10 Ways To Practice Calligraphy

To warm-up for calligraphy or test different nibs, I write the “quick brown fox…” thing.  For more practice, I have several pangrams I use or give to my students.  When I’m waiting to leave for an appointment I sometimes use a chisel point calligraphy practice marker to doodle universal strokes or specific letters I want to improve. I try to fill a whole page, but that gets boring quickly.  So what can I do to make calligraphy practice fun, enjoyable, or purposeful? Here are some ideas I found. Maybe there’s some that will work for you. I’d also like to know what you do to practice calligraphy. Please leave me ideas in the comments below. These may be done in any script you want to use. Write them in more than one script if you want.  Write a collection of words with double letters, like “ss” or “tt” etc.  Find interesting proverbs or phrases you like. Write them out with their meaning. Or do this with jokes or puns you find funny. Write a detailed review of the last book or movie you saw. Take a page from any book. Write it’s words out without any break between letters. Attempt to keep the letters consistently spaced apart. Go through the alphabet writing a short word or person’s name for each letter. To take this to the next level add flourishes to any ascenders, descenders, or the first or last letter. This one tests your mind too. Write a poem, or nursery rhyme […]

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Why Is The Ramsey Psalter Important To Modern Calligraphers?

Re-reading a modern calligraphy book, I noticed a comment about the Ramsey Psalter. I thought it was a strange place for the comment and possibly an error. So I went looking.  The Ramsey Psalter is now in the British Library. It is an Anglo-Saxon illuminated book including the Book of Psalms and other devotional material. It‘s script is the elegant English Carolingian or Caroline minuscule used between 800 and 1200 A.D. […]

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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 […]

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How to Use a Dip Pen

When you adventure into using a dip pen you will find its use noticeably different from cartridge pens. Even the supplies needed are different. Besides the obvious pen nib holder, nib, ink and paper I have a few other things I use along with my dip pen set up. Most of my nibs also have a reservoir that holds a […]

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How to Select a Calligraphy Guide Book

I’ve collected numerous calligraphy manuals over the years, searching for tips and tricks to improve my lettering. As an SCA scribe, my book criteria differ from calligraphy books for modern works. Here are my preferences. Traditional Calligraphy Guides The book should focus on the nib-lettering technique I want to learn. For most of us in the SCA that is lettering […]

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Battling Calligraphy

Scroll production is a battle with calligraphy for me. I receive the task, research and plan the script and motifs I want to use. When I begin the lettering, the first and largest permanent motif, I’m tense. The page is blank and the more expensive the support–Bristol board, pergamenata, or calfskin vellum–the tenser I am. There is a deadline to meet, […]

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Today’s Scribal Class

Today’s Lonely Tower scribal class was concentrated pen fun. Seven students experimented with a 12th-century Protogothic calligraphy script. They were intent on their efforts so we saved the painting part of the class for September’s session. I had students that were novices and also some with art degrees.  We shared tools, books, and ideas. I also messaged them a link to my related Pinterest Protogothic calligraphy board, so they can see works done with that script. I’m inspired by their hunger for more. The next class will be September 11th at a nearby library. Since calligraphy took up all the class time, its preparation is done. I can relax and enjoy their reactions to their work.

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Is It A Script, Hand or Font?

What’s the difference between script, hand, and font? I’ve heard these terms used almost interchangeably. There is a difference. A script is a handwriting form used as a model, the writing style a calligrapher scribe has in mind to create. In general, they have names like “Uncial”, “Carolingian”, and “Gothic”, to name a few. Researchers identify a script by collecting thousands of individual examples and analyzing them for a similar look.  The hand is personal to the individual scribe.It’s what I actually put on paper or vellum, with any imperfections. I may intend changes because I don’t do a certain letter well, or they may be due to the pen I use. I may choose to tweak certain letters because I think they’re prettier that way or to fill more space. Those differences make up my hand. The word font comes from the Middle French term “fonte” meaning something that’s been melted or cast. It next referred to the set of metal type used in a printing house.  This term now applies to a digital letter system such a “Veranda”, “Arial”, or “Comic”.  Today’s digital font has numerous variations due to the many people that like designing letters. These terms also have categories and subsets. I won’t go into them all. I’ll leave most of them to the paleographers. A few are important for scribes. A majuscule script has only same height letters and no slant. It’s similar to using only capital letters to […]

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