It’s an Art, a Visual Art but it looks like handwriting – Calligraphy. In simple words humans made markings with available tools as symbols. Later as characters and scripts developed they began to write using tools available to them. As our writing tools developed, the tools for Calligraphy also changed. Calligraphy is practiced in many countries. The tools they use, the writing styles and scripts differ. I find this art quite fascinating. This one is all about practice, practice and more practice.
I learnt the European Gothic Style of Calligraphy during my school days. Did it help me in any way? My handwriting was decently good and legible. My teacher insisted I use Ink Pens till 5th Grade, after which I was permitted to use ball point pens for writing my notes. I also used Ink Pens for Calligraphy. So it seemed like more fancy writing, just additional handwriting practice in the beginning. I could use it for my school projects. My mom insisted I use my fancy writing skills on Greeting Cards, Gift Tags and Envelopes exchanged on occasions. Gained some love and appreciation there!
Today, I don’t remember writing an entire page by hand in a long time. Fonts – Typography, Logos and Signatures – Lettering and Graphic Designing. Learning Calligraphy helped me here! I agree, we now use digital tools for these but the basic knowledge remains the same. It gave me finesse in holding the pen, the brush and now the digital pencil. The digital sensors correct the breaks in the strokes and make it look flawless. Even I prefer using the digital tools. I don’t think it is easy to compete against a computer opponent in this case. The computer would win! It has made Typography and Graphics much much simpler and faster. This makes a handmade version – handwritten Calligraphy by a Calligraphy Artist a rare find – unique and beautiful; just watching a Calligraphy Artist paint can be a visual treat by itself.
Now even schools are online, we don’t even use the pen for signatures. We are almost forgetting what it is like to hold a pen. Calligraphy is now mostly used to write names on wedding cards. Even for those we now use digital fonts and print them. So why should I learn it? If that is your argument, then I have to say “Learning this Art has helped me improve my creativity and artistic skills. I don’t think I could have done it any other way. I’m glad I learnt it.”
Brush Calligraphy is quite popular. Brush Calligraphy and Modern Calligraphy are different. Calligraphy is mostly referred to when using a Pen to write, while you use the brush or brush tip pens to write in Brush Calligraphy. I don’t want to get into the terms and definitions but say that learning one will be different from learning the other. So try your hand at Traditional and Modern Calligraphy as well as Brush Calligraphy. You could be better at one than the other.
Where to start and how to learn this? What material would I require? Is it very expensive to pursue this Art? Do you teach? Wait! Wait! I shall try and answer all these questions. They say ‘Teaching is the best way to learn’. That is why I taught some of my close friends whatever I knew about Calligraphy. It was my first ever experience in teaching. It is always better if you can find someone to teach you this Art but if you cannot then the next best thing is to buy a Book. This Art is all about practising. A teacher would also need just one or two sessions – to show you how to hold the pen, how to make the strokes, show you one or two writing styles. The rest depends on your interest and practice. A book will do that and may be show you more writing styles to practice.
A Calligraphy Set would have one Ink Pen, changeable Nibs of different sizes and Ink Tubes. This is the smallest set. Larger sets with additional tools are also available. A ready set is most likely to include a book with at least one writing style. This will be a very basic one. Then you can download practice sheets available online. We used regular Ink Pens. We bought Calligraphy (4-6 different size) Nibs. See the loose nibs in the picture, I still have them. The Ink was permanent Blue or Black Ink (regular Ink Pot). We even got nib cutters to cut the nib. Unfortunately loose or only Calligraphy Nibs are not available anymore. So you could buy the most basic Calligraphy Set and a good book with different writing styles and practice sheets.
Wow! Why are these Ink Pens expensive? The nib of a Calligraphy Pen is accented. It gives a thin upstroke and a thick downstroke. For larger font size one needs a broader or larger nib size. To begin with nib sizes 1& 2 are good to write in regular handwriting books. The red blue ruled books we use when we learn handwriting are perfect to learn Calligraphy too. Then of course you would just need a single line ruled book or no lines as you progress. This part is similar to our handwriting practice books.
We get sketch pens or markers with accented tips too. These are used for Calligraphy. The difference is the tip is much softer and so the pressure to be applied is different. The pressure applied to write with a writing instrument that has a metal tip, wooden tip or fibre tip will always be different. Similarly brushes are used for Brush Calligraphy. We get Brush tip markers too. It is cheaper to get markers and we can always use them for other Arts and Crafts. One of the reasons Brush Calligraphy is popular. If Calligraphy really interests you and you wish to take it to another level, you may want to invest in a Traditional Calligraphy Pen and perhaps get trained with a professional Calligraphy Artist.
One special tip here : All these pens will be labelled as Calligraphy Pens on their pack at the Art Store. So the onus is on us to select what we are looking for. We definitely don’t need all of them. Best to buy a book and then the Pens if that makes more sense. Choose the writing instrument you are most comfortable using.
The Ink, the Paper, the Writing Instrument and most importantly your Style of Writing. All of this matters in Calligraphy. Even if I write the same thing, with the same pen on a different paper or with different ink or by applying different pressure, the result will be different each time. Hence only with practice and experience an Artist will be able to create those amazing works.
All said and done. This amazing Art seems to be dying out and getting replaced with digital forms. It may be difficult to find a tutor but don’t give up. In the end it will all be worth it – an enriched learning experience. Have an Arty Weekend!