How to Learn Calligraphy Online

I often answer questions on Quora, Medium and other online sites about how to learn calligraphy. One of the latest questions was “how do I master the art of calligraphy“.  Someone had answered encouraging the person to start cutting their own bamboo pens! I’m glad I don’t have to cut quills or do any of that. Although being a calligrapher is a very old profession, I’m glad that there are modern pens, and paints so I don’t have to create my own! One of the great things about modern technology is that you can actually improve and even learn calligraphy online. All you need is a scanner and an internet connection.

Here’s my answer:

Calligraphy is an art that is a bit different from others. That’s because there are “rules” about how you create the letterforms, or different “hands” or styles of calligraphy (what in computer language is called ‘fonts’).

I definitely wouldn’t encourage you to learn calligraphy by starting to cut your own writing tools; there are many acceptable types of “dip pens” with various sized nibs available for not a lot of money.

In order to create a particular letter form, you need to study it by really observing it closely – it’s almost like learning how to see. There are many people who advertise on the web, and it’s important to know that you are looking at quality calligraphy created by a master calligrapher who can teach calligraphy online!

I once heard a hysterical story from a Russian comedian (Yacov Smirnov) who told the method by which he was going to learn English quickly. He said he’d lock himself in the room, and watch TV all day, and come out in a month speaking perfect English. A month later, he ventured out of his apartment to meet a friend who spoke perfect English. When Smirnov started speaking to him, his friend didn’t understand a word. Smirnov had been watching Telemundo, the Spanish speaking channel.

The moral of the story is, you don’t want to learn calligraphy online from 98% of the people who call themselves professional calligraphers. They are simply not good enough to teach proper letter forms and calligraphy styles of writing.

Observe to Learn Calligraphy Lettering Styles

Notice that the letters have thick and thin parts, which are created by the angle of the pen nib (the part of the pen that comes in various sizes, that you dip into ink or paint). You achieve that by the angle you hold the pen consistently when writing your letters.

Consistency is the most important characteristic- learning the height, width and other parts of the letters. That’s where studying, observing and practicing the letters come in. It takes time to replicate that – and that takes getting used to the pen, holding it at the proper pen angle, how hard you are pressing down (don’t press hard or the ink won’t flow!) – just like any professional gets to know their tools- a carpenter using a saw, a great tennis player using their racket! It takes a LOT of hours, and finally years. You can learn these important points from a good calligraphy teacher even by doing it online!

And once you learn about forming calligraphy letters, then you need to learn about what kind of ink or paint, paper, how to rule paper… on and on. I’m still learning after 37 years of studying, and being professional calligrapher for about 30 years!

The final part is the ART of calligraphy. It does take some talent to create beautiful letters and documents. Go to the websites of calligraphy guilds like The Society of Scribes  – check out the work of top calligraphers, like John Stevens Designs. There are breathtaking works of art! Not everyone can learn be a top scribe- no matter how many hours you practice. You need skill AND TALENT. But having an option to learn calligraphy online is a great option for people who don’t have local calligraphy teachers or time to take a class. You can make your own schedule when you learn calligraphy online.

You can contact me to look over your practice sheets that you send via a scan of your work of calligraphy that you are learning- Online calligraphy lessons- critiquing your work and making suggestions can be very helpful to improve the quality of calligraphy.

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