Sen Mendiola


My online journal filled with random musings on motherhood, life and my creative journey as an artist.

7 Awesome Calligraphy Tips

The price you must pay for excellence in any line of work is study, practice and patience, and penmen are developed, not born.
— L. Madarasz

If there's something you can learn from a master, what would it be? 

Sometimes I dream of going back in time and invisibly watch one of my favorite penman write and design his projects. Sounds creepy, I know, but I love observing for the purpose of learning!

And you might be wondering, who is this penman I am talking about? His name is Louis Madarasz, a man who is universally regarded as the most highly skilled ornamental penman that ever lived. Awesome, right?!

Well, I am far from his penmanship skills and I don't have any plan yet to follow his footsteps (this Momma cannot handle too much pressure on this creative area) but I do love his philosophy and his works. 

Let me share you his penmanship instructions and my own interpretation for each. I hope these help you in your calligraphy journey, no matter which stage you are currently in.

Grab your coffee!


01 | Study as much as you practice

You have probably seen this phrase in one of my blog! I can't emphasize enough the importance of studying, yes, even in calligraphy. You don't have to be a geek or a bookworm. However, it is important and helpful that you gain some valuable understanding of what you are trying to execute or aiming to write. 

 "Attention, attention, and then more attention."

Do you feel frustrated because you can't get it right even after a couple of pages of practice? How about take a pause, breathe and read the instruction or the description or take a good look at your exemplar? 

02 | Know what you want to execute

"Get the habit of picturing in your mind just what the finished work will be."

Whether you are writing in traditional calligraphy, working on modern script or doing flourishes, you have to know and see in your mind the right forms before your pen touches your paper. How can you write a good flourished B, for example, if you don't even know what it looks like? Makes sense, huh?

And you can envision it easily or better if you constantly do the first advice.

03 | Use only the best materials

Get the best materials you can afford. Best not necessarily mean that you have to buy the most expensive penholder or nib, instead, just ensure you have the right kind of materials to avoid unnecessary frustrations.

For example, a copy paper can cause your ink to feather or bleed. You may blame the ink or the nib but in fact, you are not using the right type of paper. A copy paper is so thin and not made to handle calligraphy ink well. For pointed pen calligraphy, best to use a paper with minimum paper weight of 80gsm to 100gsm.

If you're just starting out in pointed pen calligraphy, a good basic calligraphy kit is all you need. And what are those? A good quality paper, a sturdy penholder, walnut or sumi ink and a G-nib.

I personally recommend TCA Basic Calligraphy Kit of The Curious Artisan because the kit includes the right tools and is affordable. I even bought one as a gift for one of my best friends who wants to try calligraphy!

04 | Keep your pens very clean

"You've got to keep your pen clean and ink free flowing. If your pen in any way skips on the upstrokes, throw it away; such pens grow worse and never get better."

And by pens, the great Madarasz means, your nib. Yes, steel nibs are disposable but you have to take care of them too so you can use them longer and produce good lines. Prep your nibs well before using and clean them thoroughly before storing.

05 | Watch your slant carefully

In traditional calligraphy, we adore its sense of uniformity. In modern script, although it comes with a variation of letter sizes or an occasional bouncy effect, a good modern script style still show some kind of consistency that is pleasing to the eye. And yes, you guessed it right! Letters and words are all leaning to the same angle.

"Have your paper so placed on desk that all downward lines are vertical to eye and desk. This gives you the slant, and slant is a mighty big boy in good writing."

06 | Master one style at a time

We're all guilty of this! We simply get bored and impatient, tend to jump from one exemplar to another then end up not being good on anything. 

But if you really want to improve whichever style you are learning, be patient. Always start with the basic forms, slowly moving to forming small letters then words, then capital letters.

Evaluate your work. And once you can execute your current style with ease and confidence, move to learning a new style or more complicated version (or known to us as flourished forms).

07 | Sit up, don't slouch, and breathe regularly

Yes, breathe! Don't hold your breath while writing, instead, follow its rhythm. And set your whole arm and hand free! How? Yep, you were right - by not slouching.

Try writing “hello” while slouching. Now sit up straight, relax your shoulders, breathe then write the same word again. Feel the difference? You're welcome. :)

And there you have it! Now, your turn. Which of these is your favorite? Do you find these helpful? Share your thoughts in the comment section below! :)