We all are calligraphers

“Can you teach me calligraphy”? This question is incumbent, as you are already a calligrapher! You started to be a calligrapher when you picked up a pencil, or pen, and started to learn you’re ABCs. The dictionary describes the word calligraphy as: 1. Beautiful handwriting. 2. handwriting; penmanship. Beautiful handwriting can be done with any pen, and with any ink. The correct way to start writing beautifully, is to say; I would like to learn how to write with a broad edge nib, or a copperplate nib.


Where to Start

A good place to start, is with the pen. You can make your own, or buy a fountain pen, or a dip pen. This is your decision. Now you have a broad edge pen; you need to learn to make marks with it. There is no fancy way of making marks, just put the pen on to the paper, and move it around. The more you do this the easier it gets, and the more familiar the pen becomes. When you are comfortable with the pen, and are making clear, and confident strokes you can start to look at fonts.

Starting to learn a font

The letters of a font are made up of individual strokes. The trick to learning a fort, is to break the font up into manageable parts. The first, is to identify the strokes that make up the letters. The second step is to learn the individual letters and there construction. And the third is the spacing of the letters.

The font that I have chosen for this blog is a type of half Uncial. Back in 2003 I was working on a calligraphy project, and the Half Uncial was not giving a uniform look. So I changed some of the letters. I called it Uncial A: I would like to shear it with you.

This is the full Alphabet





The individual strokes






This video demonstrates the individual strokes that make up a handwritten font. As well shows pen control.



How to hold a pen

Holding a pen

The way we hold our pens are important for two reasons; endurance, and accuracy. In this post I don’t what to explain how to hold a pen with a long write up, but rather with a short description with photos, and with a short explanation. There two methods of holding a pen. We will be looking at the medieval method, and the modern method. I can hear you rolling your eyes at me! And you are most likely saying, “Dude it is the twenty first century, we don’t care how the medieval scribe held his pen.” The medieval method is still relevant today, as there are modern pens that are designed to be held in this way. It also help us to understand how we get to the modern way of holding a pen.

Medieval method

Medieval scribes held there pens vertically, with the inside of the tips of the middle and index fingers, and holding it steady with the tip of the thumb. The remaining two fingers are curled up out of the way.





The reason for holding a pen in this way, is that the medieval scribes, and illustrators worked on a flat surface, and their ink had a high viscosity. Holding the pen in this way allows you to see the letter being formed, as you write.


Modern method

The modern method brings the pen to all most horizontal position. With the tips of the thumb and index fingers holding the pen, and with the pen resting on the middle finger. The two remaining fingers are curled up out of the way.





The change in the pen angle is due to the change in the angle of the writing surface. As scribes and illustrators started to, use the inclined work table they had to bring the pen to a horizontal position.


This video shows the modern way of holding a pen, and the medieval way. By using two modern pens. The first pen is designed to be held in the modern way, and the second in the medieval way.


Art Preservation

Art preservation

Preserving your art work is one of the most important stages of the art process. Art preservation is a mind-set, it is up to the individual artist, Liberian, art historian, and collectors to give the art work the proper care to the art work. This post is going to look at, art preservation from the perspective of the artists, and from having a limited budget.

The preservation proses is the same as anything you do in life; what you put in is what you get out! With this said, it does not mean you have to break the bank, or put in hours of hard work. The best preservation is prevention. Where to start, is all ways the hardest part of any job. I have found that by turning the task that I have to do, in to a question I am able to get results quickly and effortlessly. “How do I prevent my art work from getting damaged”?


  • Studying preservation techniques.
  • Buy enclosures.
  • Make custom enclosures.
  • Designate an area for storage.

Preserving your art is as easy as that. The answers will differ from artist to artist; the medium you work in, environmental conditions, and your geographical location will determine the steps you will take, to preserve your art work.


I would like to apologise for the constant re uploading of these three posts. For the last month and a half, I have been plagued by technical issues on WordPress; namely, the site was no longer there, 500 errors, and ERR_CONNECTION_TIMED_OUT, error.

The white elephants in the attic

We all have purchased an expensive item that was going to change your lives, and make us rich and famous; as the initial excitement wares off, we are left with the realization that we have been duped by the clever advertising. Buyers regret follows, and the item is stored in the closet, garage, or attic. The art supply industry is firmly built on the promise that if you buy a certain item you will be transformed in to an artist; no formal training required.


How to avoid having an attic fool of white elephants.

When you decide to start a new venture, you should start with a minimalistic approach. You should asking two question. What is the least amount of equipment and consumables I am going to need? And can I see myself doing this in five year from now?



Calligraphy is one of the nicest, and easiest art forms to master. But it is an art from with the most white elephants. I have photographed some of the equipment and consumables in my pantry, to show you what you may come across. If you are a beginner to calligraphy, you don’t need any of these items. You only need four items. A home make pen, ink, paper, and a willingness to learn.


The three fundamental elements of calligraphy

There are three fundamental elements in calligraphy; pen, ink and paper, in this post we shall look at how these three elements form a symbiotic relationship.

To understand the relationship between pen, ink and paper it is helpful to look at the fire triangle model. Each side of the triangle represents an element: Oxygen, Heat and Fuel; when you have all three you get fire, remove one of the elements and the fire is extinguished.

In calligraphy we can apply the same model, each side of the triangle represents an element of calligraphy; Pen, ink and paper. Bring all three together you will have made a calligraphy work.


 A pen is an instrument that’s distributes ink on to a writing surfers. The word pen comes from the Latin (Scribo): people use the Latin word (Penna) for pen; Penna meaning feather; to use the word Penna of pen, is quit misleading as it suggests that the quill pen is the first writing instrument made. The first writing instrument was the reed pen then the brush and then the quill pen, and then we get the modern nib.


 Let’s start with a question: What is ink? Ink is a liquid that has a pigment or dye that has its particles suspended in a binder which can be natural or synthetic, binders help to give the ink gloss, flexibility, durability and toughness. Ink also contains a variety of additives, solvents, stabilizers and preservatives which make for a complex medium. Modern calligraphers do not need to make their own inks, we only have to go down to our local art supply store or order it online and have it delivered to our doors. Let’s have another question. How do I know which ink to buy? This will depend on the pen you have; fountain pens need ink with a low viscosity and dip pens need ink with slightly higher viscosity than fountain pens. Quill and bamboo pens need an ink that is glutinous, quill and bamboo pen are the scribes tool of choice. Manufacturers make it easy for us, we only have to choose the ink which is designed for the model of pen. When using commercial inks a calligrapher has only one diction to make; pigment or dye! Ink that is dye based will bleed on most papers, but has a wider colour range than pigment based inks. Pigmented ink do not bleed on paper and have a greater resistant to water and fading than dye based inks.

The Writing Surface

 Through the millennia the writing surfaces that people have used, changed with geographical, environmental, cultural and political factors. In the ancient near East around 9000 BC people started to use clay tokens with marking on them. Clay Tablets with a simple counting marks where use for trading. Let’s fast ford to the historic period around 3000 BC, scribes started to record the comings and goings of the everyday people. Around 2500 BC the Syllabic script had been develop which was capable of recording the everyday speech. All this was done on the clay tablet, as time moved on papyrus replaced clay; which would be replaced by parchment which was replaced by pulp paper made from linen cloth. The development of paper has come full circle with modern papers that have a coating of clay on them. As modern calligrapher we find your self’s in the same position as the biblical and medieval scribes; we don’t make our own writing surfaces. The biblical and medieval scribes use the services of a parchment-makers or paper-makers for the writing surface. In modern times we don’t deal with the paper-makers directly, we use a Third part; the stationery shop or art supplier. We have a wider range to choose from than the medieval scribes had. There is not one type of paper that is better than another, this is a creative stumbling block! You should rather find the best combination between pen, ink and paper that will allow you to express yourself.


The history of writing is the history of humanity. Every civilization has independently discovered the three elements of calligraphy, and improved on them. There is no right or wrong way; there is only self-expression.

How to make a wood pen

When speaking to people about calligraphy, I get told that calligraphy pens are expensive and difficult to find. So make a calligraphy pen? Step 1. Wood and a knife. Step 2. Cut the tip diagonally. Step 3. Taper the tip. Ouch!! I did not keep my fingers behind the blade! Okay that is better.  Step 4. Shape the nib. Step 5. Square the nib and we are done. It doesn’t matter if it is a pen that is made from wood, bamboo, quill or metal; when you write with the pen, the letter should look the same regardless of the type of material the pen is made of.