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Learn Calligraphy
Learn How To Draw Beautiful
from a teacher of the art of fine handwriting
Welcome to Chuck McGavren's web site celebrating the art
of fine handwriting. Learn how to be a real calligrapher over
the internet. Just get a calligraphy pen, some scratch paper
and practice. In no time you will get requests to letter
certificates, address envelopes, write special messages and
prepare poetry and other items fine enough for framing.
Now, it's time to learn one of the fastest ways to make your
handwriting more interesting.
Start with a script that is like italic handwriting:
Chancery Cursive
alphabet, herein, continues what Lessons 2-6 started. Or get a
better copy of this Chancery alphabet in PDF format . . . use
this link if you would like a better copy (longer download,
253 KB).
Eighth lesson: Make a sample sheet of your alphabet (46 KB
PDF file). Try to get a text that contains a variety of sizes and
blocks of different sizes. This is a terrific
Scripts to try without all the letter-by-letter
instr uction:
Beginning students: Gothic alphabet
Beginning stud ents: Gothic alphabet for left hand
Intermediate studen ts: Carolingian Minuscule (during the
reign of Charlemagne) alphabet for practice with ascenders
and descenders
Intermediate students: Insular Majuscule (Irish or, "of the
Island") alphabet for practice with ascenders and descenders
Return to the Index
Copyright © 2001, Charles McGavren
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A Fast Way to Make Hand Lettering Interesting
You will need any kind of a pen that makes a good broad stroke in one
direction and makes a thin stroke in the other direction. See the illustration
for an idea about the kind of marks a chisel point calligraphy pen can make.
Pens having a flat tip can make a thick stroke in
one direction
and thin in another.
l felt tip
l fountain pen
steel point
are three kinds of pens that can be
manufactured to make this kind of broad stroke. You can easily
make your own pens from feathers, too!
Felt tips are the most convenient . . . you don't need to do anything special
to start writing, they just "go" when you take the cap off. Felt tips come
with either permanent ink or water-soluble ink. I like to keep one at my
desk for the people that drop in and want a certificate lettered on the spur of
the moment. The felt tip pen is disposable when the ink runs out.
Fountain pens are also convenient, they go with very little coaxing and
only need refilling every once-in-awhile. But be careful of taking a
fountain pen out when a storm is coming up or if you are flying in an
airplane: many fountain pens do not do well under low air pressure and will
leak ink through the point and onto your nice paper or even onto your
clothes. I still have my first calligraphy fountain pen from 30 years ago
which uses water-soluble ink drawn in by suction and has changeable
calligraphy tips. With care these pens keep going a long time! Be sure to
disassemble and clean the pen periodically, making sure all the parts are dry
and free of caked-on ink before reassembly.
Steel points need to have a half-a-drop of ink fed to them out of an eye
dropper every couple of words or so. I put the dropper between the brass
and silver steel and squeeze a little ink between the two metal pieces
without completely filling the space. One advantage to steel points is that
with practice, you can get very fine detail and hard edges to your lettering
and the inks you use in them can be permanent. I use these pens the most
and so I need to get new tips every little while. It's easy to change tips
when I want to change between large letters and small letters. However it is
inconvenient to change tips frequently if the project needs a lot of changes
between lettering sizes. Be sure to keep a jar of water near the project with a
drying towel to clean the pen frequently. See the separate discussion about
getting the ink flow started with these pens.
Or, you could get a feather at the bank of a duck pond, leave it in the sun
to dry. Then cut it with a pen knife at an oblique angle near the pointed end
and shape a point. Quills make excellent pens.
It's also possible to practice with a chisel-sharpened pencil! Try
sharpening the point of a pencil on two sides instead of a round conical
shape. The result will be a triangle, or "A" shape, when viewed in one
direction and a "D" shape when turned 90 degrees. Try a fine grit sand
paper on a soft lead pencil, such as a #2, an HB or a B, working first on one
side at an angle to the lead. Then turn the pencil over and sharpen the other
side of the chisel at a similar angle to the lead. Keep the sand paper handy
and resharpen every few words.
Take some lined notebook paper and fill it with vertical and horizontal
lines. When you first try this exercise, use two or three notebook paper lines
in height for each vertical stroke. Make a similar length line for a series of
horizontal strokes. To begin each stroke, set the pen on the paper, make a
smooth straight stroke to the end of the line and finally lift the pen off the
paper. Hold the pen at a constant angle pointed at one shoulder or straight at
you while making each mark. Hold the pen as you would normally write:
comfortably and not too tightly. Eg: | | | | | =_=_=_=_=_=
Take some lined notebook paper and fill it with diagonal lines. Eg: ///// \\\\\
Take some lined notebook paper and fill it with curves and circles.
Concen trate on forward and backward crescent moon shapes made with one
stroke of the pen. ((( ))) Then form a series of "O" shapes by combining a
left curve "(" with a right curve ")".
Copyright © 2001, Charles McGavren
Using a steel nib in pen holder? A clean steel pen nib is the greatest ally
of a calligrapher. Fresh from the factory, steel nibs may have a little
machine oil coating them, keeping them shiny for the merchant's display
case but not helping the artist's effort. Before putting a new steel point in a
pen holder, wash with soap and water then dry it.
Can't get the ink to flow? I always start out on a scratch sheet to the side of
my project. Try to make several practice strokes placing the pen on the
paper, applying slight pressure, drawing the stroke toward you, stopping,
releasing the pressure and lifing the pen from the paper. Do this several
I once saw a student of mine turn the nib over, put a little downward
pressure on the top side which was now upside down, then turn it back the
right side up. The pen started making perfect marks right away.
For steel pen nibs that need a drop of ink every few words, keep a jar of
water and a drying cloth near the project area. Wash the ink out of the pen
tip, dry thoroughly, and inject new ink into it. Then get the ink flowing
again on a scratch sheet before restarting the project or practice sheet.
Copyright © 2001, Charles McGavren
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