With my wallet containing some of the money I received as a graduation gift from one my beloved aunts, I entered a small store that sold writing essentials and took a look at a jar of violet ink, a roll of parchment paper, and a long, tapered, wooden stick with a pointed metal end, all encased in a long, black box. I thought about it for a while - I knew nothing about fancy handwriting, heck, I don’t find my own handwriting attractive with the use of a typical ballpoint pen. This box cost quite a bit, but the resonating sound of my mama’s voice challenging me to try to learn something new before I go off to college urged me to grab the box (and one of those wax seals with your initial on it) and head straight for the counter.
As I got home, I opened up my new box of calligraphy essentials and laid out all its contents onto my desk. I grasped the nib holder and dipped the nib into the jar of violet ink and I started to write the word “hello.” The nib was so rough against the paper that I made a couple of tears and rips and the ink created a feathered effect on the edges of the word, which apparently shouldn’t happen. I kept trying and grunting in frustration, constantly murmuring to myself, WHY CAN’T I DO WHAT ABBEY SY AND ELLA LAMA CAN DO??? I almost gave up in defeat, but I knew I shouldn’t let this go. I mean, that would be P750 thrown out the window. Instead of wasting a beautiful purchase, the amateur calligrapher (that would be the feelingera that I am) decided to take small steps into trying to develop the skill.
Here is a little overview on the basic essentials: there are different kinds of nibs out there. I personally like the Brause Blue Pumpkin and Nikko G nibs because of their flexibility and how I did not need to repeatedly dip my pen while writing. I use a Straight Holder from The Craft Central because I find it easier to control, as if I'm just writing with a regular pen. There is an Oblique Pen Holder, which is used to achieve a better slant when writing. As for paper, I've learned the hard way that paper with a higher GSM (grams per square meter) would avoid the unwanted webs in my work. A regular bond paper has a gsm of 75. Apparently, the ideal weight is 190 gsm, similar to that of watercolor paper. For ink, there's india ink or walnut ink that is pretty easy to work around with.
First, I tried to look for inspiration. My number one source will always be Abbey Sy’s instagram (@abbeysy). Over time, I came across a bunch of other artists who make me tear up because their works are absolutely aesthetically pleasing. For example, there’s Ella Lama, Elle Battung, Anina Rubio, to name a few. Now, looking for inspiration does not mean copying everything from someone else. Inspiration is something that should mentally stimulate you. It is something that lets your creative juices flowing.
Once I had an idea what I wanted to do, I grabbed my materials: a pencil, a couple of scratch papers, a pad of calligraphy paper, a bottle of ink, and a holder and nib. I made the sad mistake of buying the fancy, expensive calligraphy box from Scribe when there’s Hey Kessy, Craft Carrot, The Craft Central, and literally a bunch of other craft stores that sold the same materials for a friendlier price! So, if you’re planning to try out calligraphy, do visit the stores I’ve mentioned. The Craft Central sells this big box filled with calligraphy essentials that's perfect for beginners. It's called The Scribbler Starter Kit which sells for around P1,950. Sure, it's pricier compared to the little box I've been talking about, but think about this: the little box from Scribe contains one sheet of parchment paper, a tiny bottle of violet ink, one nib, and one straight holder; the kit from The Craft Central has six nibs, a Speedball Oblique Holder and a Speedball Straight holder, a scribble pad with gridlines (50 sheets), a notebook, two kinds of ink, three jars of pearl pigments, and two gold-capped jars. Alright, I may sound a little biased, but seriously, the Scribble Kit is way more beginner-friendly as compared to the J. Herbin 19th Century Student Writing Set I got from Scribe.
Use the pencil and scratch paper to draw out your ideas before you map it out on the calligraphy paper itself. When you’re satisfied with how your draft looks like, start writing with the nib onto the actual paper. Now, you may not be instantly satisfied with how your work turns out, which is why the most important thing to remember is to keep practicing. A famous saying goes, "An expert was once a beginner." Don't ever let disappointment stop you from going on. I was cringing at every stroke I made because the ink did not flow as smooth as I had hoped, thus creating hard-edged letters and holed-up papers. Sometimes, I'd like to think I finally got the hang of it, but usually I'd end up wanting to improve. I still don't have the confidence to show off my work to people I know. (I created a calligraphy instagram and no one among my friends know what it is. So, if you find me, I will most likely give you a prize! Just kidding.)
Most of the things I've learned for calligraphy, I've learned by reading through blogs and watching video tutorials made by my favorite artists. I've only been to one lettering workshop (by the Googly Gooeys!) since I always run out of slots whenever the other artists open up sign ups for their workshops. Luckily, I was able to join Tippy Go's watercolor lettering workshop last July. Some of the workshops may be a little pricey for some, but it's a really great way to learn first-hand from the experts, plus you get to spend an afternoon with your favorite artists! I think one of the most imperative thing to remember is to use your own handwriting, so as to create your own style. Don't force your hand to copy someone else's.
Calligraphy isn't an expensive hobby as compared to photography (which I also love to do). Don't get intimidated or discouraged from trying this form of art. You'll be surprised how beautiful your handwriting can be with constant practice and patience.
- Daniela Regis (ʘ‿ʘ✿)
All original photos/art and information were found with the help of Google. Further editing (changing of colors, adding text, etc.) of illustrations by Eliza Espino.
In a world full of chaos, one quirky Swiss artist cleans up after the mess. Ursus Wehrli’s obsession with “tidying up” modern art as well as deconstructing natural and man-made environments proves that not everything has to be abstract or complex. There is in fact beauty in order and sometimes, it’s better to keep things in its simplest form. From re-arranging to color-coding, Wehrli has made sure to keep everything neat and orderly.
In his book “Tyding Up Art” and its sequel “Tidying Up More Art”, he takes famous modern paintings and you guessed it, tidies them up. He even takes a Jackson Pollock painting and cleverly cleans it by putting back the used paint into paint cans.
Here is his TED Talk on his book:
In 2013, he takes his hobby up a notch by organizing real life things and places. He deconstructs alphabet soup and even color codes an entire ball pit. All these can be seen and more in his published book, “The Art of Clean Up”.
Here you can see how he rearranged and organized cars in a parking lot:
We’re not sure if Ursus Wehrli is brilliantly genius or just really bored but nevertheless he takes breaking down art to a whole new different and creative level. Now we hopefully wait for a “The Art of More Clean Up” book in the future.
- Reign Gonzales
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