The Art of Calligraphy and Lettering: Shapes, Volumes & Dimensions

Calligraphy and lettering are forms of art almost as old as the invention of the written language itself. Both bridge the plain form of written language with intricate illustrations. Calligraphy and lettering are complex and detailed in all its shapes, volumes and dimensions. Let’s take a look at the art of calligraphy and lettering from its inception to today.
Featured image: Zhang Huan – Family Tree, 2000

Calligraphy and lettering are terms related to visual art just as much as they are to writing. They are designed with many techniques and a diversity of instruments, from brushes to pens – all tipped to create this expressive, highly visually pleasing language  

While in today’s form, calligraphy and lettering can both be readable and not readable, classic calligraphy and lettering styles are very much in vogue for everything from tattoos to wedding invitations, logos to book covers, murals to prints and paintings – and for formal and informal documents such as certificates and maps. Lettering and calligraphy create images and illustrations that are neither just text nor just basic information – they further push the envelope of what each can be.   

Many of us are familiar with the Asian art of calligraphy, Chinese and Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese. While they are some of the most popular forms of calligraphy and have a very long history, almost every part of the world has its very own history of calligraphy. Visually striking written language seems to have captured the Western world’s imagination. Symbols are cryptic and appear in a choreographic gesture of the well-trained hands effortlessly. Chinese calligraphy appears to be the pack leader that influenced other forms of calligraphy, for example, Mongolian calligraphy: they are both created from ink and are brushed. It is interesting to mention that Tibetan calligraphy seems to be more closely related to Arab and Roman calligraphy.   

Europe emerged from a Latin tradition of calligraphy. This type of calligraphy refers to Roman lettering and includes Gothic lettering, too. In contrast to Asian calligraphy, the tools used are more constrictive and less flexible while still producing convoluted shapes. It is important to note that the calligraphy flow remains key, while the readability or the consistency in shape and size raises its artistic merits  

Arabic calligraphy is another famous family of calligraphy, and it has evolved with Islam and the Arabic language. Istanbul’s city is an open sky homage to the art of Arabic calligraphy, as one can find it engraved in stone, painted on building and vehicles. This beautiful calligraphy can be found almost everywhere in the city, from essential churches and landmarks to the most modest shops.   

After the 15th century, one can see a decline in a handwritten illuminated manuscript, yet printing didn’t spell the death of calligraphy. The 19th century seems to have brought a renewal of interest into this art form. With the technological advancement that is currently possible thanks to the many Adobe products, as well as computers, screens, tablets and graphic tablets that have all come to be forms of artistic tools, it’s fair to say that calligraphy will only continue to increase in popularity both due to more effective and more accurate means of production as well as the fascination in the vintage 

In conclusion, while we sometimes refer to lettering and calligraphy as one single art form, they are both quite distinctive. Many books, articles, and scholars work tirelessly to highlight the difference between calligraphy, lettering, and typography. Still, the lines remain blurred, and not everybody agrees on what separates them from the other. Only the test of time might solve this confusion. Meanwhile, our eyes will continue to feast on these visually pleasing and delightfully intricate letters.   


We love to highlight art forms that might not be as recognised as others, and we feel that it is important to shine a light on members of our community. We have many adopters who are incredibly well versed in this unique art form, and today we’d in particular like to focus on four of them:   

Calligraphia Calligraphia offers calligraphy courses for any levels of experience, from young beginners to experienced calligraphers. Calligraphia appeared on the San Francisco art scene in 2020 and have since taken part in several collaborative projects and exhibited their work far and wide. Calligraphia have their own approach and definition of art, as they like living on the edge and constantly take risks. 

Visit their .art website, calligraphia.art, or their Instagram @calligraphia.sonia to get to know more about their work and courses.  

Chloe Vo Based in Sài Gòn, Vietnam, the talented Chloe Vo has a keen interest in anything related to letters – hand-lettering, calligraphy, and typography. Currently pursuing Graphic Design studies at Maryland Institute College of Art, she is extending her knowledge to help progress her work. Calligraphy and hand-lettering are considered obsolete by some, but Chloe Vo uses the popularity of visual platforms such as Instagram to show the fresh relevance they have taken on and still have today.  

To find out more about her work, you can head to her .art website chloevo.art or follow her on Instagram @chloev_art 

Florem Ipsum Natalia Stolarska is behind Florem Ipsum, an online portfolio and blog. A freelance illustrator from Poznan, Poland, her style has been described as whimsical, immersive and full of hidden meanings. She has had several awesome opportunities in her career thanks to her great talent. Natalia worked as a corporate graphic artist, created posters and leaflets, and designed logos and even a book cover. Her illustrative letterings act as illustrations; each letter has a unique shape and role to play.  

To see it yourself, pay her website floremipsum.art a visit or follow her Instagram @floremipsum_. 

Tolga Girgin Turkish .ART adopter Tolga Girgin has an interesting life to say the least. An electrical engineer during by day and a visual artist by night, he began sharing his calligraphy and lettering works in 2014. His encounters with pioneers of calligraphy, such as Erhan Olcay and Savaş Çevik, have helped him better his knowledge and practice. In fact, not only does Tolga Girgin produce classical and modern calligraphy, but he also creates stunning three-dimensional anamorphic lettering and calligraphy works, where letters look like they are standing and leaping off the page.  

You can discover more about his calligraphy artwork on his website tolgagirgin.art or by looking at his work on Instagram under @tolgagirgin99.  


ABOUT THIS SECTION  

.ART Domains are dedicated to connecting, empowering, and supporting our vibrant community. We care about fostering a sense of belonging to the art world, and this new section celebrates creators that have recently joined.ART. This is our way to give back and shine a light on the work of amazing creatives, especially in these testing times! If you would like to be featured, please have a look at our submission guidelines here 

.ART Team
.ART Team
members are global citizens with interests ranging from art history to social justice. If we had an office cat we would have called it Basquiat.