Every calligrapher should start with a few essential items at their immediate disposal - paper towel or lint free cloth, water bowl, a soft art pencil, washi or artists' tape, ink + of course, your favorite pen holders + an assortment of nibs! Just remember, there are no "perfect tools" for everyone - you may prefer a certain holder or nib that simply doesn't work for another calligrapher. For instance, you won't find me without my favorite black sumi ink, Griffhold Sraight Pen Holder + a Gillott 1068, Brause Rose, Mitchell Elbow or Comic Zebra nib... depending on my current obsession, that is. While you begin exploring the amazing world of pointed pen calligraphy, get yourself into the habit of trying out different tools + exploring new materials until you find you "go-tos."
Before putting ink to paper, though, you will learn that how you set up you workspace can truly make all the difference between a passing fancy + a dedicated practice. Like using primer before painting the wall, how you start can make your actual workflow significantly easier + taking this time to properly set up will have you all the more thankful later. I place a heavy emphasis on proper set up in my Beginners' Workshops. Your tools should not only be accessible, but having a dedicated space in your home, like a desk or kitchen nook helps you to make your practice consistent + fun. Not cluttered + sporadic!
So, find a writing space that calls to you (nope, walk away from the coffee table. Immediately. You + your lower back can pen me a beautiful thank you note later...) Go find a proper table + comfortable chair. Another tip - I do not necessarily recommend a chair with back support as I have my students sitting closer to the front edge of their seat, sitting upright, never slouching. My students also learn early on in class that I am also an L.M.T. (licensed massage therapist) + posture matters! But we'll discuss that in more detail when we cover pen angle + posturing in a later post.
Think vertical, not horizontal.
Make sure you have enough space to move your arm up + down the work surface. Your light source should come from the opposite side of your working arm to avoid cast shadows on your work. Your inks + all other wet materials should be on the same side as your working arm to minimize drips + smearing on the page.
When using your layout paper for practice drills, tape it directly to your guide sheet - never to your work surface! You should be able to move it around as needed. Calligraphy is a physical practice + you want to have the freedom to adjust the angle of your work when necessary.
Allow for flexibility so your work's relationship to you can change, not your relationship to your work.
Removing as many obstacles as you can up front can be the difference between a fun memory of an afternoon workshop + a lifelong fulfilling practice. Calligraphy can be daunting enough without needlessly adding to any inevitable frustrations. Invest in good tools + create a special space, just for you + your practice. Ten to fifteen minutes a day of simple drills + flourishing will be significantly more beneficial to your practice than the once in a while moment you get around to pulling out your tools from the big art bin that keeps getting placed deeper + deeper into the back of the closet - or under the bed, where my first supplies waited for nearly a year before I resurrected them + reaffirmed my commitment to my practice!
Our Modern Calligraphy Starter's Kit has been specifically curated with this in mind. After much trial + error (+ money) in the beginning stages of my own practice, I discovered that utilizing a beautiful, easy to clean ink with a simple ink well system kept my pen always within convenient reach + my creative juices flowing. Once you have a more practiced hand, you will obviously want to branch out into new inks + papers. If you begin with quality supplies that allow you a firm grasp of your basic techniques, you will be able to graduate on to new tools more quickly.
Now you're set UP to go! Woot woot!
With a proper set up at home, you can begin formulating your daily routines to keep your practice on track. Whether working from a guidebook, using Instagram accounts like Más+Millie for daily inspiration or even starting your own #LetterADayChallenge, you now have the dedicated space to carry out your lettering dreams!
To give you a little structure to your budding practice, download a FREE daily exercise guide sheet here to get you started! Or check out our entire Basic Strokes Worksheet Collection, available if you need some extra guidance to get you going! Once you have a firm grasp of these basic strokes, you can move on creating + connecting letterforms. Even more basic strokes + beginner's drills can also be found in our Introduction to Modern Calligraphy guidebook, available online for purchase or instant download!
Good luck + happy lettering, my luvs!
♥ An excerpt from An Introduction to Modern Calligraphy • Illustration + Photography: Becka Bravo