I will describe in this post the different methods that I use to create figurative designs.
A figurative design in calligraphy is a design that is made with letters and represents a recognizable figure like an animal, a face, an object or any other element such as a moon, a star or a drop.
Method 1: Simple filling
This method has been used in much traditional calligraphy and consists in writing words and sentences inside a single zone. In such creation, you can still feel that most of the focus is in writing beautiful letters that perfectly fits with the traditional rules.
Method 2: the “Andy Warhol’s” approach
This method is used in modern calligraphy in order to give more emphasis to the figure that is represented. The best way to explain this technique is to make an analogy with Andy Warhol’s work.
If you look at the portraits he made, he usually picks up 3 or 4 colors to represent a character. Each color is covering a zone. You can apply those same principle to calligraphy.
How does it work?
In calligraphy, you can select different size of pens and use different fonts in order to define a texture. The texture can be very compact or airy. By having a palette of texture, you can also define zones in a figure and apply a different texture for each zone.
This way, you will create a figure only with letters. This technique is often used for figuration in modern calligraphy.
Method 3: the “matching” approach
This method is the one that provides the most organic calligraphies, where the realism is maximized through an effort to have the letter and the figure matching. This possibility comes from the structures of letters which have both a free and a constrained shape. If you look at letters from a pure geometrical point of view, you will realize that some are rather vertical, others horizontal, circular or more compact. At the level of a word or a sentence, the combination of those directions allows a lot of flexibility when you start composing shapes.
Let’s take the example of a Lion. The lines shaping the Lion have a numerous type of directions – a combination of vertical, horizontal, circular and oval lines. Each element of line can find a correspondence with the component of a letter.
The work of the calligrapher is to find the good match. With experience, you can find matches on 99% of the figure. The idea is then to fit it. Some words and shapes are easily compatible. Others are more complex.