I added a new category for people to be able to find this series more easily. Click on Categories and then select “Taking the Next Step – Calligraphy” to find posts for this series and previous posts that are designed to help calligraphers take that next step.
The first thing I teach new calligraphers are the tools and materials they will be working with. I want them to be familiar with the pens, pen holder, ink and different kinds of writing surfaces (support or substrate in technical terms), they will be writing on. The second thing I teach them are six different pen strokes and we do that for about 45 minutes to an hour.
Why do I do this? Why these six strokes? Because these are the most common strokes you make with a broad tip nib. These strokes make up the letters of the scripts you will be writing. Practicing these strokes will help you gain pen control among many other things. I wrote a blog post about doing these strokes as warm-ups a while ago.
Calligraphy is a beautiful way to draw letters but there is actually a lot of efficiency and consistency in most scripts of calligraphy. As an object lesson I will be going through my hand of the Uncial script to show you how each of these strokes shows up in many different letters.
When you take the time to look at a script it is often surprising how often you use the same stroke again and again but may not have recognized it Recognizing this means that you can stop reinventing each pen stroke for each letter. Putting that to use for your calligraphy means that you can increase your efficiency, stamina and consistency.
Just as surprising can be how little a stroke is used. Each script is different so you may want to do this analysis yourself for the scripts you know and do.
Yes, as you can see from pictures some strokes move into other strokes. I sometimes changed the color of ink in the middle of the stroke and sometimes, as in the above picture, I did not The reason for not changing is that the stroke remained essentially the same except at the very end where just a slight movement changed the pen direction for a short distance.
This kind of checking out your strokes really helps you to see what you are actually doing. And knowing that can really help you to be able to make artistic changes when you need or want to. It also helps you to see what you should be doing as opposed to what your brain/eye think is going on.
Notice the “Y” in uncial uses the same stroke twice. Pretty cool really. Also notice the “K”? Yeah, I didn’t switch to pink when I should have so I drew a pink arrow to the stroke to bring it to your attention.
The pictures above are designed to help you visualize what your pen strokes are really doing when drawing letters. They are not a ductus to teach you how to write the letter but instead are a tool to see what is happening at each step in the letter you are drawing.
I hope this series helps you to improve your calligraphy and more importantly to see your calligraphy more clearly so that you can make informed choices about how to do what you want to do with your calligraphy.