The Art of Calligraphy

Calligraphy :: Origin = Turkey :: Period = 18th century :: Collection = Bequest of Edwin Binney, 3rd, Turkish Collection (AC1995.124.8) :: Type = Bookmanuscriptalbum; Calligraphy, Ink and gold on paper with marbleized border, Calligraphy: 8 x 6 in. (20.32 x 15.24 cm)

In order to create a particular letterform, you need to study it by really observing the letters closely. It is most important to find examples of these lettering styles that are created by master calligraphers. Because most people know how to write, you could be mistaken by learning from someone who actually knows little about the skills to write historical hands. It would be like trying to become a professional photographer from someone who only has every used their phone to take photographs! Learning from a master scribe will teach you excellent skills that will create consistently excellent lettering and design.

One of the important characteristics of calligraphy you will learn is that letters have thick and thin parts, which are created by the angle by which you hold your 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 that by the angle you hold the pen consistently when writing your letters. In copperplate calligraphy, the thick and thin parts of letters are created by placing pressure on the pen nib when writing.

Consistency is the most important characteristic- learning the height, width, slant, serifs, branching and other parts of the letters, and then being able to write them that way every time! That’s where studying, observing and practice comes in. It takes getting used to the pen: holding it at the proper pen angle, how hard you are pressing down (don’t press hard or the ink won’t flow!) and even how much ink you put on the nib. And once you learn about forming letters, then you need to learn about what kind of ink or paint, paper, how to rule paper, proper spacing… on and on.

Don’t get discouraged. It takes time. It’s the same way any professional gets to know their tools- a carpenter using a saw, a plastic surgeon putting in stitches, a great tennis player using their racket! It takes a LOT of hours, and finally years to become a consistent master.

The final part of learning is the ART of calligraphy. It does take some talent to create beautiful letters and documents. Go to the websites of calligraphy guilds such as The Society of Scribes in New York. Check out the work of top calligraphers, like John Stevens Designs, and Eleanor Winters, Joanne Fink and others.