This is a bit if a controversial recommendation of a calligraphy book for most traditional calligraphers, but since a lot of you who are interested in this medium would prefer to develop your own contemporary calligraphy or modern lettering hand, than I think it would be a valuable addition to your studies. I am sure you have heard the adage that you must first learn the rules before you can break them? This book will assist you with the basics so you can then feel free to riff on your own. It will give you a ‘base’ + reference to begin to build your own lettering style. I have checked out many calligraphy books and watched numerous videos (I recommend Dr. Vitolo’s copperplate video’s and if you have an Ipad you can download his free book at Itunes), but Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy is the one that I keep coming back to. It is such a great reference because the author truly breaks down each letter to its very basics starting with the strokes you will need to know to create your initial letterforms. She has many examples of right and wrong ways for each letter and why a letter works or doesn’t (very helpful). I also like that she gives you many different variations/styles on a letter so you can work on the style you prefer most. There are guideline sheets in the book that you can copy and Winters even explains in depth how to create your own.
Many of you might be thinking, “peeshaw, I don’t want to learn traditional calligraphy, it’s not my thing”. I understand this sentiment (especially the peeshaw part), but I can tell you from my experience that even trying to practice a basic calligraphy alphabet will get you to your ultimate goal faster. You will learn things like spacing, baselines, heights of letters, how wide, etc. All of these tools will give you a better foundation to build your own alphabet one day. It may not look like there is any sort of structure to my own lettering samples I show you, but I do create all my samples utilizing a guideline sheet and starting the letters at the same baseline and adjusting the heights (the ascender, ie. the loop of an ‘h’ or the descender, ie the bottom loop of a ‘g’). I do take a lot of liberties and may make a rouge ‘u’ lower than it technically should be but I try to make sure it flows and works well with the word as a total. Of course, these are all things I have learned in my very limited time lettering and I am not trained as a traditional calligrapher so take this advice with a grain of salt; I am just sharing my personal experience. It has helped me a lot to hear that you are ‘drawing’ the letters rather than writing them. It makes sense to me and helps me feel better when I feel like I am taking too long creating a letterform. For those of you that are feeling completely overwhelmed right about now, my friend Maybelle (artist & calligrapher extraordinaire) suggests just using the nib + ink paired with your own handwriting to create a unique hand, she says that you may just be pleasantly surprised by the results; yes, even those of you like myself that have terrible cursive handwriting, she assures it can look quite charming!
Miss Tristan B. is the proprietress of Besotted Brand and the writer of this delightful blog. She practices her lettering almost every night and indeed looks like she works in a coal mine by the end of her long day.