Reprinted from C·y·b·e·r·scribes: The Online Newsgroup for Calligraphers Worldwide

December 20, 1998

All The World’s a Stage of Breathing Lines
by Linda Lanza

“Players” is a modest example of what Steve Skaggs calls “jazz writing.” Having come to formal calligraphy as a musician and poet in the late '60s, I've always called this intuitive approach to calligraphic writing “eurythmics”—the art of performing various bodily movements in rhythm (opens up all kinds of possibilities, doesn't it!)—working without prior drafts, sketches, or even preconceptions, just showing up at the work table and playing like a jazz musician... responding to the pulse of something going on inside you, staying in the moment, bringing everything you know intuitively, formally, and didactically, have ever learned, have ever experienced, and also summoning what you may know but don't know that you know, to bear in the moment, staying focused, breathing, breathing, breathing, staying with the breath and just breathing the line, the mark, letting the materials speak to you, and listening, listening, responding with a gesture, listening more, responding, gesturing, and listening some more.

"Players" began this way, simply showing up empty and ready to be filled, accepting whatever materials reached toward me when I opened to them, palms up and listening. In this case, my jazz-band partners were a piece of Arches 140# hot pressed paper, tongue depressors with one end cut to a chisel-edge, and a paint palette from a project I'd finished a few days before.

When the breath of the "illegible" section seemed to have been spent, and I came up for more air, I looked at the residue of the process that had just taken place. It suggested to me a crowd of multi-colored, multi-faceted people, and the Shakespeare phrase floated up to my consciousness so I wrote it underneath and called it finished.

I put "illegible" in quotation marks because, personally, I don't agree that the markings, any markings, are illegible. I may not consciously know what they stand for right now. I believe they hold all kinds of liminal and subliminal emotion, information and meaning that is simply beyond words, beyond the intellect, gossamer threads of our collective breath made manifest. That's why sometimes a work of art can seem so alive, be so full of life-energy—be so breath-taking—it can take your breath away!

I prefer this method of callig-ing to all others. Sometimes I end up with something wonderful to show for it. Sometimes not. I turn my rejects into paste papers, bookcovers, take them down for postcards, tear them up for accents on handmade greeting cards. But I've also put them aside, pulled them out years later, and gone back into them with new layers of activity, so that a piece from start to finish may have taken years to complete but my actual conscious involvement with it may have been only a few hours. No matter. Calligraphy in the key of life.

Contact Linda Lanza at: scribe(at)

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