Monday, March 24, 2014

Modern Calligraphy

I have been doing more and more custom illustration and hand lettering work {and play} recently. It is “work” I enjoy immensely, as it absorbs every ounce of stress and returns to me immeasurable joy.

To put pen to paper and move my hand and fingers to create shapes and forms that convey messages and conjure emotions is a powerful skill—one that I am finally accepting is a natural talent of mine. One that, thankfully, I have continued to practice, hone and polish my entire life.

I have been playing with pens, “faking” calligraphic strokes by outlining the heavy ones and filling them in with ink. Recently I acquired a digital tablet and stylus, allowing me to draw directly to the computer and manipulate the result in Adobe Illustrator. Both techniques deliver amazing lettering, and I am proud to say my work is always original, though something was missing from these techniques. Something just wasn’t authentic enough for me about it all. I didn’t want to fudge it anymore.

Calligraphy. Those awkward nib pens with the ink cartridges? I tried them years ago. Several family members gifted me several kits. I poured over those characters, practiced, practiced and practiced some more. Roman numerals, gothic alphabets, uppercase, lowercase… I liked the look of it, though didn’t love it. Of course, that was well over twenty years ago.

Calligraphy has changed.

Enter, Modern Calligraphy. And, welcome!

This is a style that Martha Stewart popularized in the 90s. Her Living and Weddings magazines were sprinkled with subtitles and captions using sweet, script handwritten-esque typefaces. Like this:


Being a publication designer, I appreciate the elegance and legibility of the script, and have been envious of those calligraphers who could create custom invitations, place cards, menus and table cards using pen and ink. Gorgeous.

For some reason, I never thought I could do it. So I never tried. 

Until yesterday.

I was itching to hit up our local art supply store to pick up some calligraphy pens and ink. I mentioned my craving to Jamie, who—because he was sent to me by heaven—disappeared and, within moments, returned with a box of his treasures, including… ta da!… fine point calligraphy tips, handles and bottles of ink. I love him.

So, after decades since last attempting calligraphy, this was the first line of script I laid to paper.


Not. Too. Shabby.

Then I was hooked. The challenge of mastering the requirement to lift and press the nib with just the right pressure—at just the right time—to ensure even and deliberate thicks and thins. Giving myself the freedom and forgiveness to try flourishes, and then try more. The instant gratification encouraged me to keep going. So I did.

I wrote, and wrote, and wrote. All. Day. 

Seriously. Ask Jamie. I attempted to put the pen away several times thoughout the day. I cleaned the nib. Disposed of my blotting tissue. Closed my sketch book. Initiated some less-joyful tasks, like housework. Nope. I couldn’t stop thinking about that pen and the magic I could perform with it! It was like a frikkin’ wand!

I went on to do these… and fill no fewer than eight other pages with random sentences, words, names and musings.




Pretty, aren’t they?

Say hello to Modern Calligraphy. I am a calligrapher. Finally!


{ Psst… I love to receive feedback on my posts. Please leave your comments whenever you feel inspired to do so! }

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