Learning Calligraphy The Easy Way
Contributing Writer : V. Yongewa
You have seen the writing on invitations or wedding announcements: it evokes the idyllic past and speaks of unending elegance. Wouldn't it be great to create such invitations yourself? You can, if you learn calligraphy. Calligraphy is the art of decorative handwriting, and while it may look complicated, it is easy to learn. This article will get you started.
Most art stores carry calligraphy sets in their fine arts section, but you can also buy individual pens and inks. Here you will find old-fashioned calligraphy pens that you dip into little pots of ink. You will find brushes, too, though you might find pens easier to deal with.
For the less romantic and more fastidious, there are modern pens that come with ink cartridges. You insert the cartridge in the pen and fit the nib's base in the pen after it. Whatever type of pen you choose, you will want a range of nibs. This will give you the chance to practice in many styles, since each style requires different types of nibs.
What's a nib, you ask? A nib is the writing end of the pen. You will find them made of steel and with tips that are flat, pointed or round. They consist of an arched body or shank that has a vent hole ¾ of the way down. After the hole, the body is split into two tines that narrow down to the tip.
After ink and pen (or brush), you will need paper. You can use good old college-ruled paper, but there are also templates you can buy. The important part is that the paper is high enough quality to keep ink from running. If it isn't lined already, you will want to draw the lines a quarter or a half inch apart. Light boxes can help you keep your lines straight, but a ruler or the edge of a book will work fine, too.
Picking A Style
There are many styles of calligraphy to choose from, starting with the 3 main ones: Arabic, Oriental and Western. If you have ever seen something written in Tibetan or Farsi, you know what the first two look like. However, most English speakers generally think of the type of beautiful writing that evolved from the writing of Latin scribes and can be found on illuminated manuscripts. This is the way that people wrote until the invention of printing in the 1500s, and it was revived as an art form in the late 1900s, thanks in part to the Arts and Crafts movement.
There are many sub-styles of Western calligraphy, the most common being Italic, Copperplate, and Foundation. Italic is a style that slants a little to the right and looks like most of the letters are joined. It's both pretty and legible, so it shows up in invitations and announcements all the time. You use a square pen nib to create the letters, and it's fairly easy to master.
The Foundation, sometimes called Bookhand, style is even easier to master. It has no slant, and its shapes are very basic. People generally start out with this style because it is simple and easy to read.
If you feel like trying something advanced, there is always Copperplate. This is the style based on writing that was common in the 18th and 19th century, and if you have ever seen copies of the Declaration, you will understand why it takes a long time to learn. It requires a very thin nib and precise control of the pen.
It is best to start out with Foundation or Italic styles and go from there. A true enthusiast can learn many styles, but there is no need to start out at a difficult level.
Bookstores, art supply stores and the internet abound with step-by-step tutorials on writing with calligraphy. Websites will give you examples and videos. Books will come with worksheets you can trace and copy. Workbooks are relatively cheap and accessible, and there are websites where you can download as many practice sheets as you want for as little as $5. Whatever format your instruction takes, it should cover a few things:
-Basic principles, which will start with how to hold the pen or brush. You will have to learn basic shapes, such as loops and lines.
-Direction and pressure (How hard you press on your nib will determine how thick the line is.)
-Individual letters, numerals, and punctuation.
After that, it is a lot like when you were first learning to write block letters and then cursive. You start by following the directions on how to write the letters, and then you put the letters together to make words. As time goes on, you will add your own little flourishes, making the style your own.
Calligraphy is like any other skill- you use or you lose it. Set aside a half hour or so every day to practice writing words in your new style. Pretend you are a monk in a scriptorium or a Victorian maid writing a letter if it makes it more fun for you. Create invitations to imaginary parties, name plates for imaginary people, or your own bestiary. If you would rather fill out worksheets, download a bunch from the internet and fill them out. Write song lyrics when you run out of things to write. Anything to make practice enjoyable: after all, art should enliven your soul, not be a burden.
Take your time while you write. Going through the motions can be relaxing and it will have time to become a muscle memory. If you want inspiration, Instagram and Pinterest are full of gorgeous examples that will have you panting to learn more.
If you follow these instructions, you will be able to produce elegant works of written art in no time at all. And the great thing is that there is always a new style to learn and a new artistic flourish to show off: you are always learning things with calligraphy.