of those people who likes things to be broken down into a hundred thousand, million facets.

I have this strange, subliminal, almost perverse liking, for things to be complicated; something which, don’t I know it, also plays out in my life at large. (If you’ve seen my other digital work, in my book “The New Barghello” , you will understand exactly what I mean; I’d also recommend some of the paintings I made of graffiti walls, in my publication “Pop-Urban” ).

In my desire to computerize this process of brush drawing in some way, I had the great good fortune to stumble upon a touchscreen drawing app, which enabled me to draw with my finger on my tablet, with a variety of brushes and effects. So, to some degree, I was able to replicate the arm movement of the Chinese brush drawing. The app also had the facility of being able to draw in mirror image (or not, as the case might be), cutting and pasting, and a plethora of effects.

I principally used hard-edged, broad brushes in my work; they approximated best to the Chinese brushes I had been using. They gave the crispness and clarity which I had been looking for, and which was reminiscent of calligraphic letters. I wasn’t after just doing calligraphy, however. I appreciate the value of practising letterforms over and over again, and the way in which calligraphy can take on a pictorial quality where, say a geometric image or other visual element is made up from words; but I thought, ***why not just dispense with words altogether, and make pictures out of the random strokes; let the pictures talk for themselves?***

So, it was, that this extravaganza of images I was building up, evolved into a magical tour in its own right. I started off with relatively simple, abstract, “mock-Chinese” calligraphic figures - which incidentally, mean absolutely nothing; they are just me playing, and having fun.

I am sure people will be pleasantly surprised, and not disappointed, to see some drawings of natural forms in this book (it has, after all, been a while since my book “Drawing and Painting Plants” , back in 2006). There are images such as orchids (drawn from photographs of orchids, taken at a secret and undisclosed place in Surrey). There are morpho and swallowtail halfsider butterflies (I have a fascination with “halfsider” creatures - especially where, in butterflies, each wing is a different colour), rendered in such a way as to capture the brilliance and iridescence of their wings. There are glowing beetles, as well as a sparkling, multifaceted geode. There are illustrations of tiny peacock spiders, covered with thousands of hairs, loosely based on the photographs of peacock spider expert Juergen Otto. And lastly, there are drawings of microscopic organisms, made from my own actual sketches under the microscope - where the glass shells of radiolarians are shown with perfect depth, through the multilayering of literally hundreds of pen strokes.

Elsewhere, there are Indonesian masks, the Green Man, and Janus; Chinese lanterns, pushmi-pullyu-style horses, and figures of alien-like neon dancers, based on a London “neon” Life Drawing class, where models are decorated with neon dust, paint and accessories, before being let loose on the class to draw!

So, this is my latest book of art; by default, it will have to be the last one for this year, since I shall have to do some more new work soon. As ever, I am not short of ideas; so, feast your eyes for the time being, and I aim to be back with more work when the time is right.

You can buy the book here at:

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