The social media wave is often reprimanded for its downsides, but one of the many good things it has brought into focus and given the right attention to is art. With Instagram and Pinterest, there is now a newfound appreciation for the creativity of all forms. This helps people become more inclined towards and be inspired to find creativity within themselves. It is also helping artists build a platform where they can create and receive recognition, love, and support. One such artist is Surbhi.
Surbhi practices teach, and masters in the art of brush calligraphy. She has an Instagram account called Letterati, which has over 21k followers. She posts tutorials of her strokes on her social media. She also organizes workshops wherein she teaches brush calligraphy right from the basics and guides you to become the best you can be with practice and consistency.
During an Instagram Live with us, Surbhi told us all about her journey, experience, work, and passion.
Surbhi’s Journey with Art
As a kid, I was pretty studious, but I was always inclined to art. The projects that we were given during summer vacations were such a burden for other students. But for me, that was the part of education that I truly enjoyed. Though I put my heart and soul into both art and studies, I realized much later that one path pulled my heart towards its direction.
Even during graduation, when I was doing Bachelor’s in mathematics, I realized something else I loved more; calligraphy. I thought that it would be unfair if I don’t give this new found love a chance. That is why I decided to take a few years to experiment and see what it is like to do something that is not mathematics.
On Choosing Calligraphy As Her Path
It has always been a letter for me. Even before I knew calligraphy existed as an art form, I would put so much effort into designing cards creatively, making each letter beautiful and unique. Initially, I would look up designs on Pinterest and copy that. Later, when I found an entire world of calligraphy out there, I realized I could put a name to what I loved doing so much.
I remember starting with blending. Every day, I would discover new designs. There was still a lot to be learned, and I was very excited to get into it.
On Practising Incessantly
An artist is always a student. We are all works in progress. Recently I got an injury in my arm, and my doctor has advised me not to do any lettering. I am pretty bummed about not practicing, but I am patient and can’t wait to get back to it.
Calligraphy is a journey. It is important to practice, grow, make mistakes, learn, and self-analyze constantly. Once you start the journey, you can only get better. Even in the workshops I organize, I hand out assignments for the students to work on. We review those assignments and discuss ways for them to improve on their own.
On Choosing An Out-of-the-Box Career
My friends have been real sweethearts about what I do. They are always supportive and motivating. Coming to my parents, my mom always knew how crazy I was about art. When I was a kid, after exams got over, I would go to the stationery shop with my mother instead of celebrating by watching a movie like my friends. That was my way of “chilling.” My dad found it a little unconventional initially. But it took less than a month for him to be convinced that I was passionate and ambitious about this work.
In India, it’s scary to do anything besides mainstream jobs such as medicine or engineering. And that makes sense because we all want a stable life free of risks. I used to be like that, too. And when I started, I didn’t have an intention to do this full time. But with time, I realized that this makes the most sense to me. It was my calling, so I listened to it.
Recognition of Calligraphy in India
In India, the main script we have is Devanagari, which some of us artists are doing. The most popular forms of calligraphy are brush lettering and copper plate, which are both western. I believe that if there are enough good people; it is just a matter of time before becoming popular here.
The credit truly goes to the artists and the admirers. While the artists are doing their work by creating and spreading the pleasant word about it, the admirers are taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate a new art form, go through their Instagram account, maybe have a conversation with them. That’s how we can keep an art form alive and help it flourish.
Another parameter to judge how popular brush calligraphy is becoming in India is the availability of tools. When I started, even Tombow brush pens were difficult to find; pentel brush pens were not available in India, Karin Markers weren’t even heard of yet. But with time, the market grew. Now, all premium stationery is available in India.
However, there are some misconceptions surrounding calligraphy. When we say calligraphy, most people picture an inkpot, quill, and a lot of apparatus, which is not handy. But in reality, calligraphy can be practiced even by using a basic sketch pen.
Birth of “Letterati”
My friend came up with this name for my Instagram page. I thought it had a nice flow to it, and it was unique, so I kept it. The account started as just my happy place. I was just a little girl who goes to college and does assignments every day and then takes out an hour or two for what she loves doing. It was the encouragement and love that I received which pushed me to pursue this full-time. Thankfully, even after making a career out of this, the account is still my happy place.
Developing A Personal Style
We are all taught to write the same way when we are kids. But gradually, each of us develops distinct handwriting. It’s the same with calligraphy. In modern calligraphy, we also give a personal identity to the letters even in traditional scripts. I know that I can differentiate between my copperplate script and someone else’s. Our letters may look the same, but there will be an individual style unique to us.
It’s a misconception that we can’t give a personal style and add a touch of authenticity to traditional scripts because of a defined set of rules. To develop a personal style, practice is a good strategy. Another way to achieve it is by trying to letter the same alphabet or word in multiple ways and choosing one that most resembles your personality and style.
On How Calligraphy Can Be Used To Deliver A Message
Calligraphy is not just words. The strokes are designed, sharpened, colored can all be used to express emotions behind the words. For instance, soft curves can give a cool and breezy aesthetic, while sharp edges give an intense appeal. It is all about how you use the letters.
The basic key to understanding calligraphy as an art form is not to think about it as a mode of communication or just letters; think about it as a general shape. We can add flourishes, curves, edges, sharpness, roundness to these shapes to deliver the required message.
On Teaching Calligraphy
I am an over-explainer by nature, so that may have been where my passion for teaching came from. Many people texted me, asking me to teach them a particular word I lettered or stroke I made when I started. That also pushed me towards organizing workshops and start teaching professionally.
Now, I am also trying to look for more ways of doing this. For instance, I have started designing logos. Looking into more ways of doing what you love is the organic way growth happened to me.
Difference Between Teaching Online And Offline
During offline workshops, I would take in 20-25 students. Because then, it was easy for me to focus on them individually. But in online workshops, I try not to take more than 5 students to make sure that everyone who signed up is personally connected to me. Both my students feel the same connection to me, whether online or offline. And that happens because I put a conscious effort into building it; I think that helps my students be more encouraged to learn.
Personally, I am thrilled even with the online mode of teaching. There is a lot of hassle in offline classes with finding a venue and booking a time slot. In online classes, we can have long sessions where there are Q&As, one on ones, and special attention. As long as we adapt and modify ourselves to keep up, both classes can be beneficial and fun.
On The Importance Of Tools
It’s completely okay to start with the most basic tools. For brush calligraphy, you can try using just a sketch pen or a Camlin Brush Pen. You don’t have to buy the fanciest tools right off the gate; besides, before investing in an expensive, high-quality tool, it’s important to make sure that your interest lies there.
Surbhi is a prime example of how passion can be found at any stage of life, usually when it is least expected, and when it happens, it’s always worth it to give it a chance.
Click here to check out the Instagram live, and listen in on Surbhi’s words of wisdom, expertise, tips, and tricks first hand.