Beyond talent, training to become a calligrapher required years of practice, perseverance, and discipline. Over the centuries, Islamic calligraphers formalized various mechanisms for transmitting the knowledge of their art and technical lore. The most immediate mode of instruction was direct training by a master, who imparted advice to students by example in all aspects of writing, from the shaping of letters and their composition on the page to the preparation of tools and the production of materials and their use.
Another mode of training was the visual study of works of calligraphy. Visual immersion was essential. It provided another source of instruction about letter
shapes, ligatures (joined letters), and script combinations; and it also developed the student’s eye for formal values, such as combinations of materials, qualities of ink and paper, and contrasts of hue and value. Contemplating and sometimes reproducing the works of past masters was a constant practice of even master calligraphers. They refreshed their skills through exercises in duplication and imitation, and applied what they had learned to the making of new works.
Next Section: Contexts for Calligraphy