Turning Letters into Art.

Recently finished working on Publicity Designs for the upcoming movie Lalpurja and also involved in upcoming Kathmandu Triennale, Ratan Karna is a graphic designer, best known for his calligraphy skills. Despite learning from his father as a kid, he shares that he’d learn about the term ‘Calligraphy’ only when he was working. “Once, a classmate of mine asked whether I would be interested in tagging along with him to this small painters’ shop where he’d started to learn paintings. He showed me his lettering with flat brush. When I shared this with my father back home, he said “brush le ta pachi lekhne ho pahila baas ko kalam le lekhnu parcha.” He then taught us how to make pen out of bamboos and write with them. That was the beginning; even if I didn’t really know what I was doing was calligraphy.” Read excerpts from his interview about his journey for our Know Your Designer Series.
Calligraphy is like Meditation — Ratan Karna

- My journey of Calligraphy started long before I knew what I was doing was calligraphy. However I only came across the term during my work at Navyaata, when a senior asked me if I knew Calligraphy. I told him that I didn’t and looked it up. Once I got into it, I never got out of it.

- At a point I did feel that I needed to work more on my typography and make it better because it is something that every designer should learn. Typography also incorporated calligraphy.

- Although calligraphy isn’t something I’m making a career out of but this it majorly supports with my career as a graphic designer. But when I think about it, calligraphy does dominate my designs.

Calligraphy Workshop

- I don’t really have a preference when it comes to using tools for calligraphy. I go along with what the project demands. Sometimes I have to go digital while sometimes I have to go manual or the traditional way. It mostly depends on what kind of style are we looking for. I use different tools to achieve the desired design. So I don’t really have a favourite or preferred tool.

- Experimenting is the most fun portion of calligraphy. From garlic stem to emergency light to glass to anything, I impulsively use anything I see as a tool for calligraphy.

- My family has always been supportive of my career choice as a graphic designer. I know that sometimes it’s hard for them to see other people of my age, earning and getting settled while I am still writing down alphabets but being literature enthusiasts, they understand and know the importance of the letters.

- I get inspired by many sources depending on the project I am working on. If it’s personal then usually it is something going on in my head or going on around my surroundings. Sometimes it’s politics, other times it’s just fun. Calligraphy comes off more as an expression; my form to express.

- But if I am working on a specific project, I need to search for inspiration. For example, for the recent project that I am working on. I had to create type on the basis of what the movie demanded. I had to go through the script and things related to it so that images of what would fit there would start to link it up in my head. That is pretty much how I get my inspiration.

Design by Ratan Karna for the Nepali Movei Lalpurja.

- I do encounter something similar to writer’s block time and again. I meditate sometimes. I actually try to meditate every day but I am not consistent. I’m not good at it because I only recently started meditating but meditation actually does help with the block. Other activities that help include stopping the work, disappearing and searching for inspiration.

We have a feeling he is actually on his disappearing phase because his instagram’s last post was on February 10th, just saying.

-Text by Anshu Pandey