Funny fact about myself: my print handwriting is chicken scratch. My mother has always been fascinated by how the same hand that has the control of an artist when drawing and painting has the scribble of doctor’s handwriting when it comes to jotting something down. I only really write nicely if I write in cursive because it makes me slow down. There is something really soothing about slowing down in this fast-paced world we live in. Sometimes writing too fast doesn’t let us properly meditate on what we are saying. Nowadays they aren’t even bothering to teach cursive in schools in the age of computers. Proper handwriting is becoming a lost art.
I was allured by the art of lettering in college when I realized that letters were not just meant for utilitarian communication, but can also have an expression all their own. They can show emotion and better convey the message at hand. When I started to see that letters could be treated like forms, a whole new door opened.
I became enthralled with the works of Jessica Hische and began to utilize lettering and typography in my design. I discovered the chalk marker and began playing with type on my chalkboards. I started looking at modern calligraphy and mimicking the thicks and thins with a chisel marker. The natural next step was to actually pick up the nib and ink and work at the real thing.
I was terrible. I couldn’t believe it. I sat down to start playing with my little starter Speedball set expecting the art to flow naturally from my fingertips. I struggled with my plastic holder and 512 nib and India ink before proclaiming defeat for the night and chastising myself for my impatience.
So in my first couple weeks of practicing calligraphy, I have learned a few lessons.
4 Lessons I’ve Learned in My Adventures in Calligraphy
1. Ink Flow
Ink flow is difficult, but the most crucial skill to master. It is dependent on your paper, the nib, the type of ink, the amount of ink in your nib, and most importantly, the pressure you apply. Gentle on the upstroke, pressure on the downstroke. Gentle on the upstroke, pressure on the downstroke. I recite these words in my head as I work sometimes. I still am amazed how much I can struggle with this. Experienced calligraphers, how have you mastered control over your ink flow and deterred the dreaded never-drying ink blobs? What is your secret?
Consistency is key to having professional grade calligraphy. I still need to figure out the best letterforms and pressure for each of them. I’ve struggled with keeping consistency in my slope and thicks and thins. Any words of advice from the experienced?
3. Get Ready to Get a Little Dirty
I’ve found it nearly impossible to avoid getting India Ink all over my fingers. Anyone find success in avoiding this conundrum or do I just need to learn to embrace the messiness?
4. Practice Practice Practice
I’ve found my skills jump in leaps and bounds over the past week just by making a point to practice. Even when I write with a ball point pen I have become more cognizant of my letterforms and ligatures. I decided to address all of my Christmas card envelopes with calligraphy while my husband and I binge-watched The Office. It is incredible the difference from the first envelopes to some of the last in just a sitting. This has certainly encouraged me. Hoping for my new skill to continue to grow.
My parting message for you is…