Modern Calligraphy Tips + Nibs

Nib Identification System

Nib Faves Besotted Blog

Michelle and I are enjoying our summer (and I hope you are too).  I suppose if you are on the other side of the globe than keeping cozy with your winter (hard to envision winter when it’s 90 + out). We are doing a ‘best of besotted’ this week. These are the posts that you found the most interesting or shared with others (we thank you). Hopefully some of these posts will be new to you and just as exciting as it was for others. Enjoy!

I am a bit of a Type A personality. I once remarked that I was not a perfectionist because I could never get anything perfect which made the room of girls that heard my sentiment erupt in laughter; I guess I didn’t understand the meaning of the word and they all knew me too well. I always learn the hard way.  One of the things I have been struggling with in my lettering practice is being able to identify a nib once it is in its holder. Even though I feel like I thoroughly clean my nibs after each use there’s always ink that hides the nib identification and the nib holder hides the other part. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time removing my nibs from the holder. I have even tried the suggested jewelery pliers and only succeeded in breaking my nib in the holder thus rendering it useless and almost losing an eye.  In these novice stages of my lettering adventure it’s important to me to know which nibs I am enjoying so I can reference back to them for the future, if I can’t read what they are (and trust me it is hard enough without ink on them and being hidden in the holder) then I am working blindly. I decided to start from ground zero and replace nibs + holders and use a label (a sheet of label paper cut to size). I am so happy with this system! Eventually I plan to create a chart so I can reference the different effects I can achieve with each nib. This may seem like a lot of extra work that you aren’t up for and you may wonder why I have so many different nibs. In this nascent stage I want to find the nibs that work best with how I create my letterforms. I am very heavy handed and a flexible, ‘bouncy’ nib creates a completely different look than a stiffer nib for me.  I haven’t been doing this very long, but I feel like I have already outgrown some of my earlier nib favorites in favor of nibs that respond to my heavy-handedness.  My main goal for the identification system is to be able to have a quick reference so I can re-create a look.  I also want to reiterate that what I am doing is not traditional calligraphy (although I admire that very much), although I do reference traditional calligraphy techniques like using guidelines and referencing calligraphy specimens. My goal is create my own hand(s) and thus the need/desire to experiment with multiple tools (nibs).

Since I get this email about 20 times a day I thought I would make sure I included my current favorite nibs, these most likely will change in the coming months but these are the ones I have been gravitating towards and why:

Hiro Leonardt No. 41-I would not suggest this for a beginner, it is very flexible and delicate. This is my favorite nib to create loopy girly letters, it makes loop forms like a champ.

Blue Pumpkin- This seems to be a favorite of  modern lettering artists/calligraphers (for good reason) such as Meredith Bullock of Hazel Wonderland. Both Poppy Pedals and Holly Hollon love it for cotton envelopes which have a lot of pulp. It is similar to the the above nib, a little stiffer. Again, this may not be the best nib to try if you are just starting out. I feel like I can control this nib well when I want to create very thin hairline strokes and a balanced down stroke. Sample lettering.

Gillot 1068A-I honestly don’t remember why I bought this, a mistake? Perhaps. It has turned out to be a happy accident. It’s very stiff and I would recommend for an advanced beginner. It works best on smooth surfaces so if you have any texture it will catch. You can get very nice angular/sharp letter-forms with this nib. Sample lettering.

Zebra G-I can’t recommend this nib enough. If you are starting out buy this nib, please.  It’s a little more flexible than the Nikko G (these two are very similar). It’s a nice stiff + smooth nib. When you are starting out with your lettering/calligraphy practice you have so many new things to worry about (angle, pressure, inking, substrates, etc.) just make it easy on yourself and get a nib that won’t be too wonky in your newbie hands and that won’t get caught on your paper and cause messy disasters. You can create nice fine hairlines (which seems to be what calligraphers around the globe covet). As long as I am lettering this nib will be in my lettering rotation.

Brause Rose-I have mentioned this nib before, I LOVE it! This nib is very flexible and the nib I go to when I want to re-create an almost brush like stroke, the upside is that it can also create very thin hairlines. Again, not a beginner nib (stick with stiff nibs), but it is a nib that you may want to add to your nib arsenal if you love the look of brush lettering but can’t get the hang of using a paint brush to letter. Sample lettering.

Nikko G-This nib is so similar to the Zebra G and the reason I mention them both is in the off chance you can’t find one or the other you have options. Stiffer than the Zebra G, again a great nib for beginners. I really love Japanese nibs they are precision cut, the Nikko G by hand! So smooth–like butter.  This is another nib that is in regular rotation. Advanced letterers will love this nib as well.

What I have learned in this lettering quest is that anyone can learn calligraphy, it’s about practice + practice (and then more practice), dedication and a passion for the art. I absolutely want to learn traditional calligraphy in the near future, but I have been so happy with where this project has taken me both personally and (recently) professionally. Let me know if you have specific questions I am interviewing an amazingly talented calligrapher for an upcoming feature and would be happy to pose some of your questions to her.

P.S. I have linked to the nibs in this feature (companies I trust like Amazon + Dick Blick), but you can always reference The Directory and look under Calligraphy Supplies for vendors I recommend. If you have a reputable Calligraphy supply company overseas that you like please let me know and I will add.  I want everyone to be able to find calligraphy supplies at a great price without worrying about outrageous shipping fees or long delivery times.

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

Modern Calligrapher Interview | Janis Anzalone

Janis Anzalone Interview via Besotted Blog

I can’t even believe it’s the end of the week and the end of our week of up & coming lettering artists– sigh.  It has been such a treat for me to be able to read all of them, I feel very fortunate that these artists were willing to share their love of lettering, resources and advice with us (not to mention their quotes). These interviews always feel like a good sit down with the calligrapher, I hope that they read the same way for you. You are always welcome to add to the conversation by asking your own questions in the comments, all the interviewee’s are very forthcoming with their knowledge. I know it’s hard to make time to comment these days but I promise you that a little ‘hello’ goes a long way to thanking the artists for their precious time and enabling us the opportunity to continue to invite other modern calligrapher’s/lettering artist to participate in this series.

Michelle and I are very excited to present Janis Anzalone] today. You may have spotted Janis on Instagram where she also shares her gorgeous illustrations. We hope that you find her as thoroughly interesting and inspiring as we have. Without further ado…

I can only recommend what to do, and that is to have fun and practice.

Where are you located?

San Anselmo, California, 17 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

How did you get started in lettering?

Calligraphy was not even on my radar until I noticed the beautiful hand lettering of Lauren MacIntosh (Tail of the Yak) and Wendy Cook (Bell’occhio) back in the mid 90’s. It may sound strange but seeing their calligraphy had a transporting effect, like being at an opera or a good foreign film. Enchanting! I wanted that skill. So I searched books on calligraphy and soon discovered copperplate was the style I needed to learn. With my books as a reference, I began teaching myself and practicing everyday obsessively. At the time I was working as a textile designer, commuting to San Francisco. The moment I’d get home from work I would make a bee-line to my drawing table and start practicing. Combining calligraphy with my illustration skills was how I imagined my future business.

What are some of your favorite supplies?

After looking at other interviews it seems I’m pretty simple as far as my calligraphy supplies go. My top favorite and indispensable calligraphy supply is a tiny box of vintage R. Esterbrook nibs I found at Addison Endpapers in Berkeley. I never heard of the nib before but wanted to try it. So glad I did! The nib is perfect for me, not too flexible and not too stiff, just right. As far as brushes and pencils, no particular brand, they just need to be sharp.

Can you name some of your inspirations?

I’m inspired by vintage calligraphy written by ordinary hands. Historical documents, vintage letters, the captions on the back of old photographs, hand lettered Victorian diagrams, lettering on botanical posters, and the hand painted shop signs and number addresses you see on buildings in the UK and Europe.

Artists such as Picasso, Matisse, and Basquiat (to name just a few) who used lettering as part of their artwork are very inspiring. I’m inspired by music as well, though when I’m working I’m very particular about what is playing. The group Tin Hat is perfect for writing. Their music has a push and pull and a roundness like script.

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?

Creating an inviting work environment for myself is very important. So first I clear the clutter and ready my table for the next project. Then I allow myself a little time to think about the assignment, to daydream, to do some research.  The next step is getting acquainted with the text, playing with the specific wording and lettering style, seeing how the words feel and fit together. Then it is just a matter of editing until it is as good as I can make it.

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

I would say try to learn the rules before breaking them in most cases. Have a good foundation then let go, have fun, experiment. A style of your own will eventually emerge through hours of playful experimentation and practice.

Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?

Find a workshop! Lauren MacIntosh teaches a wonderful calligraphy workshop from her home in Berkeley. I highly recommend it. Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls travels all over teaching a very popular calligraphy class as well. If you don’t have access to a workshop, then try your local library or bookstore and find a book on beginning calligraphy.

Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?

My favorite assignments are ones that allow me to combine my calligraphy and illustration. Currently I’m working on a seed packet for an organization based here in Marin county whose mission is earth-friendly and sustainable fiber dyeing methods.

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?

I can only recommend what to do, and that is to have fun and practice.

Name one random talent you have that people may not know?

I make a mean jar of jam. In fact, after finishing this interview I’ll be making my first batch of the season, apricot, my favorite. Oh, and the final touch will be the label – with calligraphy of course.

P.S. You must visit M.K. Sadler (love her work) she photographed Janis at home and the images are just gorgeous!

 

Fox & Flourish | Christina Luo Interview

Fox and flourish interview via besotted blog

As soon as I saw a lettered quote from Christina Luo of Fox & Flourish I wanted to know more about her. There was something about the ‘o’, so whimsical mixed in with such a confident hand. Christina has a wonderful exuberance about her craft, you can tell how much she truly enjoys it. I love that Christina finds time each month to share her passion with others via her workshops, which seem like a good time for all. I have been so enjoying reading all of these interviews, it’s amazing how diverse the answers are and how much I learn from each one of them. I hope you feel the same, Christina’s interview is no exception it is brimming with sparks that will surely motivate you and advice that will keep you from giving up. Without further ado…

Where are you located?

Beautiful Vancouver, BC. I live in a neighbourhood downtown right by the water with a breathtaking view of the mountains, lots of cute pups, and pretty humans to ogle at.

How did you get started in lettering?

My story starts in the 4th grade, when I told my parents I wanted to become a graffiti artist, already trading “tags” of my friends’ names for snacks. My father informed me this was neither a profitable nor legal occupation, so that was that. I continued to fall in love with words, reading, and poetry, so armed with this knowledge, I went on to study journalism and publishing (all the while, continuing to replicate other people’s penmanship, doodling names and words in class – never illustrations – and admiring what I did not know was typography and lettering all around me).

A few design courses later, Fox & Flourish was born mainly out of boredom during the free hours after a 9 to 5 workday at a communications internship. Calligraphy grabbed my attention specifically because of the precision involved, and I suddenly got into the online calligraphy community in a big way. I was already only posting lettering to my Instagram account, so I changed my handle, created a website, and the rest is history! Little did I know, there was only one local modern calligrapher at the time operating on Vancouver Island, so news about Fox & Flourish spread among wedding vendors and small businesses very quickly.

What are some of your favorite supplies?

Sumi ink is my go-to for black ink. I love how it dries a bit glossy and debossed, so you can really feel the movement underneath your fingertips. Gouache for colour. Any small round brush (I like spotter brushes for precise work), and the big Japanese calligraphy brushes from Daiso! My nibs change with my mood, but I’m currently loving my vintage Esterbrook 358, paired with the Tachikawa G. Marker paper and bristol board all the way. And what artist can survive without mountains of washi tape on their desk?

Can you name some of your inspirations?

I love taking long walks with no real destination and finding interesting hand-painted signs, store window art, or apartment building numbers. Each style tells a different story about that neighbourhood’s history or the personality of its residents. I often venture into used bookstores and try to forage any handwritten notes I can find tucked in between pages, especially the inscriptions. Recently, I traveled to a couple of Scandinavian cities and am still processing their minimalist attitude to not just design, but as an overarching lifestyle.

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?

I try to get to know my clients and their values in relation to their business or event. With this information in mind, I take to my marker paper pad and generate as many ideas and styles as possible – immediately with ink, no guidelines. Then, I go through and mark my favourites. If it’s a digital lettering project, I’ll scan every page in and spend a great deal of time cleaning up potential drafts. It’s this part that I love – the seemingly mundane task of refining composition and letterforms until they reflect the spirit of the project.

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

Just write! Fill pages with words, quotes that resonate, the names of your friends or your favourite musicians. Educate yourself about the technicalities of course, but most importantly, play along the way. There are myriads of different writing instruments, ink alternatives, and lettering styles to experiment with.

Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?

Online learning platforms like Skillshare or Atly have classes for almost every level of calligraphy/lettering/typography disciplines, as well as extended tutorials on graphic design in relation to lettering and logotype. Now that I’ve graduated university and am free from the perils of papers and exams, I try to have at least 1 or 2 Skillshare classes on the go, making sure to schedule in at least an hour of continued education every day. Currently, as I expand Fox & Flourish, I’m taking a few business development classes.

Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?

Recently, I worked on a logo for an equestrian lifestyle business. The research and development for that project immersed me into a completely new cultural space, and I had a great time translating that into a calligraphic piece with sweeping movement and grace. Another recent favourite is a Twin Peaks inspired design for Lululemon that was cut out of tennis turf and displayed in their store window!

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?

Don’t limit your inspiration to just other lettering online. Try to explore your urban landscape. Attempt to encapsulate a feeling, instead of a certain look in your letters.

If you want to mention any upcoming workshops…

We are announcing two July beginners’ workshops soon, and you can sign up to be notified at foxandflourish.com/workshops. Fox & Flourish holds two workshops per month, and will be expanding into different calligraphic styles.

Name one random talent you have that people may not know?

I can lick my elbow!

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

Plume Calligraphy |Aileen Fretz Interview

Plume Calligraphy via Besotted Blog

Michelle was the one that discovered Miss Fretz of Plume Calligraphy. We both admired her ‘p’, it’s a hard letter to work with in my humble opinion and Aileen executes it beautifully. When Michelle mentioned I immediately looked up her site (a simple beauty), I was intrigued to learn more and I know that you as lettering enthusiasts are always up for a new discovery, so let us find out more about the lovely Plume Calligraphy

embrace the imperfections, don’t get caught up trying to be perfect!

Where are you located?

Just outside of Toronto, Canada

How did you get started in lettering?

My background is in Graphic Design and my love of typography and letterforms has been present my entire life! During elementary school I would create different ‘fonts’ with my handwriting, this is something I’ve never grown out of! I started practicing calligraphy as a 2014 new years resolution, I was searching for a new hobby and quickly became a lover of calligraphy!

What are some of your favorite supplies?

For inks, I love Higgins Eternal Black Ink, it’s my go to warm up ink. I recently discovered Pearl Ex powdered pigments for gold and other pearlescent colours – I’m in love with how smoothly they write. For colours, I love mixing very watery gouache so that you can see the paper texture and the colour gradients in the calligraphy.

For brushes, my favourites are Sakura Koi Water Brush & Grumbacher Goldenedge, but the Sakura Koi is my #1 go to for brush lettering!

My most used nibs are the Leonardt 111EF, Brause 66EF and my favourite is the Leonardt General.

For paper, my favourites are Canson Watercolour and Canson Mixed Media! Both are really smooth and the textures are just lovely!

Can you name some of your inspirations?

I am inspired by a variety of things, but I would say the most influential are old world centered. Antiques, vintage inkwells and pens, worn textures and anything Jane Austen!

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?

When I’m getting started on a project, I will usually study a broad range of imagery related to a theme and use the overall feeling as a jumping off point for my creative process. For projects involving hand-lettering, I’ll write out the words in a variety of forms, playing with the spacing and size of the letter shapes, sharper, rounder, heavier and lighter to reflect the theme or feeling that I’m looking for!

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

Experimenting with different nibs and holders can help to develop your own unique style, by discovering what tools you like and don’t like. Practicing with different nibs and holders had a major impact on the development of my own lettering styles. I’ve found that I love the style of my calligraphy with an oblique nib holder much more than with a straight holder. Once you find the main combinations that work for you, incorporating a variety of different nibs will allow you to create many variations of your unique style.

Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?

I took Molly Suber Thorpe’s Digitizing Calligraphy Class & Molly Jacques Introduction to the Art of Modern Calligraphy on Skillshare. Both of these online courses helped me refine what I had self taught and learn techniques that I otherwise would not have known!

Do you have some favourite projects you would like me to mention?

I have recently been working on a lot of editorial collaborations, which has been such a great opportunity to create for fun, the sky’s the limit and I can be as creative as I like!

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?

I am a total perfectionist, which I think stems from my graphic design background, I naturally like things that are straight and perfect. But what I love about modern calligraphy is the ability to embrace the imperfect and accept, even strive for, the creation of unique letter forms. My advice would be to embrace the imperfections, don’t get caught up trying to be perfect! It will allow you to expand your style creatively and save you a ton of paper at the same time!

If you want to mention any upcoming workshops…

I am in the process of planning my first teaching workshop which will happen this summer! More info coming soon!

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

Hope Scott Calligraphy Interview

Hope Scott Calligraphy Interview via besotted blog

When we were brainstorming ideas for this week and considering artists to interview I knew that I wanted to ask Hope Scott, there’s something very tenacious about her. Hope is amazingly honest about her journey and her advice is so much wiser beyond her years and time lettering. I have watched as her little business has grown and I think it might inspire some of you to take that leap if you were considering it. Hope’s hand feels very fresh and uniquely her own, I think you will find her story and lettering inspiring, she is one to watch as she is going places. Without further ado…

Sit down and write. Take note from other calligraphers, of course, but know when to close out of Instagram and Pinterest and just work on your own thing. Once you do develop your own style, have confidence in it.

Where are you located?

I’m located just north of Cincinnati, Ohio, born and raised in Northern Kentucky.

How did you get started in lettering?

I started practicing calligraphy during my junior year of college in the tiniest dorm room you can imagine. It’s ironic that I would pick up calligraphy, because in the 3rd grade my teacher used to get so frustrated that I didn’t know how to write in cursive. She sent notes home to my mom, I failed nearly every spelling test because my writing was illegible, and I vividly remember writing a note to my mom telling her I wanted to quit going to school because everyone made fun of me for not being able to write nicely! Like I said, the irony. So that year in college, I began seeing modern calligraphers take over social media and I thought, “I can do that.” I bought a $10 kit from the craft store and each night, I’d turn on the tiny desk lamp in my dorm and spend hours writing anything and everything, and quite horrendously at that. Eventually I found this blog and completely devoured every interview, buying every single nib, holder, paper, and ink that each calligrapher recommended. Buying good tools was the turning point.

What are some of your favorite supplies?

I am glued, absolutely glued to my Zebra G nib with this wood pen holder. I tend to have a pretty heavy hand, and I’ve found this nib feels and works the best for me. I’m also quite fond of the Hiro 41, but I haven’t used it in a while and would definitely not recommend it for beginners as it’s very flexible. I’ve also been practicing more with a Blue Pumpkin but I don’t feel very comfortable with it yet. I’m working on making it a part of my rotation, however. As for ink, this black Sumi is hands down my favorite. The 12 oz bottle has lasted me over a year and with daily use. It’s beautiful, affordable, and lasts forever–can’t beat that! For brush work, I’m addicted to these Akashia Sai Watercolor Brush pens. I use them all the time and have been so happy with the results. Regarding paper, I typically use 100# white cougar cover.

Can you name some of your inspirations?

Early on, I was inspired by those I considered the pioneers of modern calligraphy: Li Ward, Alissa Mazzenga, Mara Zepeda, Meredith Bullock, Chelsea Petaja, and Molly Jacques. Today, I find myself inspired by movies. I love stories. So when I watch movies (which is quite frequently), I love listening for quotes that I can letter later on, and I find that once I write them down, I remember them forever.

Can you go a little into your process of how you work on a project?

These days I’m doing a lot of logo design, which I absolutely love. Once I book a client, they fill out a design questionnaire that we share via Google Drive, and add me to a secret Pinterest board that they’ve created for their brand. I then take a couple days to begin sketching 4-6 concepts in varying styles to send to my client, and from there, we email back and forth; they send suggestions for the next round of revisions, and I upload those revisions and eventually the final files to their client password protected page on my Squarespace site.

Any tips for newbies on how to develop their own style?

Sit down and write. Take note from other calligraphers, of course, but know when to close out of Instagram and Pinterest and just work on your own thing. Once you do develop your own style, have confidence in it.

Any recommendations of books or classes for lettering enthusiasts to further their studies?

I’ve got a couple calligraphy books, but as I’ve never read them (I’m too impatient to read about what to do), I probably shouldn’t recommend them. I do, however, recommend your blog to everyone interested in calligraphy and those looking for new materials to use.

Do you have some favorite projects you would like me to mention?

My favorite most recent project was a little something I created for Vogue. Talk about crazy! There I was sitting on my couch eating snacks and watching TV, when I casually opened my email and saw a message from an editor at the Vogue blog asking if I could call her. They wanted me to re-create some watercolor place cards for a piece on wedding calligraphy, to be featured the next day on the blog. It was an extremely tight deadline (maybe an hour?) to create the cards, let them dry, calligraph them, and then photograph before the light faded, but it was so rewarding and exhilarating.

Any advice on what ‘not’ to do?

If once you’ve developed your own style, you find that it looks a bit different than everyone else’s, avoid the temptation to change your style to fit in. I used to despise the style I wrote in, and wondered why I couldn’t make my work look like so-and-so’s. I felt my work was too much of this and too little of that. But then I got a few emails and comments from people who began to differentiate my work from other calligrapher’s; they would say, “I knew that was your calligraphy, Hope!” and that’s when I decided that I’d rather people say that than blend in with everyone else. It’s okay for your work to look different. It’s a good thing.

Name one random talent you have that people may not know?

I know nearly every line of the Pride and Prejudice movie (the 2005 version). I’ve probably seen it well over 50 times. The music, the landscape, the language, the story. There’s nothing about it I don’t love.

Author / Miss Tristan B

Miss Tristan B. is the co-creator of the world’s best + easiest product photography editing tool-Foto Rx | Shopkeeper’s Helper and one of the writer’s of this delightful blog. Her lofty goal here is to make this a creative resource repository and to inspire you to fall truly, madly, deeply in love with your life.

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