Many people feel intimidated by the idea of calligraphy yet still wish to improve their every day writing. To promote and honor writing by hand, National Handwriting Day is celebrated on January 23rd. Calligrapher Phawnda Moore has written a wonderful article on ways to perfect your own script that we are happy to share with our blog readers. Enjoy her tips, and enter for a chance to win a handwriting kit to complement your practice!
Revisiting Handwriting for Calligraphers
by Phawnda Moore
Calligraphy students often ask if taking my class will improve their handwriting. Equally popular is the lament of parents or teachers, especially if they home school or their child is no longer learning handwriting in school.
Less than half of U.S. elementary schools now require handwriting instruction. Interestingly enough, when the Washington Post asked Americans if they felt handwriting was still relevant in a digital age, an impressive 82% responded ‘yes’.
There’s hope on the horizon! January 23 is National Handwriting Day (that day was John Hancock’s birthday) and the majority vows to keep it alive, one way or another. Some personally show support by sending handwritten notes; others mentor youngsters, an afternoon or two a week. Good for them! Today, let’s revisit handwriting to see how you can improve yours, especially if you’re a calligrapher.
As you may know, calligraphy usually references historical hands that have thick and thin strokes. Handwriting (with joined letters) evolved from these styles during the Renaissance (16th century). An example is my piece below, a variation of English Roundhand from the 1700s. I used gouache and a pointed nib for this formal script.
Handwriting differs from calligraphy in 3 ways: speed, joins, and tools. Its key frustration is legibility, which is minimized or even destroyed by excessive loops and not lifting the pen. The problem of illegibility can be greatly improved by moving into ‘slow’ mode. Aim to be more conscious of every letter you make.
A personal note: There was a lot of joking when I, a calligrapher, married a physician, especially from those who had seen his handwriting. My personal mission has been to reacquaint my husband with the pleasure of writing. He loves fountain pens and nice paper, thankfully! Writing has become a time of meditation for him, as it is for many who write out their favorite quotes or keep journals, simply for the pleasure of doing so.
Even for handwriting, you’ll need quality materials: Rhodia pads or nice quality digital copy paper and a pen that’s comfortable to grip. Choose an ergonomic chair and a slanted writing surface at elbow height in a room with bright lighting. Create an atmosphere of enjoyment: instrumental music with a beat works for me, but some prefer silence. Then: FOCUS. Put life and all your thoughts on hold so you can become one with the letters. If you love what you’re writing, you’re half way there.
Refresher on your grip ~ as shown below, hold the pen between your pointer and middle fingers; hold it comfortably. Don’t hold on for dear life, your letters will record the fear! Aim for this position each time you write.
Speaking for myself, this is not easy; it’s a lifelong goal. I’ve found that brush markers have helped a lot. The smaller ones, like the Pentel Sign Pen with the brush tip, are good for place cards and envelopes, and their colors make writing fun.
Practicing with historical models like Italic, shown below, will improve legibility. (Fortunate students learn Italic handwriting in school.) Recall how the emphasis is on individual letters, not loops. And even though “printing” is frequently discouraged, its simplicity has merit. In my opinion, it’s better to print than to scrawl.
Experiment with different writing tools. Your search for the ‘perfect’ writing tool is not that important, really! While some are troublesome, the range of good to great pens is phenomenal. For less formal Italic handwriting, try chisel fountain pens like Lamy, Rotring Art Pen or Shaeffer. All have multiple nibs and use convenient ink cartridges. This Italic is appropriate for special correspondence, cards, and small gifts ~ and you’ll probably find that in time, more creative projects will spark your interest!
For everyday handwriting ~ making lists for the market, keeping journals or writing a check ~ I like using a Zebra (gel pen) Sarasa with a 0.5 tip. The ink dries quickly (especially important for lefties and authors who sign books) and makes clean, crisp letters. I penned the very informal Italic style below in just a few minutes, using a minimum of loops and simple joins.
Try your hand at more beautiful writing in 2017! Let’s keep it alive! Celebrate handwriting in January with a new tip each Monday on my Facebook page.
In honor of National Handwriting Day and Phawnda’s article, we are giving away a handwriting kit filled with some of our favorite handwriting tools. The kit contains a blank Rhodia pad, a Seven Year Pen, a Pentel Hybrid Technica pen in a .5 tip, a Plaisir fountain pen, a Le Pen, and a Pilot Varsity pen, as well as the book Italic Letters: Calligraphy and Handwriting by Inga Dubay and Barbara Getty. For your chance to win, comment on this post with your name and email address. A winner will be announced here on the blog on Monday, January 23rd.