Calligraphy Lessons at the Sackler Gallery of Art

Feedloader (Clickability)

With a steady hand, Oman calligrapher Abdullah al Waili demonstrated how to write in Arabic script to a packed room at the Sackler Gallery of Art.

He and Aishah Holland, a U.S.-based calligrapher, led the ImaginAsia program about Arabic calligraphy, which will be taught again today and tomorrow at 2 PM in the second-floor Sackler classroom.

As al Waili wrote the flowing script, Holland presented a short history of Arabic calligraphy styles. "Most of the letters join, just like English script. Arabic script is very much like music, it has a style and a rhythm to it," she says.

The rise of Arabic calligraphy as art is closely connected with the Islamic faith. Calligraphy was, and still is, considered a way to represent God by writing the words of the Koran, the Muslim holy text, she adds.

After her presentation, Holland walked around the room helping children and adults alike make the letters of the Arabic alphabet.

Interested in trying it yourself? Here are five tips for beginning Arabic calligraphy:

1. Use a natural wood pen—in this case, a popsicle stick with shaved nib (tip)—that resembles the reeds and bamboo that calligraphers often use.

2. Put yarn in the inkwell to soak up the ink so that you don't put too much on the pen.

3. Write on a soft surface. At the workshop, participants were given smooth-sided paper (not from the printer) and placed a thin piece of stiff foam underneath it.

4. Begin by writing dots, which in the Arabic script look more like diamonds.

5. Have fun! While Arabic calligraphy requires patience, the sweeping lines and flourishes make for a one-of-a-kind creative experience.

If you want personal instruction or more tips from al Waili and Holland, check out the program this afternoon or tomorrow!

This event was co-sponsored by the Sultan Qaboos Culturual Center in Washington, D.C.

Get the latest on what's happening At the Smithsonian in your inbox.