The Ins and Outs (and Loops and Lines) of Calligraphy

Looking to learn? Here are a few tips to get you started.

Mastering the art of calligraphy is no small feat, but with time you can fill manuscripts with beautiful flourishes and delicate artistry. Rebecca Sinnen learned the artform through 100-year-old books and mentorships from master penmen, and has advice for anyone hoping to begin the journey. 

1. Know Your Tools

“You have to have a good understanding of how your tools work,” says Sinnen. There are many kinds of pens. If you write with a dip pen like Sinnen, you will learn that the nibs all have their own personalities. Practice with several pens, and by applying various degrees of pressure, to find what works for you.

2. Perfect the Basics

Before you approach your first “a” (not to mention “b,” “c” and “d”), Sinnen says you should make thousands of lines. That’s right, just lines. You can learn a lot about line tilt, kerning and weight with the simplest of strokes. “Before you do anything, you have to break it down into the fundamentals.”

3. Practice Technique and Style

“Studying good exemplars is really important,” says Sinnen, who learned, in part, from century-old calligraphy books. And familiarizing yourself with the difference between traditional and contemporary styles is also important. “You can’t watch a modern calligrapher while you are trying to practice traditional,” she says.




This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s May issue.

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