Meet India’s top Instagram calligraphers

Five Indian artists are using social media to revive an ancient art form, and even monetise it

August 24, 2019 01:01 pm | Updated September 13, 2019 02:45 pm IST

(Clockwise from top left) Works by Avinash Kharat, Georgy Roy, Arunoday Singh, Sadhika Gupta and Bhavika Malhotra

(Clockwise from top left) Works by Avinash Kharat, Georgy Roy, Arunoday Singh, Sadhika Gupta and Bhavika Malhotra

The Internet comes with a plethora of opportunities. From making a living out of posting food pictures on Instagram to bringing the most unlikely of ideas to life via 3D printing and virtual reality, it has redefined the meaning of art.

But with the change comes the risk of losing traditions that have their own unique charm. Calligraphy is one such, evoking images of masters stooped over their work, from Istanbul to Old Delhi to rural China.

Luckily, the tribe is far from gone. A new crop of artists are capitalising on the power of platforms like Instagram to help netizens discover the power of handwriting. Recently, US-based calligrapher, Brenna Jordan, released her book, The Lost Art of Handwriting, to help her readers discover the power of penmanship. Closer home, five local calligraphers are giving the art form their own spin.

Arunoday Singh, (@sufisoul) | 1,03,000 followers: You might recognise him as the ‘too-hot-to-handle’ hunk, Dhruv, in the Sonam Kapoor starrer, Aisha, but Singh’s alter-ego lives on Instagram, under the alias ‘sufisoul’. He’s cautious about labels, however, refusing to call himself a calligrapher. “That implies being able to write in multiple fonts,” he explains. “I just write in my own handwriting which is rather calligraphic.” The account is the actor’s passion project, and while he hasn’t sold his works yet, he says penning poems from the heart has helped connect with a virtual audience. “The platform has helped me develop a more minimalist style of poetry,” he adds. “I try to weave a thought as simply as I can. It’s a wonderful challenge that has opened up my mind in a host of ways.”

Sadhika Gupta, (@delhidoodler08) | 16,300 followers: Life coming full circle might sound clichéd, but it is something that Gupta can relate to. Four years ago, it was a post on Instagram that opened her eyes to the beauty of brush calligraphy, propelling her to start experimenting with the art form. “I was drawn to the way it could instantly bring words to life,” she says. Diving in, she found her footing with brush pen and copperplate calligraphy. While the former is “modern and playful”, the latter sticks to traditional strokes and visuals. She started sharing her creations on her account a year later. It is a venture that has paid off, helping her identify and match with clients such as Reliance Trends. Pro-tip to get noticed on the platform? Use carefully-curated hashtags, she says. Gupta focusses on putting out content that makes her proud. “I often speak about issues like feminism and mental health that are close to my heart, and I try to keep my work positive, relevant, and relatable.”

Bhavika Malhotra, (@theinkaffair) | 4,500 followers: “My day job involved understanding typography, calligraphy, and fonts,” says Bhavika Malhotra, laughing. Three years ago, she never expected a stint in a digital marketing agency to usher in an obsession with the art form. She latched on to what’s commonly called ‘the modern calligraphy luxury script style’, even developing her own popular font, Wild Magnolia. She provides services in calligraphy and font design through both her Instagram and Facebook pages. She also conducts workshops in conjunction with outfits like The Craft Sutra. Malhotra credits social media and its vastness with inspiring her. “The more I see, the more I know, and the more I experiment, from toying with modern script to more whimsical and playful sans serifs.”

Georgy Roy, (@gy_roy) | 7,077 followers: Roy’s work in graphic design and motion graphics led him to YouTube videos about calligraphy, an art that he says “breaks the typographical structure by adding a natural quality to the designs being shown”. With three years of experience under his belt, he sticks primarily to hand-lettering which, quite literally, means drawing letters by hand, giving him more freedom to include different styles in a single composition. What started off as a hobby has become a source of income for the artist, who connects with clients on social media. He also provides hand-lettering for walls — in homes and public places like restaurants. “It challenges me to keep innovating,” he adds. His latest trials? Testing out the iPad Pro to create novelties.

Avinash Kharat, (@avinash_calligraphy) | 23,400 followers: It was an ordinary day at the gym, 10 years ago, when Kharat chanced upon a calligrapher who “opened his eyes to the music of [the art]”. “I began with Roman and Gothic styles, and transitioned to copperplate five years later,” he says. “The latter requires a special tool called an oblique holder.” Equipped with a dipped pen nib, the tool has pointed tines which, when treated with pressure, separate to form a visually-pleasing mixture of thin and thick strokes on paper. He uploads videos of the technique to his social media audience of over 20,000, both on Facebook and Instagram. The strategy has paid off, bringing in deals with clients like Louis Vuitton and Gucci. “My technique has allowed me to stay unique over the decade,” he says.

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