Calligraphy: Getting Started

June 22, 2015

I have always loved beautiful writing and pens and art and calligraphy is basically a combination of all that. Having very little experience or idea of where to start with it I did a little bit of googling and decided that I liked the copperplate style. I liked it because of the lightness and the “class” that it seemed to exude…. (ok, I admit that I am a bit of a snob when it comes to ‘refined’ things). But with a little more research I found that maybe learning something as structured as copperplate could help also form a foundation for the more modern calligraphy styles which I was also attracted to.

Getting Started

I decided to start exploring learning calligraphy in August 2014. After some online searching there were unfortunately no classes around my location. Alot of calligraphy studios in my location taught Chinese calligraphy and though a lovely art form, I would have been at a distinct disadvantage as I do not speak or write Chinese.

Happening upon Melissa Esplin’s ‘I Still Love Calligraphy’ online course I was sorely tempted. The price was a little steep and I was not sure if I would achieve anything during the 30 days set but I decided to treat myself a little and to get  the Calligraphy Kit and Workshop set. I decided to spring for the kit as well as the tools were hard to come by and it was just generally easier. The course itself was short but the feedback which Melissa gave was great. It helped me prod myself along and see how my writing could be bettered bit by little bit.

Calligraphy practice

Some of my very early work

As you can see, there was nothing really astounding about the work that I put forth but it was the effort that counted (at least that is what I told myself).

Make 365 Somethings Challenge

When the course finished I did continue to practice but there was no real impetus and slowly the calligraphy tools got put aside.

At the  beginning of 2015, I decided to challenge myself at a Make 365 Somethings challenge – something to while away the time and to make a little bit of a dent into the craft cupboard that I have. Calligraphy would be something that I would be able to work on during this challenge. To improve my calligraphy I also decided to invest in a couple of books: Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy by Eleanor Winters and Modern Calligraphy by Modern Suber Thorpe.

In all honesty the Modern Calligraphy book just called to me and I was itching to get started on it but I decided to take a step back and concentrate on copperplate. So I started working through Eleanor Winter’s book and it has been a great learning experience – working through the drills and trying to train my hand to at least emulate some of the forms in the book. Being the impatient person that I am I worked through the book and still tried to write out passages to get some additional practice and to prod myself along – it is not fun just writing out alphabets over and over again!

Calligraphy getting started

Some early work

Not great work either but there was some improvement… (I think)

Calligraphy getting started

Short poems are great to practice on

More improvement but the “S”s could have been better.

Calligraphy getting started

The practice is beginning to show results

Some of my latest work. I think it is decent-ish. I do still have issues with my capital letters in particular the letters: B, M, N, W, T, Z but it just means that I need to put in more effort with them.

Looking back on my early work makes me cringe a little and sometimes I wish I could delete them from my tumblr page. But then I take a step back and say – this is how I have progressed and I should be proud of whatever work that I have put out because at that point in time that was my best.

Learning in Progress

There is a lot more that I have to learn in terms of calligraphy and everyday I learn something new either through re reading Eleanor Winter’s book (in my impatience I sometimes skipped a bit) or through the calligraphy community on tumblr, instagram and facebook.

Some (really) random personal learning points along the way:

  • I have tried oblique pen holders but in the end I think I am most comfortable with cork grip pen holders.
  • I started off with the Speedball India Ink but have recently managed to get hold of some walnut crystals so am trying that out. I love the glossiness and finish of the India Ink but cleaning walnut ink off the nibs is so much easier!
  • Like the experts say – start out with the Nikko G nib. It’s a god send when learning as it is a non-fussy nib. Starting off with fussy nib spoils the whole learning experience as half the time the ink is pooling / splattering all over the place. Since using the Nikko G nib I have moved on to trying out the Brause EF66 and the Brause Rose. Those nibs require some patience and experience.
  • Use good paper. Getting your nib stuck on paper fibres are no fun. After a while I went out and bought myself a whole lot of Rhodia paper to practice on.
  • Drills are important. But it is ok to try out what you have partially learnt on phrases / quotes / song lyrics / poetry. Your writing does not have to be perfect. You just need to practice.
  • Calligraphy is all about practicing. Getting letterforms consistent. Understanding the workings of the nib that you are using. Alot of practice.

What’s Next?

I have a long and windy calligraphy road ahead of me. I will definitely still be exploring it as the Make 365  Somethings challenge progresses (seriously, how have I got to day 169???) but following from that I am not sure whether it will be in my life as much (unless I decide to start another challenge…). For now I have a few things on my calligraphy bucket list:

  • learn to how to flourish
  • learn modern calligraphy and develop my own style of that
  • explore calligraphy with brush pens
  • work with different inks / materials – white/ gold / gouache / watercolour

Here’s to more practice and perseverance! Onwards with the pointed pen!

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1 Comment

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