Ink Movement, a national nonprofit organization led by youth to help emerging artists in showcasing their creativity, hosted an “Intro to Calligraphy” workshop as part of their “Fall Into Art” series.
Throughout November, Ink Movement presented three free workshops: Flipbook Creation, Smartphone Photography/Videography, and Intro to Calligraphy, which took place in the Glass Pavilion at the Mississauga Central Library.
I walked in with the assumption that I will be one of a few attendees at the event. Does calligraphy interest youth nowadays, anyway? To my surprise, it was a full house.
The workshop coordinators presented facilitator Steve Cjazka, who has been practicing calligraphy since 1980 and digital arts and design since the mid-1990s. Czajka is a Mississauga local, but he teaches calligraphy around the world. His artwork has been showcased on TV and in books, magazines, galleries, and on murals.
Cjazka took the stage to share a story about his beginnings with calligraphy.
“My father performed calligraphy his entire life. He ran his own business in calligraphy, and he inspired me to take a calligraphy course, which I did. I was probably [in] grade school at the time,” said Cjazka. “Calligraphy is something that can live with you for the rest of your life.”
Cjazka explained that it’s difficult to teach an introduction course in two hours, since normal introductory calligraphy courses are around six weeks. And so Cjazka opted to show us how it’s done instead.
The audience faced a 8’ x 4’ board on which Cjazka wrote the first stanza of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Raven”.
After the demonstration, the event organizers provided the audience with an easel to practice on.
I was slightly disappointed with the lack of interaction between Cjazka and the audience.
In a room of about 40 people, only a handful walked up to the easel and attempted a letter or two. The rest of us stayed in our seats and watched as Cjazka created his piece. I learned that if there’s one thing that you do not pick up and learn by sight, it is calligraphy.
After completing two verses, Cjazka informed the audience about the history of calligraphy.
Caligraphy has many forms, including unicial calligraphy and other forms that primarily focus on other parts of the world, such as Middle Eastern calligraphy.
There’s a particular methodology to gothic calligraphy.
“The way calligraphy works is that it’s based on the width of the letter in relation to its x-height,” Cjazka said as he took to the easel to display the typography of calligraphy. X-height show us how the lowercase letters are spaced in comparison to uppercase letters.
“The gothic system uses strokes, which forms the basis of pretty much all gothic letters,” he continued, adding that gothic calligraphy was previously used mainly for religious texts.
Cjazka ended his talk with the demise of calligraphy, blaming it on the rise of the printing press.
Curious to learn more, I approached Cjazka, asking what calligraphy means to him.
“Think of everything we have today in our society,” he said. “Everything we have today is based on our ability to communicate with one another. Calligraphy marked the first form of communication that allowed one generation to pass down ideas to the next, and so on.
“If it weren’t for calligraphy, we wouldn’t have a civilized society today because we would have never been able to communicate.”