Getting Started in Calligraphy

Pointed pen calligraphy is a beautiful form of art! With hand lettering classes on the rise, and the abundance of colored markers with flexible tips, many are now interested in pursuing this style of calligraphy! My mom introduced me to Italic calligraphy which uses a broad edged pen, and I enjoyed that immensely as a young girl. I was first introduced to pointed pen calligraphy in 2001. I had purchased a Spencerian kit from Michael Sull, and dabbled in the gorgeous Spencerian style of calligraphy. I loved it. But it wasn’t until I took a Copperplate class at my local Michael’s store, that I truly understood how to use the metal nib and pen holder. Taking a class in person can give you a big push in the right direction! So, my first piece of advice is to look for a local class in pointed pen calligraphy. Try to look for samples of the calligrapher’s work, to make sure it’s similar to what you’re hoping to learn.

After taking several classes in both Copperplate and Spencerian, I then joined IAMPETH. I attended my first convention in 2008. Wow, I was hooked! What a great family to learn and study with – and for a whole week. Several instructors took me under their wing, so to speak, to give valuable critique and guidance to my lettering. This in itself, caused my calligraphy skills to be sharpened in new ways. So, my second piece of advice is to attend a calligraphy convention like IAMPETH, or, find your local guild, take a class from Paper & Ink Arts, etc. There are many online options of studying, as mentioned in a previous post. Ask questions, study hard, and strive to learn from someone who has truly studied this art.

Now, when it comes to studying calligraphy from books, there are excellent resources available. Michael Sull’s Learning to Write Spencerian Script. Eleanor Winter’s Mastering Copperplate. Younghae Chung’s Logos Copperplate Practice Pad. Paul Antonio’s Copperplate Script: A Yin & Yang Approach. Barbara Calzolari’s Calligraphy: A Course in Cursive Script with Pencil, Pen, and Brush. George Bickham’s The Universal Penman. William Henning’s An Elegant Hand. So, my third piece of advice is to study books and exemplars from masters. Most of these books can be purchase from Paper & Ink Arts, Amazon, or John Neal Booksellers. The IAMPETH website is full of books and pieces of work that are no longer in print. You can view them online for free.

Practically speaking, I recommend a simple pen holder. The moblique 2-in-1 holder comes in several colors and can be offset or straight. It’s an inexpensive way to begin. My favorite nib is the Nikko G nib. It’s very sturdy and yet is flexible. This nib does come with a protective finish as most nibs do. You can remove that finish easily by spraying and wiping it with Windex. I find that black sumi ink (I like one called Moonpalace) works well for both business work and practice. I like to keep a water cup on my desk, and a small container with sumi ink in it. I’ve found that the Nalgene bottles work really well. You can even travel easily with them; just make sure the top area is clean and the lid is twisted on tight. I buy mine from the Container Store. I use the 1 oz for ink, and the 2 oz for my water. I also like using the blue paper towels to wipe my nib, as they shed less lint. But there are a host of inks! McCaffery is beautiful for practicing as well as many other. The Rhodia tablet comes in a lined pad and is a good choice for writing on. Your ink will not bleed on the paper. Once your page is dry, you can flip it and write on the backside. Paper & Ink Arts also has a Copperplate practice pad and it’s great for practicing. I like that it comes with the slant lines. Or you can always buy tracing paper and use that for practice – place it over your guidesheet/nice letters, and trace using a pencil. The Yoro Pencil is “offset” and is a fun way to practice. Most of my links will send you to Paper & Ink Arts. They have a rewards program, so be sure to sign up and start saving points as you make purchases.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was to pick one traditional style of calligraphy, and to stick with it. Practice hard and work to master that style before pursuing another style. If you find you don’t like it, then switch to another!