Basic strokes. Foundational strokes. Drills.
Whatever you want to call them, you need to know them if you want to learn modern calligraphy.
Trying to do calligraphy before learning the basic strokes is like trying to run before you walk.
If you’re trying to learn modern calligraphy, I was in your shoes ONE year ago. I did what you’re doing- and it may even be how you came across this very article- I Googled. I looked up “modern calligraphy”, “brush calligraphy”, “learn calligraphy”, “diy calligraphy”, you name it!
And then I read every blog post, article or tidbit I could find online before proceeding straight to the art store- specifically the ‘calligraphy’ section- to get myself some supplies. That was my first mistake.
‘Calligraphy’ sections in art stores are chock full of supplies that do not apply to modern calligraphy. They’re full of those broad edged, flat tipped markers and nibs. And since the whole concept of traditional calligraphy supplies vs. modern calligraphy supplies was something I must have glossed over in my Googling, I bought all the wrong supplies.
I went home, with the ‘traditional calligraphy’ supplies I thought I needed, thinking ‘I’ve always had nice handwriting, I can just copy others and figure this out on my own, right?!”
Here’s what I didn’t figure out until I finally took an in-person modern calligraphy workshop.
First of all, you need the right supplies. Duh. They need to be pointed, or flexible- not broad edged. But secondly, you need to learn from the very beginning.
They’re called basic strokes. Your basic calligraphy letters are BUILT UP OF THESE STROKES. This means that your naturally pretty handwriting skills don’t mean jack when it comes to calligraphy. Sorry to break it to you- but I wish someone had broken it to me, too, when I was in your position.
Let me illustrate my point.
Here’s “minimum” written in cursive. This is what your word would look like if you just used your natural, pretty handwriting.
Now, here’s “minimum” written in calligraphy. This is what your word would look like if you forgot about your natural pretty handwriting, and instead used your understanding of basic strokes:
See the difference?
The word “minimum” in the second example is made up entirely of basic strokes. Here it is again, broken down into red & green (because Christmas!) so you can see the strokes:
Squish those red and green strokes together, and you get this:
Using this concept, you can build your entire alphabet by repeating your basic strokes over and over again. And the more consistent your strokes, the more consistent your letters and words look.
That’s where “drills” come in.
You know when you played hockey as a kid (yeah, I’m Canadian- swap ‘soccer’ or whatever if you’re not! and you dreaded those drills you had to do at practice? Well guess what- that’s why you’re so good at skating (or kicking, whatever) now. You can’t just jump right into a game and try to copy everyone else who knows how. You need to practice.
If you’ve made it to this point in the article, I think you can tell that I get pretty fired up about this topic. I want to explain it to as many people as possible so that you can all learn from my mistakes.
If you’re ready to let go of your pretty handwriting (trust me, you won’t miss it after this), join me in the 30-day #ShowMeYourDrills challenge. I’m giving you my full recommended list of supplies, a huge printable pdf workbook of traceable drills, and 7 step-by-step videos explaining every basic stroke you need to know. FOR FREE. Oh, and theres a whole guide for iPad users too.
I promise, a little practice every day will go a LONG WAY. See you there!