Last updated on November 12th, 2020
Many artists choose calligraphy as their career and do well. But, calligraphy has changed a lot from being a conventional lettering art to modern art. You have to understand modern calligraphy basics if you wish to make a name and money in this field. Here, calligraphy expert Nicole Wiemer delivers on what fundamentals of calligraphy to follow today.
Calligraphy is the art of making the letters beautiful. Such letters make a quick impression on viewers. When letters are created with some flourish and artistic styles, they look classic with a modern touch.
Apart from making a quick impression on viewers, calligraphy is a potent tool to create a brand identity. Many businesses are using lettering styles to project their image of being a trustworthy brand. Do not also forget that modern calligraphy makes people think special. For instance, birthday greetings or invitations with stylish letterings make the cards’ recipients feel special and unique.
Many artists want to start with modern calligraphy to make it their career, but they need guidance. They must follow some basics of this art to come out with a unique style of their own.
So, Designhill, a leading creative marketplace, organized a workshop with lettering artist Nicole Wiemer on 10th September 2020. She showed modern calligraphy’s basic tools and told them how to warm up before starting the work. Also, she compared the modern calligraphy with the traditional one. Have a look on the video and transcript of the workshop.
Here Is The Video Of The Workshop With Nicole Wiemer
Here Is What Nicole Wiemer Shared About Modern Calligraphy
About Nicole Wiemer In Her Words
“I am a freelance artist for over seven years, but I have loved letters since I was a child, even before I went to school. And today, I will show you my passion for letters and teach you some modern calligraphy. Let’s start the workshop.”
Let’s Start It
I put some sheets in the act. You can download these guide sheets. The key takeaways for these sessions are the brief use of tools used during calligraphy, how to warm up before starting the artwork, the meaning of modern calligraphy, and how to compare the traditional and modern style.
First, I will show you what calligraphy tools are used today.
I use a very basic nib holder. There are a lot of nibs for you to choose when doing calligraphy work. These are all pointed pen nibs that modern calligraphers use. I prefer this simple nib.
This is the point of the nib from Kuretake. It is called G Pen nib from Kuretake. This is my all-time favorite. I use it for all my work, and yes, I love it. Then, these are some other kinds of nibs that are not so important just for the show.
This is an oblique pen holder you can use as well. It has a slant angle, and it’s very good for copperplate or Spencerian script, but today we use this straight pen holder and the quarter key g pen nib. I also use Sumi ink from Karnataka. It has a very smooth flowing and dry waterproof. I like this ink.
So, new pens always have a protection layer on it. You can remove it. You can use this and soapy water and the claws and wipe it off. Make sure to dry the net probably; otherwise, it could start rusting.
And, then put the pin in the pen holder like I do like this. Put the finger under the nib to not bend it, okay, like this. And then you can put it up and in.
Holding the Pen Holder
Hold the pen holder in a way that feels most comfortable and natural to you. Don’t use muscle strength and relax your wrist to prevent minor injuries while writing.
Align the Paper
Now align the paper and rotate the paper until the slant angle is about 55 degrees and is parallel to your pen nib. Then the nib can spread right, and the ink can flow.
Hold the nib in a slant position
That slant position of the nib is really important to write modern calligraphy and also traditional style calligraphy. Otherwise, in a different position of the nib, the ink cannot flow smoothly, and the nib cannot spread, and you cannot create strokes with different widths.
Then, we want to warm up our wrist and hands and muscles. So we open our new ink and dip the nib in ink.
Practicing on the sheet
Now, on the sheet, we can practice some simple circles clockwise and counterclockwise first without pressure.
Move the whole arm
Make the whole arm movement. You don’t make circles like this with the fingers. Instead, you make the circles with the whole arm movement.
You can make the circles clockwise and counterclockwise to warm up. Just try to be cool. It’s only a warm-up.
Now we do the same with the second line with an ellipse. Do this also clockwise and counter-clockwise to warm up and get a feeling for your nib and pen holder.
Two Important Practices
Now, the following two exercises are very important because, in modern calligraphy or traditional calligraphy, these are the basic movements.
First, you make a stroke from the baseline to the top without pressure. Then, in the second row, you make a stroke from the cap line to the baseline with pressure.
That’s a really important basic in calligraphy. So let’s do this line with no pressure and this line with pressure, and then we go to the other exercises.
And here again, hold the nib in slant angle and without pressure and move the nib from the whole arm. If I do this with the wrist, you will not be able to draw a good slanty line. That’s why we use the whole arm.
Now we come to the second row to draw the slanted line from the cap line to the baseline with pressure. The whole arm makes a stroke.
So, these are very important exercises to warm up. Every time I start to write calligraphy to warm up and get a good feeling for my tool, I do this every time.
Making a Stroke
So now we try to make a stroke without pressure applied in a stroke with further pressure down. Okay, and in one, movement up, no pressure, down pressure, up, no pressure, down pressure, etc. Then, you get a little rhythm, upward and downward.
Breathe in and out. And after this practice, you’re very relaxed. Now we do this exercise. We go up with no pressure and down with pressure. Can I use my wrist for lettering?
Oh, your arm can be stiff. You don’t need to bend your arm and instead use your whole arm to make the writing movement. You don’t need your wrist.
Tools Are Important for Calligraphy
The movement is smooth and slightly up. For modern calligraphy, it’s also important what tools you use. This is because not every ink works with every paper, and not every nib works with every ink. So, you have to try several things, and the paper I use is Clairefontaine print paper.
It is very cheap, and you can perfectly use it for exercise. For commission work, I will prefer cold press watercolor paper or lettering paper. But yes, you have to try it by yourself. What works for you that is important.
Draw the lines up and down. Now we do this down and up. And these basic strokes are repeated in the letterforms. If you master these basic strokes, you will also master letters.
Now, the last one is to draw the line upward with no pressure and then add pressure while coming down to create a thick stroke. This stroke is always at a slant angle at 55 degrees.
The slant angle depends on the script you use. You can also write at 40 degrees or 30 degrees, but this is from the copper plate script, which is always between 52 and 55 degrees. So you can do this practice on one sheet of paper or the whole of the day.
Normal pen or pencil
You can also use a brush pen or a normal pen and even a pencil to practice modern calligraphy. A normal pencil is also a good tool to practice modern calligraphy. You can apply pressure as well.
You can go up with no pressure and go down with pressure to draw the line with a slant. You see the different strokes with if you are a beginner, or if you want to practice a new style, always take your pencil and practice with this tool.
Now we will draw the alphabets. If you do not have the worksheets, you can also take a simple sheet of paper. It’s my paper, and you can write with me these letters. So if you practice, put the letters on the right side, for the right-handers and the clear sheet of paper on the left side and then you look at them, you look at the letters, and then you write it, don’t write and look.
First, make the letter in your mind. Then, with the letter in your mind, you put it on the paper without looking again at the letter.
So, put no pressure on the nib when drawing up and while put pressure while drawing downward. If you feel you want to write a letter in another way, then please do this.
Have Your Unique Style
I love individual styles. This is important that you go with your flow. These are my letters, and this is my flow, and you can use what you need if you think you want to write the A like this. This is modern calligraphy. I think if you create your style, then it is modern calligraphy. I show you my letters and if you brave enough, make your letter style
Okay, the next letter is to be smooth and kind. Here, the first ellipse is a little bit smaller, and the upper ellipse in the down path here is bigger and always at a slant angle. So, you can imagine you have a little snowman and the slant angle, and that is the letter B.
Now, the rest of the letters. I used no guidelines and nothing. You can use these guidelines sheets if this is better for you, but you also can do this on a simple free paper.
Some letters have the same strokes you see here in the H is like an E. You can practice the letters where they depend on the letterforms. So the D, the E, the G are around letterforms. These are straight letterforms. It makes sense to practice the same letterforms. The guide sheets are working fine for me.
The letter S is a little bit difficult because it’s a letter form, and the slant angle is such that you go a little curvy. And here, the strokes must be parallel. These are all strokes from the warm-up exercises. That’s why it is so important to warm up, and on the letter set, the biggest stroke is not on a slant angle. It’s a little bit wider, and with a slant angle. If you don’t like this letter form, you can also do this.
Now we do the lowercase letters. And I think most of you have these guide sheets and we can use them. I will now show you these letters on the guide sheet. This gadget is great because you have the slant angle, and you have an orientation for the lowercase letters. Here it’s a little bit gray, so you can better see where your letter has to sit.
I didn’t tell you the terms about calligraphy, and perhaps I will show you. The gray area here is high for the lowercase letters. And this is the x-height. Lowercase letters go up to the x-height from the baseline, and other letters also sit on the baseline. The capital letters go to the cap line. That’s why we use these sheets.
The lowercase letters have different basic letterforms. To show you the letters a, b, c, and e are in round letterforms, and here they have the b, the f to d, they all have the loops, and you can group them and practice them depending on the letter shape. Today, we didn’t do letters like this, but I think it’s easier to practice a new style.
So, to draw a small letter, you start with a stroke on the baseline and go up. Now you lift the pen from the paper and start a new movement with no pressure, and you have this nice round shape. And then you go to the x-height and do it like this. It’s a little bit another letter form, then I have it on the other paper, but it’s also okay. If you want it to flourish, you can do an open letter shape start at the baseline and make it like a C shape. Then, the letter ‘a’ is a little bit more modern and flowy.
To draw the letter b, I always go up until the next high, lift the pen from the paper, and then make the loop. That gives me more control over the letter shape.
To do the letter c, you can always see on the 55-degree where the letter touches the slant angle you apply pressure.
First, move from up to down. If you make an upstroke, no pressure, and if you go down, pressure so
Start at a baseline and lift your pen, and then you do the next movement.
To draw the letter f, go up until the x height, make a loop and then apply pressure and loop and go up.
Lift your pen and do the upward movement to complete the flow.
Move upward from the baseline and make a loop. Then come down to baseline and stop. That is a little bit bouncy and modern.
For the letter ‘i’ make a little upward movement with no pressure and then come down to the baseline with pressure. Then finish it with a little upward loop.
Start with the same upward movement and then come way down to the last line. Then come up with a little loop to finish.
To draw the letter k, move the pen up to the x-height and make that loop upward, and then apply pressure to draw the slanty line down to the baseline. Then, finish it with a little flow.
Letter l is simple to draw by taking a flowy line and taking it up to make a loop and pressure on the nib. Then end up with a little flow.
Move from the baseline with a flow and remaining within the middle space, you should move the pen up and down, adjusting the pressure. But make sure that the strokes are parallel at a 55-degree angle.
Repeat the same process of letter m to create n, but only one less parallel stroke.
The letter o is the whole letter at a 55 degree. If you imagine a clock, you have 12 six, nine, and three, and from 12 to six is the slant angle.
Go straight up with pressure, lift the pen within the space and end up with a little flow.
To draw letter q, bring down the pen nib with pressure and then up with no pressure. Then, come straight down with no pressure.
Go upward with a flow and no pressure and make a little curve and then a second curve and finish it downward with a flowy thin curvy line.
Move rightward with a thin flowy line and make a little round shape to bring the pen down with pressure and make a small round with a flourish
With a thin flowy line, move straight up to the top and come down with a pressure to the baseline. Then cross the straight line up.
Make a downward curve with pressure and end up with a flourish.
Letter v & w
Do the letter v just like ‘u’ but with one less straight downward stroke with pressure, and end-up with a flowy line.
Move downward with a little pressure and create a curve upward. Then, cross the middle line thinly.
To do the letter y, draw a small line with pressure downward and then the other longer line down and end with a nice round thin flow.
Start with a thin rightward flowy line and then make a small half curve and then a bigger curve downward. End it with a big down loop.
Difference Between Modern and Traditional Style
Now I will show you the difference between modern and traditional script styles.
In the traditional style, you have to be very accurate and exact. The slant angle has to be according to the rules.
I write the word calligraphy in a traditional copperplate style. Then I will write it in a modern calligraphy style so you can see the difference.
Okay, when I write the word Calligraphy in traditional style, there are no flourishes, as you can see. You can apply to flourish, but the space is accurate, which is important in traditional calligraphy.
Now I show you calligraphy in my modern style, which is a little bit playful and, yes, flowy. In the modern style, you can vary the stroke width, and the connective strokes are wider. You have so many possibilities to change the style. Also, I think it’s really important to do what you want to do. Take your time and improve your style.
Designhill: How to build your career in calligraphy?
Nicole: I built it slowly and worked hard. I show my work on Instagram, and I get commissioned work from Instagram and some libraries here in Germany. So, it grows every year.
Designhill: Can you suggest the best inks and nibs for beginners?
Nicole: The best nibs are from the G Pen from Kuretake. The Niko G Pen is also very nice for beginners. But it is not flexible enough to start with calligraphy.
The best ink is, I think, the Sumi ink from Kuretake. You can try out what works for you. That’s important. This is my favorite ink, but you can try it and say this is not your ink. And it depends on the person and the nibs.
Designhill: Can we use Brush Pens for calligraphy?
Nicole: You can also use a brush pen for calligraphy. It has the same basics of the strokes with up and down pressure and no pressure.
Designhill: Can I use my normal school ink pen for calligraphy?
Nicole: Yes, you can use such a pen. But do not apply pressure on such a pen.
Designhill: How much GSM paper is good for printing?
Nicole: I use 80-GSM paper print, simple print paper. For commission work, I prefer 120-GSM paper or more.
Designhill: How do we digitize these artworks?
Nicole: I can do a separate course on how to digitize your work. You use the scanner and Adobe Illustrator, perhaps.
Designhill: Are there any few hacks or some pro tip points for beginners, which can be applied while holding the calligraphy pens?
Nicole: Don’t apply too much pressure. That’s very important as it hurts your fingers when you apply so much pressure. So, be smooth with your hand and have fun. That’s important. Have fun.
These are the tips Nicole Wiemer shared when it comes to learning the fine points of modern calligraphy. As a beginner, you should have these tips in mind and then experiment. In this way, you can ultimately come up with a calligraphy style of your own.
In the meantime, you can also start your online store on PrintShop and save your calligraphy works there. You can promote the store to draw potential costumes’ attention to your calligraphy style.
You can then sell your artistic lettering works by printing them on t-shirts, etc., clothing and accessories to earn money. This is also a great way to put what you learned to practice.
Modern calligraphy is a little different from traditional calligraphy. You first have to consider your calligraphy basics so that you have a clear understanding of the basics. Then, try to have your calligraphy style to stand out.