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How to learn the art of calligraphy

Calligraphy is the art of beautiful writing. It is an art form that is a little different from the others. This is because there are “rules” for how to create the letter shapes, known as “hands” or pen styles. In computer language, these styles are called ‘fonts’.

To create a particular letterform, you must study it by looking at the letters closely. It is very important to find examples of these lettering styles created by master calligraphers. Since most people know how to write, you could be wrong to learn from someone who actually knows little about historical handwriting skills. It would be like trying to become a professional photographer from someone who has only used their phone to take pictures! Learning from a master scribe will teach you excellent skills that will create consistently excellent lettering and designs.

One of the important characteristics of calligraphy that you will learn is that letters have thick and thin parts, which are created by the angle at which you hold the pen with a square-cut nib. That’s the part of the pen that comes in various sizes, that you dip into ink or paint. You achieve this by the angle at which you consistently hold the pen when writing your letters. In copper plate calligraphy, the thick and thin parts of the letters are created by pressing down on the tip of the pen while writing.

Consistency is the most important feature: learning the height, width, slant, serifs, branches, and other parts of the letters, and then being able to write them that way every time! That’s where study, observe and practice come in. The pen takes some getting used to: holding it at the right angle, how hard you’re pressing (don’t press too hard or the ink won’t flow!), and even how much ink you put into the nib. And once you learn how to form letters, you’ll need to learn what kind of ink or paint, paper, how to scratch paper, proper spacing… and so on.

Don’t be discouraged. It takes time. It’s the same way any professional knows his tools: a carpenter using a saw, a plastic surgeon putting stitches, a great tennis player using his racket! It takes MANY hours and eventually years to become a consistent teacher.

The final part of learning is the ART of calligraphy. It takes some talent to create beautiful letters and documents. Visit the websites of calligraphy guilds such as The Society of Scribes in New York. See the work of top calligraphers including John Stevens Designs and Eleanor Winters, Joanne Fink and others. There are impressive works of art! Not everyone can be an excellent scribe, no matter how many hours they practice. You need Skill AND TALENT.

But if you just want to have a good handwriting or improve your penmanship, give it a try! You can contact me to review your lettering forms with online lessons, critique your work, and make suggestions on how to improve your lettering and learn the art of calligraphy.

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