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What about Chinese Calligraphy?

Chinese calligraphy certainly isn’t like the American and European handwriting I’ve come to respect over the decades. But, as an artist, I’m in awe of every stroke it takes to create Chinese characters.

Throughout the years, I’ve admired the dark, heavy strokes twisted and altered into intriguing designs on tattoos, tapestries, rubber stamps, paintings, and clothing without any notion what the characters meant.  Before my passion for calligraphic arts grew, I think I’ve been exposed to countless examples of Chinese calligraphy without realizing its form and beauty.

Now that’s it’s caught some serious attention from me-I wonder-am I ready for such a challenging art? Well, I guess anything’s possible.

Like American and European calligraphy, Chinese handwriting was originally designed to create uniformity across China for all personal and business communications.

In fact, Chinese calligraphy originated around the 2nd to 4th centuries and then it was memorialized in theoretical books to transfer the handwriting to later generations. Eventually, this writing gained popularity with additional countries across the Orient, such as Korea, Japan and Singapore, for art pieces and paintings, which developed a strong American appreciation over decades.

Within the past year, I’ve practiced calligraphy styles like italics, uncial, Copperplate, and Spencerian, but Chinese calligraphy piqued my interest over the summer. So, I checked into it and discovered some great ways to start. In my research, I found several video demos and online courses to aide in transferring my current calligraphy skill into practicing beautiful Chinese handwriting.

While checking for “how-to” videos, I stumbled across a couple of Chinese calligraphy video demonstrations and I watched in awe as the artists transformed each piece into a fabulous work of art, no matter what tool they were using. Immediately, I wondered how long it would take a novice (like me) to learn.

In one video, the artist used a simple brush on paper. In the second video, a calligrapher dipped a mop into a large bucket of ink drawing heavy dark strokes on a large piece of paper stretched across the floor.

Both Chinese artists created steady, yet focused strokes and lines while earning my full respect.

Shortly after the demonstrations, I was humbled. As much as I enjoy a good calligraphy challenge, I quickly changed my mind about practicing this fine art solo at this stage in my calligraphy skill. But, I do plan to give it a try in the future.

For now, I suggest seasoned calligraphers or extremely daring novices try their skill with this interesting art for a new project or challenge.

If you want to learn Chinese calligraphy, take full advantage of the resources on the web. To find out more visit this site for additional links to online courses.

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Copperplate Handwriting: Considering a Classic

What can I say about Copperplate handwriting? Well, for starters…it’s the most romantic, yet dramatic lettering, I’ve ever seen. Its flamboyant flourishing grabs the eye and steals your heart thinking about the time it took to create such a lovely word or line. Classic and dainty, it’s no wonder brides around the world consider it a “must-have”. I call the Copperplate hand “the letters of love”.

The ornate, delicate design looks like loads of love went into writing this hand. You certainly can’t scribble out a name in two seconds and get it to look graceful. Maybe that’s why Copperplate is synonymous for formal occasions, especially weddings.

A few years ago when I started my calligraphy journey, my original exposure to this art stemmed from a friend’s impending wedding and Copperplate writing became my ultimate goal. I’ve been hooked to calligraphy ever since.

As you develop your own calligraphy journey, add Copperplate handwriting to your list for hands to learn. It’s a beautiful and challenging art; you’ll take pride in learning.
                                                                                                                               

What is Copperplate?          

Copperplate is a cursive handwriting developed in England, which spread quickly throughout the English speaking world around the 18th century. The lettering is characterized by looping majuscules (upper case letters) and minuscules (lower case letters), which are usually written with decorative flourishes.

Unlike Italic or Roman hands, Copperplate handwriting requires a 55 degree slope and they’re normally linked together since the release of the 1770 copy manual by John Sealy called “The Running Hand”. Although it’s an ornate and fancy letter, Copperplate started out with bolder lines for business use called “Round hand”. It’s counterpart we know and love today, offers lighter, narrower lines called “Italian” or “ladies” hand, which we use today for commercial and personal art.

When did it start?

Copperplate writing originated in the 16th century and grew in popularity in England around the 18th century. When Copperplate started, Americans wrote with feather quills to dip in ink for document preparation. Later, dip pens with sharp flexible nibs became popular.

Creating the slim, delicate lines and loops of the Copperplate letters worked better than the heavier nibs, which is common for the Italic hand. After the inception of the Declaration of Independence, the Americans used Copperplate handwriting for business and personal use until other hands like Spencerian prevailed in schools around the latter part of the 19th century.

What to use?

For most hand lettering, ink reigns. On the other hand, if you’re working with lightweight invitations or envelopes, depending on the grade of it, it might cause trouble. Certain paper grades (or weights) are too light to handle average calligraphy inks, so go with paints, like gouache. Gouache is versatile and fun for artists who don’t mind the added preparation for mixing paint (with distilled water) and placing it on the nib.

Although black and white inks offer dramatic and formal appeal, brides these days prefer color to matching wedding announcements with a specific theme.

Who should try Copperplate?

Any artist interested in learning Copperplate can do it. But, it’s not something you can master in one day. Whatever your skill level, dedicate yourself to practicing consistently to master this hand with confidence.

In my experience, I found classroom instruction worked better compared to using a practice manual. Unlike the italic hand, it’s not easy to learn Copperplate alone because you need to know where to place the thin and thick lines that characterize a proper Copperplate hand. And, believe me, class instruction helps, but frustration still reared its ugly head with me.

If you’re an extreme newbie to calligraphy, prepare yourself with mounds of patience and dedication. For the moderate artists with minor exposure to lettering, you’ll find Copperplate a joyful challenge.

Have you tried Copperplate writing before? If so, what was your initial experience like?

Ditch Those Boring ABC’s: 4 Simple Tips to Practice a New Style

 

Whenever I sit down to my art desk to practice calligraphy, I’m never sure where I’ll start first. I go into it knowing that I want to practice a letter I haven’t tried in a while. Unfortunately, the same nagging questions run through my mind. What letters will I practice tonight? Should I practice the alphabet again? If so, should I try the lower case, upper case or both?

I usually fidget around with my iPod, looking for a good playlist, sorting through pen holders and nibs, and doting over the right paper to use until inspiration strikes.

Occasionally, I choose from a list of quotes provided by my calligraphy class to change things up. It helps to write in the upper and lower case in regular sentence form. But, I’ve grown tired of the same quote lists and discovered different ways to practice a new letter without passing out from sheer boredom.

Of course, as artists, we shouldn’t agonize over reinforcing our skill. Calligraphy is fun and relaxing. So, let’s drop those ABC’s for awhile and expand calligraphy practice with these following tips:

  • Check your address book with names of family members and friends and practice writing the names with formally, like Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brown, instead of Robert and Michelle Brown.
  • Grab your favorite song lyrics from a CD or check Google and enter lyrics for “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”. It brings up the title and song, so you can practice your favorite verse or the entire song.
  • Purchase a book of quotes. You’ll have an endless resource for practice and possibly for a future project. If you have favorite quotes, keep them readily available to pull out for a practice session, so you’ll void using the alphabet. The quotes help you use both upper and lower case letters.
  • Use your favorite bible verse. The book of Psalms offers inspirational verses that make great lines for cards and keepsakes.

Next time you prepare to practice calligraphy, you’ll have no excuse to simply turn to your ABC’s. Break up the monotony and try the suggested ideas. Happy lettering!

What form do you use for warming up or learning a new hand?

Spencerian – Fancy Pointed Pen for Beginners


Thinking about trying a flourished and fancy writing style to challenge your inner calligrapher? Have you tried any of the pointed pen styles? Well, there’s no need to freeze and panic like I did when I first started. If you’re excited about trying a formal style, like Spencerian or Copperplate, I’d suggest Spencerian. Once you begin this hand, you’ll discover Spencerian is not the easiest pointed pen style to learn, but if you’re a beginner looking for something fancy, I recommend it.

Before calligraphy class, I assumed Copperplate and Spencerian were the same, but they are very different. While writing in the Spencerian hand, the calligrapher must write gracefully holding the pointed pen light enough to show ink on the page. A heavy pen stroke throughout the word could confuse the style with Copperplate. The lowercase letters flow easy with a light touch, but the uppercase letters are a different matter. They demand more concentration with thin and thick lines similar to Copperplate, but with very different styling to characterize the hand.

The Spencerian hand originated in America in 1848 by Platt Rogers Spencer. He created a writing style that would be easier to use, faster to write, and more legible for business and education. Before the invention of typewriters in the early 20th century, students learned Spencerian as normal handwriting similar to the cursive writing that our school children learn today.

With the invention of the word processor, it seems like words are created at nearly the speed of light, so handwriting with a pen to paper shows care for its recipient. This is possibly why calligraphy has experienced a rise in popularity for formal occasions, like weddings and other exclusive engagements.

At first sight, the Spencerian hand looks intimidating with swirls and curls delicately surrounded with soft handwritten words. But, believe me; it’s easier to write than you think. If you practice the basics first, you’ll get the chance to improve your skill and dress up words with wildly ornate flourishes.

Spencerian is a beautiful hand to write, but I had a tough time trying to complete the uppercase letters. Uppercase lettering is important to learn because it provides the starting point to creating fabulous flourishes, but they require the most practice time compared to lowercase letters.

In my opinion, Spencerian is not a hand you want to learn alone. Of course, the lowercase letters are a snap to grasp, if cursive writing came easy as a child. But, the uppercase letters alone are worth spending time and money. In class, you receive instructor assistance and classmate encouragement, which helped me tremendously during my first practice hours.

For calligraphers who’ve practiced other pointed pen styles, working solo with an instructional video or book on how to write in Spencerian hand should be simple.

Now, stop reading, grab your pen and ink and give the Spencerian hand a try. If you’ve tried before, start practicing. You’ll fall in love with it all over again. And, for the beginner, once you’ve practiced for a week, you’ll see exactly what I mean.

Have you tried this hand before or one similar? Feel free to share your work. I’d like to see it.

Thinking About Italics?

With the end of my calligraphy class, I’ve started the summer with a chance to take on new projects and learn new styles. After reviewing a few hands from another calligraphy book, I’ve taken the joy in learning three styles that favor the italic hand. At first, I practiced all three in one weekend and then practiced each one every week. Right now, my art desk is covered with paper and a variety of pens in multiple-sized nibs.

The semi-casual italic styles I’m working with resembles the italic hand with a fun yet fancy flair and I’m sure they’d look great for addressing envelopes or even offer visual appeal in an art project. But, the entire process got me thinking about traditional italics. I wondered if I could actually still write this letter well.

Lately, I’ve tried traditional italics with my broad edge Parallel Pens and, I’m happy to report, I haven’t lost my touch.

During my calligraphy journey, the italic style was the first style I tried to see if I’d really enjoy writing the alphabet with a weird pen. But, during the 12-month period, I discovered my love/hate relationship with italics and by then, I was already hooked. A special bond developed with this style until I dropped it completely to focus on learning uncial, Copperplate and Spencerian during my calligraphy class.

Italic handwriting is possibly the best hand for any new calligrapher to learn. Obviously, most people think about italics when they think about calligraphy. It’s possible they’re envisioning a beautifully flourished italic word with its delicate slopes and broad edge lines.

Though modern–age technology replaced handwriting significantly in the early 20th century, italics is one hand that’s survived since the 15th century. This style developed in Italy and emerged in manuscripts and scrolls. Today, italic handwriting also graces scrolls, but it’s also found on certificates, invitations, signs, envelopes, as well as, art projects.

In my opinion, any novice calligrapher would enjoy learning italics. Compared to other hands, its broad edge lines are forgiving when it comes to those unavoidable mistakes. And, if you’re too nervous to invest in dip pens and nibs, a fountain pen set already complete with broad edge nibs and interchangeable color cartridges make it fun and easy to learn whether you’re 9 or 90.

You’ll enjoy the challenge and benefits italics bring if you join a class, or even if you learn solo. Believe me, with time and patience, you’ll see results.

When did you first learn calligraphy? Did you try italics or another lettering style?

Give Brush Lettering A Try

paintbrush

If you’ve never tried brush lettering, it’s actually easier than you think.

Artisans accustomed to using a paint brush might have an easier time with it, but don’t let it chase you away if you’ve never picked up a paint brush before.

Brush lettering is a form of calligraphy used by artists and writers from all over the world for communicating visual arts. It’s simply creating letters or characters with a small paint brush and acrylic or oil paints.

Although this freehand lettering remained popular for sign writing and other paraphernalia in early American history, it’s lost prominence due to the rise in computer technology. Fortunately, artists and calligraphers keep it alive through arts and crafts projects across the country.

For instance, I recently used a casual style brush lettering for hand-crafted invitations with impressive results. Even without prior professional instruction, I received several compliments, which boosted my confidence and inspired me to learn more.

The Calligrapher’s Bible by David Harris and Brush Lettering Step-By Step by Jim Gray and Bobbie Gray were two good sources of instruction. The former provides simple tips on creating modern brush lettering in a variety of styles and the latter demonstrates brush lettering basics for artists or beginners who need guidance through each step. It also provides ways to practice with minimal investment by using tools and supplies you might already have.

If you’re a calligrapher who prefers writing with pen and ink, grasping the concept of this lettering only takes patience and enthusiasm. And, it should be a breeze to learn solo along with a lettering guide since it requires similar strokes with a slightly different approach.

So, give it try and practice until you’re comfortable and pleased with your progress. When you’re ready, move onto adding charm to your favorite item with a name or quote on glass, wood or canvas.

The audacious calligraphers who’ve practiced brush lettering understand the balance of joy and challenges that accompany this art form. From monograms to quotes, brush lettering gives artists infinite fun and creative possibilities as soon as they pick up a paint brush.

Have you tried brush lettering? What projects have you worked on?

Beginners…It’s Time to Try Something New

Like many artists and crafters, there’s nothing better than learning new techniques to pique creative ideas for exciting new art projects. Mixing varieties of medium for added textures and visual interests are so much fun that it’s not hard to lose track of time.

From drawing to sculpture to web design, there’s endless information ready to absorb at our fingertips. Unfortunately, we get so caught up with creating that it’s easy to neglect expanding our horizons into new medium.

In recent years, I attempted watercolors and scrapbooking and didn’t realize calligraphy provided an enhanced and customized look for my projects. Skimming books and practicing solo, failed to impress the idea of mixed media for projects.

Using pencil for sketching and paint for color was the closest I’ve ever come to mixing more than one medium. It wasn’t until I attended the calligraphy class that I discovered calligraphy offers more than addressing envelopes. I learned the benefits of changing things up, so all this time, I really missed out on creating some nice stuff.

But, if you’re a fairly new artist or crafter, I have news for you.

Calligraphy beginners and enthusiasts are in for a real treat. Next month, one of Southern California’s popular lettering artists, Barbara Close, will instruct a two-part course at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. You’ll have an opportunity to try hand lettering while getting a dose of its history.

Whether you desire to learn the origin of calligraphy or test the waters before taking a full length course, I recommend for beginners and artists looking for a new medium to try. Although it’s a two-part workshop, you have the option to take it one day or both days. Plus, Ms. Close provides materials for the course, so . All you need to bring is patience, creativity and a love for calligraphy. She’ll do the rest. Go ahead and explore a new skill.

Please note: The workshops start on July 13 and 20 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, CA. Visit http://www.bowers.org for fees and additional details.

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