“In the beginning was the word”

Thank you for finding, and especially for your interest in www.calligraphyforbeginners.com. My passion is teaching, which I have been doing since 1976. My love is letterforms and my goal is to keep calligraphy alive and accessible. My intention is to give a simple step by step method of study, that teaches  what to look for, a new way of seeing letters. We will share in the concept of shape structure form and fun.

Here are 10 insights for you to consider:

SETTING THE STAGE, comfort is important, like meditation set yourself up, a comfortable chair, good light, conscious posture, feet flat on the floor. A notebook or folder to keep track of progress.

BROAD EDGE TOOLS, markers, fountain pens, staff with insertable nibs, brushes, quills, reeds, all give characteristics of a weighted line (thick and thin strokes).

PEN HOLD, the thumb and the first finger are considered the grippers and the middle finger is the resting finger, the staff of the pen should rest between the first two knuckles, not in the crease of your hand. Pen hold should be comfortable not cramp inducing. Practice as if you are ‘learning to walk’, quite the feat!

INKS, again a huge variety, favorites for calligraphers are water soluble, drawing inks have a lacquer in them and  tend to clog fountain pens and rust metal nibs. Even kitchen food coloring is a safer ink than india drawing inks.


FILLING THE PEN, markers are lovely for mark making until they dry out or lose their sharpness, fountain pens come with cartridges and directions, and staffs, with inserted nibs, can be filled with a small brush or dipped into ink or watered down paints. Prang water colors are an inexspensive source of color.

PAPERS, need to like your inks, we want to avoid bleeding (when the ink feathers). Sometimes humidity can be the problem. For practice, notebook paper can work well. Papers with a cotton content give a good crisp line. There are also a variety of practice pads and archival papers for calligraphers, discussed later.

MAKING YOUR MARK, a sure lesson for you is to play with any one of the tools, broad edge markers will serve you here, play with the thinnest downstrokes to the thickest downstroke and take notice of what angle your nib is to the writing line. Draw tents, boxes, and circles (with a proper pen hold in place) no need for letters, it is more important to get to know your pen, work slow, but play hard.

PEN (Nib) ANGLE, a very easy nib angle to find is 45 degrees, with a pencil draw a right angle, place your nib in the corner and let it slide upwards to cut the right angle in half, you should see a very thin stroke, see if you can retain this nib angle as you pull down. Try a plus sign, both horizontal and vertical lines will be equal in weight if you are holding onto 45 degree pen angle, remember gripping does not hold the angle, being conscious keeps the angle in place. Now see how many shapes you can make at a 45 degree pen angle.

MARGINS, if you are using note book paper stay within the red margin lines, always try to create white space around your practice, if we consider white space around our practice, we are beginning to design layouts. Save and date your practice sheets for evidence of your growth and commitment.


Quills & Reeds

Pens & Markers

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15 Responses to “In the beginning was the word”

  1. Jade Teta says:

    Mom, this is great 🙂

  2. John says:

    Nice job Joyce! Happy to see you are teaching on the web.

  3. and the word was good!

  4. Kimo Teta says:

    The words require thought and thought imagination! I just love this!

  5. Congrats Joyce!! This is awesome 🙂

  6. Lisa Rogers says:

    Good Luck with this new endeavor… I know you will be great!

  7. Linda Tanaka says:

    Thank you for doing this. This is going to be good, I am looking forward to it. I will pass this on to our small group in Lethbridge Alberta. We are trying to revive interest in calligraphy here but none of us feel qualified or have the energy left to teach newbies. Maybe this is the way to do it.


  8. Linda Tanaka says:

    Last night I saw a programme on televison called Rumi: the Ecstacy or something like that. Between segments a calligrapher was writing in a Middle Eastern alphabet with a reed like the one I see in your picture above. He was using what looked to me like walnut ink. It was a rich transparent brown. I could just feel the reed on the paper and it made me so interested in getting back into this and doing some more lettering.

    Thank you for appearing at the right time for me.


  9. rayster says:

    I am just starting out in calligraphy i am using a fountain pen can u please update this site more often

  10. Stacey says:

    You taught my 5th grade class calligraphy @ Old Town, ’80/’81. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Penmanship is a dying art.

  11. Jenny Birch says:

    A lovely, inviting introduction to the art of Calligraphy. I wish you well and pray your endeavours will be rewarded.

  12. Judy Bliss says:

    Joyce, This is such a wonderful idea to put this on the internet to share your gift as a calligrapher. I love the format and am so looking forward to more of your teaching. I have been so fortunate to have taken classes from you in person – I still consider myself a beginner. You have such an enthusiastic way of sharing and putting your skills out there for each of us to learn the basics and beyond. I am anxiously looking for the next installment.
    You are a blessing to your students and friends. love ya, judy