These are a few of my favorite books for studying Italic Hand. Of course, a must-have is “Foundations of Calligraphy” by Sheila Waters; “Contemporary Calligraphy” by Gillian Hazeldine has a wonderful chapter on Italic that shows basic forms and many modern variations; “More than fine writing: Irene Wellington, calligrapher (1904-84),” by Heather Child isn’t an instructional book, but showcases the brilliant work of Irene Wellington who was one of Edward Johnston’s students; “Art and Craft of Hand Lettering” by Annie Cicale has a great section on Italic with detailed instructions; “Masters of the Italic Letter: Twenty-Two Exemplars from the Sixteenth Century” by Kathryn A. Atkins isn’t an instructional book, but it is a must for those who love to study historic letterforms; and last but not least, the Speedball Textbook, which has a beautiful Italic exemplar by Julian Waters.
Most of these books are available at Paper & Ink Arts; a few are out of print, so you’ll have to check your favorite online resources for used books. In any calligraphy script, it’s so important to study from good exemplars so you will start off right rather than trying to correct bad letterforms later.
Do you have a favorite paper for practicing broad edge? I like using Borden & Riley Cotton Comp. It’s semi-translucent, so you can lay a printed guideline sheet underneath. I also like using watercolor paper for when I use watercolor or gouache as ink. For finished pieces, my go-to paper is Arches Hot Press.
It’s a good idea to try different types of paper as you get more comfortable with your letter forms. I recently tried a few fine art papers such as Bugra (used above) and Arches Text Wove, and although they are a little more challenging, they have wonderful textures, which can make a good piece into a great piece.
What is your preferred nib when writing broad edge scripts? When I practice Italic, my favorite nibs are Brause C and Tape – Brause is a little more stiff. Both have top reservoirs, and they are easy to clean and maintain. I use a soft-bristle toothbrush and water to clean my nibs. Make sure you keep the reservoir in a safe place when you are cleaning your nib, so it doesn’t get flushed down the drain. For practice inks, I like using no-fuss bottle inks such as Norton’s walnut ink or Higgins Eternal.
Pen holders, I find, are really up to each person’s personal preference. Some go the DIY route and make their own with dowels and some tubing, while others like the bright colors of the Manuscript holders, marbled holders by Speedball, or even holders made by talented pen artisans. As I have small hands, I prefer shorter holders, and have found the round double wooden pen holder to be my favorite.
Italic Hand is probably what most people think of when they hear the word “calligraphy.” I think it’s one of the scripts that look easy but is actually quite challenging to do well.
When I first started to learn Italic Hand, I found it very challenging because not only do you have to keep in mind the angle of the pen, but also the letter slant. For those who are beginners to Italic Hand, I strongly recommend using guidelines as you practice. You can use an online guideline generator, draw your own guidelines, or a practice pad that already has lines drawn in.
A good exercise for beginner practice is to draw your own guidelines by creating a nib ladder. When learning a broad edge script such as Italic, it’s a good idea to start with a larger nib like 3mm to 2mm, so it is easier to see where you may need improvement. A recommend proportion for Italic is 4:5:4, meaning 4 nib-widths for the ascender, 5 for the x-height, and 4 for the descender. Even if you don’t have a metric ruler, you can use your nib size and its ladder as a guide. Do use a protractor to measure out the letter slant and draw them in, especially if you’re used to writing pointed pen scripts that are heavily slanted, such as Copperplate or Spencerian. This prep work of drawing guidelines may feel tedious at first, but will prove to be invaluable for a beginner to really get a feel of the proportions of the script, develop muscle memory, gain confidence in finding your own rhythm, and to get the right feel for the pen angle and letter slant.
Hi everyone! I was asked by Paper & Ink Arts to do a fun Instagram takeover on the topic of Italic Hand. This and following posts mirror what I shared on their social media.
Hi calligraphy and letter-loving friends – my name is Linda Yoshida, and I am honored to be asked by Paper & Ink Arts for this week’s Instagram takeover. My focus this week will be on the beautiful Italic Hand!
A little about me – I’m from Los Angeles, and work full-time as a graphic designer. I have been doing calligraphy for fun since I was 12, but really started my formal training 2011 when I came across the website of my local calligraphy guild, Society for Calligraphy, and found my first calligraphy teacher, Yukimi Annand. I became a member of the guild in 2013, and since then I have been fortunate enough to not only learn from Yukimi, but also from some of the best calligraphers in the world. I see myself as a “perpetual student” and always strive for progress.
Like many of you, I started my calligraphy journey with pointed pen. But I soon became interested in broad edge calligraphy scripts such as Roman Capitals, Foundational Hand, Blackletter, Uncial, and Italic Hand. When I first started to learn Italic Hand, I found it very challenging. I had such a tough time that I stopped working on it for years. Last summer, after attending Sheila Waters’ and Julian Waters’ masterclass, I got motivated to study Italic again. I took an Italic class with Carrie Imai a few weeks after I got back, and this time it felt less daunting. Maybe having done other scripts during my break helped me understand better. I still very much consider myself a student, but I am happy to share my love of Italic Hand with you this week. Thanks for following along as I share a few basics of one of my favorite scripts!
After attending the fantastic Chalkboard lettering class with Cora Pearl at Letters California Style in February, I was asked by Society for Calligraphy‘s Membership Chair, David Mark, to do a free demo for new members of the guild. Cora very generously and graciously let me share some of her teaching material with the new members!
One of the new members, Mila, was very kind to provide our classroom space. We expected maybe 10 people in the class, but ended up with a total of 14! I was super nervous as I’ve never done a demo/teaching session before, and really wanted everyone to have a great experience. Looking at how hard everyone was working and how fast a few hours flew by, I think it was pretty successful. Thanks David, and Society for Calligraphy for the opportunity, and huge thanks again to Cora for the guidance!
Before I started attending Letters California Style, February used to be one of those months that were just there. The month quickly passes and we’re ready for Spring. But now that I’m part of the Society for Calligraphy, the annual mini-conference over President’s Day weekend is something I always look forward to every year.
This year, I was lucky to get into Cora Pearl‘s class, The Art of Chalkboard Lettering. Cora is a professional calligrapher, artist, and teacher in Portland, Oregon, and I have long admired her work, especially her lettering! I’ve always wanted to learn how to do chalkboard lettering. When done right, it is such a beautiful way of layering information that totally speaks to the graphic designer side of me.
On the first day, Cora showed us a few of her chalkboard lettering styles. We used Micron markers on layout bond to become familiar with the letters’ structures and shapes. Cora spent time with each of us and gave excellent critique and instructions.
On day two, we all had a WOW! moment as we switched to white charcoal pencil on black paper. It looked SO beautiful and I just love the vintage/retro styles of these letters!
Cora is an incredibly organized teacher who is also positive and encouraging. If I ever become a calligraphy teacher, I want to be just like her. :) I learned some great techniques and styles from her, which I will definitely put to use! I hope SfC will invite her back to teach again very soon!
I tend to be most productive when there is an event or goal on the horizon. This piece, along with about 50 works by members (ranging from students to masters) of the Society for Calligraphy, is currently on display at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana. “East Meets West: an Expression of Culture” runs from today to Sunday, February 4th, and compliments the current exhibit on the Empress Dowager Cixi at Bowers.
This piece was inspired by one of the empress dowager’s many paintings and cites one of her quotes, which I feel really sums up her influence on China and also the world. She was a formidable and controversial figure. I learned so much from reading “Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China,” by author Jung Chang. Thanks to everyone, especially Jenny Allen who worked so hard to make this exhibit happen!
Watercolor, gouache, and walnut ink on 90 lb Arches hot press, 12″x 16″.