How-to Begin Left-handed Calligraphy

I am not a leftie, so I’m challenged by coaching calligraphy for people who are. Even so, interested left-hand writers want to know what to expect if they try calligraphy. What should a left-handed person learn?

Left-handed calligraphers use various writing styles. They approach the text line with their hand from above and below it. They write uphill, horizontally, and downhill with results that vary from a right-handed writer in quality thick-thin stroke results. And often different from other lefties.

Most calligraphy books, articles, and Youtube videos only have a small section for lefties. There’s only limited published information on how lefties hold the nib to the writing line and the angle required to make a pen stroke. What can you do about that? Where can you go for help? 

Unless you find a left-handed instructor, most answers will come from within you. Since each calligraphy style has a specific nib-to-writing-line angle that controls its thick-thin stroke production, anyone using a different angle won’t make letters appear as intended. Since you approach the page from a different direction than a rightie, you must find your own best writing angle. The way you comfortably hold the pen and its nib to create the appropriate angle for your intended calligraphy style. 

Also, don’t be afraid to change the way you letter from that described for right-handed students by right-handed teachers. Cramping your hand and arm for lengthy periods to get the nib to make the correct angle, as do a few leftie professional calligraphers, is difficult and may be painful for your hand, arm or back. Experiment with changing your paper’s position so you have a comfortable proper nib angle for your intended script. 

Beautiful lettering requires fine, exacting muscle control and memory that is only learned by hours of repetition. That means you have to be dedicated, courageous and willing to experiment and practice to let your skill emerge and attain a successful technique.

Knowing the challenges beforehand may help you focus on adjustments to overcome them. Instead of a small leftie dedicated book section, you might read Vance Studley’s $8 book for Left-Handed Calligraphy. Goodreads website posts:

Studley, an award-winning calligrapher and well-known arts educator and author, shows left-handers how to select appropriate tools and materials, learn correct hand, pen and nib positions, master composition and page layout, and much more. Four model alphabets are introduced — Italic Hand, Chancery Cursive, Uncial Hand, and the Foundation Hand — each providing valuable lessons in the mastery of left-handed calligraphy.

The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) has a group of posts about and for left-handed letterers. Their information is great for all calligraphy areas, but especially helpful for the leftie.
Here are three Youtube videos I found by lefties on left-handed calligraphy. 

  • Lefty Calligraphy Published on Jun 9, 2014, by lsbussell, shows the method but there’s no narration. Even so, I like this video because it shows a leftie doing broad-pen classic calligraphy. 
  • I did find one training video: Can a Lefty do Calligraphy? narrated and demonstrated by Jacqueline Shuler. Published on Feb 11, 2014. This video shows the pen’s placement, its control, and the paper angel. 

Calligraphy is a skill that involves touch, pressure, hand movement and a concept of beauty. Used harmoniously these lead to beautiful lettering. If you feel your left-handedness bothers your learning, your uncertainty increases over that we all experience when acquiring a new skill. I hope these tips help you overcome uncertainty and you let your skill emerge.  

External Blog Post:
The Sinister Scribe–Lefty Calligrapher by Ian the Green

Categories: Calligraphy

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