Baa is the second letter of the Arabic alphabet. Like the Alif, it’s basic shape is relatively simple. However, I found that many of the techniques and skills used to draw the baa are frequently reproduced in other letters. Therefore making the shape and form of the baa very important in improving my skills in Thuluth Arabic calligraphy.
The form of the “baa” is reproduced in many other letters of the Arabic Alphabet. It’s form is used as well for the “tā’ – ت” and “thā’ – ث”. Other letters also use various aspects of the baa. For instance, although there are differences in length, the beginning of the “hull” shape (let’s call it the “bow”) of the “nūn – ن”, “sīn – س” and “ṣād – ص” all make use of the same beginning as the baa. Therefore the baa, helps develop some basic skills that I have found invaluable in moving forward. The rest of the body of the baa (let’s call it the “hull” and the “stern”), are also invaluable skills in drawing the “fā’ – ف”, a certain form of the “kāf – ك”, and other letters that have a similar “hull and stern”.
The form of the baa
The baa can be divided into three distinct parts. I will keep to our boat analogy and I will refer to these as, the bow, the hull and the stern.
The bow of the baa is two noktahs down. It is drawn with a slight outward curve. Finally it ends somewhat point, ready to lead into the hull.
The hull in all is between 5 and 7 noktahs long, with the preferred length being around 6 noktahs. The first three noktahs of the hull are drawn diagonally with ever slight curve, making the hull slightly concave. The angle at the end of the first three noktahs is around 20 degrees.
The last part of the “hull” has a peculiarity in that it dips only slightly lower than the first part. It is also three noktahs long. But the “concave-ness” of the hull is increased. The deepest part of the “hull” is towards the beginning of the first noktah of the second part of the “hull”. After that point, there is a gradual curved rise. A noktah should fit snugly directly under the “bow” and the deepest part of the “hull”.
The last part is the “stern” is the final part of the baa. The line flows in one seamless movement from the second part of the hull. It rises almost straight up from the hull and ends with a slight pointy curve. Finally, it ends just below the starting point of the bow.
I practised baa quiet a lot when I started. It was the second letter I practised after the Alif. I practised it until I though I had reached a point where I thought that I could draw it in freehand. That is to say, I thought I no longer felt I needed the noktahs to guide my drawing of the baa.
How wrong I was!
In coming back to baa for this post I had to create some images to illustrate the form of the baa. I found it frustrating in that something I thought I had firmly secured needed so much touching up. In doing so, I realised a few points that now, with much more practice, I feel I’ve gained a little more insight that I can share with you.
Writing the “bow”
I found drawing the bow of the baa quiet hard for a particular reason. Although I didn’t have a problem with the shape and length of the “bow”, but I did find stopping in the right place a little hard. This is because it has to flow onto the first part of the “hull”. In segmenting the baa between the “bow” and the “hull”, restarting at the hull always felt like there was the risk of blotching, or starting at a bad angle.
I found no real way to work around this, but to practice over and over again. I had to draw the beginning bow, 2 noktahs down and then a little further. This “little further” would be where I’d connect the first part of the “hull”.
Writing the first part of the “hull”
The first part of the full, was also hard to draw. Getting the 20 degree angle is quiet hard to do when your just eyeballing it. Especially if the paper you draw on might move or turn as you right. When you eyeball the length of 3 noktahs it can be a challenge, but I found that it was easier. I think segmenting Arabic letters into two or three noktah segments makes it generally much easier to take on the letters correctly. I found that in order for the noktah under the full to fit in snugly, the angle and length had to be correct.
The last part of the “hull” and the “stern”
I found drawing the second part of the hull difficult because its hard not to dip too deep when drawing it. Also, I found that drawing a good looking curve quiet tough. Because the last part of the “hull” and the “stern” are drawn together, I found it easy to mess up. In particular, I found it easy to curve the stern too much. In that case you end up with a pointy stern that points inward in the baa, rather than somewhat upwards. Again, I think that only practice and conscious focus can keep you aware of it. And a lot of practice.
To end it all off, the “Baa”, although it seems is, is perhaps the first challenging letter of the Arabic Calligraphy in the thuluth script. Keep in mind that I said -first- (it gets harder!) Nonetheless, I think that getting right, helps build the skills to move on the next letter. In particular drawing the “bow”, getting a feel for the length of segments and properly ending a letter.
If you’d like to share your experiences with me, or ask for some help drawing the “Baa”, please feel free to reach out! You can ask for feedback, tips, or just share your own progress and experience. I’d be more than happy to give you my input!