Majuscules (a.k.a. capital letters) are very difficult, but they break up the monotony of a full sheet of letters. I found all of my old calligraphy notes and some of my old practice pages to compare and track progress.
Just about 10 years ago I came home from a visit to my parents’ house with a small box of my dad’s old calligraphy stuff. Like most girls who grew up in the 80s and 90s, I had spent plenty of time playing around with “calligraphy markers” and block lettering. I always enjoyed that and couldn’t wait to see what would happen with an actual dip pen. The result was this (December 11, 3013):
Yikes! I would play around a bit but it was not until 2015 when I really got serious about it. This time I decided that I was ready to put some effort into it. I started to follow calligraphers on Instagram, I purchased the right tools, studied up, and found myself in love with Engrosser’s Script. This was when “modern calligraphy” was gaining popularity — you know, the bouncy beautiful letters. But as trendy as it was, I was drawn to this classic style.
In 2016 I invested in myself and took a calligraphy workshop taught by the incredibly talented David Grimes and Joi Hunt. That course completely changed the way I thought about lettering and it pushed me in the right direction. Here’s a sample that I lettered in June 2016:
Well, around this time we encountered a series of life events that started to change things: layoffs, new jobs, kids’ school activities, a pandemic… it was like someone had set up dominos and one by one they kept falling. I didn’t have the energy to put into a lettering practice, so by the end of the year it fell by the wayside.
In 2021 I tried a modern calligraphy boot camp, but… it just didn’t feel right. So the pen nibs and bottles of ink were once again relegated to a shelf in my craft room. But lately I have started to get the urge to dust everything off and begin again. So that’s what I did yesterday.
I mixed up a new batch of walnut ink, I printed out a fresh set of guidelines, I prepped a new nib, and I spent a quiet hour noodling around, becoming reacquainted with the feel of my oblique pen. It wasn’t pretty (certainly not by my standards), but I reminded myself of how long it had been.
In a way, though, it was like riding a bike — I hadn’t forgotten everything.
A while back there was an Instagram challenge called #handletteredabcs and I’ve decided to work through the alphabet again. Today was a sheet of minuscule a. This took about 30 minutes and I was still working too fast. I need to focus on slowing down, breathing, and my pen grip.
I know I said I was throwing in the towel on Blog365, but maybe I won’t after all… at least for another 35 days since I have 25 letters and 10 digits to go! 😉
… Anyway, I’m excited to start this journey again and see how my work progresses over the next few months! Expect a lot of calligraphy content in the next few months!
As I have mentioned ad nauseum, thanks to Instagram, I have been able to find a great group of calligraphy enthusiasts who share my love for pen and ink. Back in February, I learned that two of my favorite calligraphers, Joi Hunt (Bien Fait Calligraphy) and David Grimes (Masgrimes), would be hosting a workshop down in SoHo. I knew, instantly, that I had to figure out a way to make this happen.
I hustled to get a little extra copywriting work and excitedly secured my place for “A Foundation in Script Writing with Bmas Calligraphy” (at the early bird price!). Then I just had to wait for March 12 to get here. Being the nut that I am, I started to get nervous about going into the city by myself. I think the last time I went into NYC alone was back in 2004! Yeah, it had been a while. I had maps, I had apps, I had Plans B and C. Luckily for me, absolutely nothing went wrong. The weather was perfect, my timing was great, and I didn’t get lost.
I was also not the first one there (something that usually happens). I immediately recognized two other IG friends. It is always weird and wonderful to meet people in real life that you only know online. Surreal, in a way (but a good way). We made our way up to the workspace upstairs at the Lofts at Prince. David and Joi greeted everyone and both were so warm and welcoming! I felt nervous and awkward meeting these calligraphy rock stars, but they were awesome.
Once everyone arrived, we did introductions and then got into the meat of the workshop. As the title would indicate, we focussed on foundations. That is, we studied five strokes and how to manipulate the tines on our nibs to form these strokes correctly.
It is not as easy as you’d think. It was seriously a whole lot of study and work (that I am still continuing). David did a fabulous job diagramming the strokes and explaining everything. Joi and David were more than happy to answer our questions, as well as spend time with each student in the class. This one-on-one time was, in my opinion, what really made this workshop stand out. To be able to watch an expert calligrapher (though both are so modest, I’m sure neither would want me to use the word “expert” — but yeah they are!) show you how to make a V-stroke, and have their work on you practice paper? Pretty damn cool.
The information I left with was so worth the price of the workshop. (And beyond that, I made new calligrafriends — and how can you put a value on that?!) I have been thinking about my letters in a whole new way: not as letters, but as a series of strokes. What cemented this type of thinking a was group exercise we did towards the end. David wrote a word and then, in groups, we wrote the word one stroke at a time. Each person drew a single stroke and we passed the sheet along until one by one, the word was finished. You can see my group’s work on one of the sheets in the photo above. (Allegory is like 26 or 27 strokes!.)
We also discussed Copperplate vs. Engrosser’s Script vs. Roundhand. We talked about nibs, about vintage nibs (and Joi gave everyone their very own vintage nib — I love this Blanzy 2552 below!), about paper, about pen holders, about ink… So much material was covered!
My only regret was hastily leaving without getting a photo with Joi and David. Studying with these two lovely people was such an honor and I am feeling so encouraged and inspired to continue honing my calligraphy skills and look critically at my work to find out where I need to focus so I can improve. I hope the Dynamic Duo find their way back to New York for another workshop in the future. I would definitely attend!
I’m going to be perfectly honest with you: I do not have awesome self-esteem. Like I wrote in my last post, I’m always comparing myself to others, seeking perfection (which, really, can almost never be obtained). In this age of social media, it’s so easy to let yourself feel down about whatever particular interest is important to you at the moment. Trying to lose weight? Someone will always work out harder, weigh less, eat better. Into decorating your planner? Someone is always going to have more money to buy nicer embellisments, have neater handwriting, be more organized. It doesn’t end, does it?
So when I really started practicing Copperplate, I was caught off-guard by how incredibly welcoming, helpful, and encouraging the online calligraphy community is (especially on Instagram). Artists freely share information on Periscope, they answer your questions, they will demonstrate a stroke or a letter multiple times so you understand. It is so very cool and so refreshing! And I think that’s what’s kept me working on it even though I am far from great. As the saying goes, “Don’t compare your Chapter 1 to someone else’s Chapter 20.” We all have to start somewhere and keep plugging along.
Since I’ll be spending all day at a workshop tomorrow studying the fundamentals of Engrosser’s Script, I thought it was a good time to compare where I am right now to where I was a few months ago. When I first brought home my dad’s old dip pens, I fooled around a little bit, wrote out a Richard Brautigan quote, and then got frustrated and put them away for quite a while. That’s the example on the top. Underneath is an example that I wrote in December 2015. Markedly better, but no shade and a lot of improper letter forms.
And here’s the sample I wrote out this morning. Still so far from where it needs to be, but much better than just a few months ago!
It is definitely encouraging and a good way to remind myself that I’m making improvements every time I pick up that pen. I know that having instruction from two incredibly talented calligraphers (David Grimes and Joi Hunt) is going to make a big difference in my work. I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!
Well, time just got away from me today and by the time I had a chance to take a photo of the yarn I’m using for my scarf, the light wasn’t any good. So that will have to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m just sharing today’s photo from the extended #handletteredABCs challenge on IG — writing the entire alphabet. This was probably my fourth or fifth attempt, and right around the letter “v” I realized that my dinner was starting to burn. That explains the funky-looking w, x, y, and z!
Still, any practice is good practice, and a blog post is still a blog post, right? I just wanted to keep my word.
For now, I’m calling it a night. I have tea and a donut and my cozy bed calling my name! Crochet stuff tomorrow, I promise!
I’m not sure if I talked about it on the blog, but last summer I decided to really start putting in the effort to learn Copperplate calligraphy. I have long been interested in calligraphy, going back to high school. I’d purchase those markers with the angled nibs and my writing would look OK, but it was never quite what I wanted.
When my dad was young, he also had an interested in calligraphy — but the gothic and illustrated letter styles. Here’s an example of his work:
Gorgeous, right? But what I fell in love with was elegant, flowing, feminine script. I thought I wanted to try my hand at the Modern Calligrapahy style. You are all familar with it, I’m sure — it’s really popular right now. But I found that I just couldn’t relax my hand enough. Instead of looking casual, my letters looked forced and awkward.
After months of browsing the Internet, looking at handlettering examples, I finally found what I was looking for: Copperplate (also called Roundhand or Engrosser’s Script). It’s very old-fashioned looking, and there are specific ways to form the letters. In a way, it’s really more like drawing letters, not writing them.
I found that Instagram has a fantastic and supportive community of calligraphers! And just about the time I was really to give it my all, there was a Handlettered ABC challenge starting up. Every day was dedicated to one letter, in whatever style you like. Perfect! It was a great way to get excited about script.
Flash forward to the fall. With school starting and all the kids activities, I just couldn’t get it together and my lettering practice fell by the wayside. So one of my goals for 2016 is to work on improving my skills and hopefully be able to address next year’s Christmas cards in Copperplate script. Well, wouldn’t you know it — a reboot of the Handwriting ABCs challenge started as well! So this time I thought I’d start sharing my journey in learning this amazing style of handwriting. I have so much to learn, and so much to improve on, but you know what? I have been keeping all of my practice sheets in a binder and seeing how much I have already improved encourages me to keep going.
So here are the letters from week 1! First up, obviously, is A. I wrote two examples — the first is brush calligraphy using a Zig Millenium brush marker (from my scrapbooking days about 12 years ago!), and the second is Copperplate.
For the letter B I pulled out one of my sheets from the last challenge in July to compare and contrast.
C gives me trouble. I never think the majiscule (capital) looks right.
D is also a challenge. The majiscule is one stroke. I need a lot of work here.
E is fun and loopy.
F can be tough, but it’s so fun to write out that I don’t mind doing it over and over.
And that brings us to today’s letter: G. I was really happy with this example, even if the lowercase isn’t quite right. The descending loop is cutting into the oval. But I was just so darn proud of that squared off top that I used it anyway!
I think one of the reasons I just love this style is because it forces you to slow down. If you zip through the strokes, you’re going to get messy, inconsistent letters. You have to take your time and really pay attention to what you’re doing.
If you’re interested in getting started, I highly recommend following @anintran and @masgrimes on both Instagram and Periscope. I have learned so much from them! Next week I’ll put up another post with some of my favorite resources, including the tools that I personally use. The greatest thing about calligraphy is that anyone can do it! It’s all about practice! Trust me, if I can do it, so can you!