I know that colouring books for adults are supposed to be therapeutic, a mindful way to relax and de-stress, but for me they just seem like the opposite. I don't want to get caught up over-thinking (and then getting annoyed by) my colour choices (which I would) but I would like to reap the benefits that come along with the practice.
I think I've found my alternative, modern calligraphy.
I'm drawn to attractive typography and to the beautiful cursive writing of my parents and my aunties. I loved comparing their handwriting on last year's batch of Christmas cards. Modern calligraphy feels like the natural progression of this interest. I get to learn a new skill, improve my currently hideous cursive handwriting, and get the therapeutic benefits that come along with it. Sold.
I decided to begin learning modern calligraphy by using the book Nib + Ink* by Chiaro Perano, a professional calligrapher, illustrator, designer, and founder of the studio Lamplighter London. Perano first came to my attention when she was featured in a vlog by Lily Pebbles (skip to the 1:55 mark for the relevant section). From this video and a scroll through Perano's Instagram I knew I liked her style of modern calligraphy and, after a little research, I believed Nib + Ink would be a good practical guide to the craft. It's essentially a workbook (remember your primary school copy books?), providing a short introduction to modern calligraphy–
'a term that has come to describe the new, more immediate and fun handwritten styles which have evolved from traditional types of calligraphy (12)'
–and the tools and paper to get started (FYI, you'll know if calligraphy is for you if you find the information about the tines interesting!). It contains a variety of tips, tricks, and instructions and a section of lined pages to practice on.
Of course, once I'd purchased the book I needed to buy the tools to get started. After a fruitless search for a retailer in my area I ended up choosing an online supplier, Calligraphy Supplies Australia. I mainly chose CSA because they ship from within Australia, which shortened the delivery time, but their prices are reasonable too. Of course there are cheaper options available (Amazon etc.) if you don't mind waiting longer. I bought a straight pen holder, three nibs–the Brause 361, the Nikko G, and the Gillot 303–and a jar of black Higgins Eternal ink and set to work. Before I'd started I had been hoping I would have a natural aptitude for calligraphy. I don't. I'm not terrible, but sadly I'm no modern calligraphy prodigy.
The first exercise in Nib + Ink is mark making. The idea is that you perfect your mark making techniques before moving on to letters and then, eventually, joined letters and words. Like a real grown-up. Naturally, I skipped straight to writing letters. I mean–how could I resist?
Since then I've been going back and forth between practicing mark making and practicing letters because–spoiler alert!–mark making is boring. Very boring. On the other hand, letters are great. I can happily go two hours just practicing letters. I'm currently using an A4 cartridge pad to practice in, it's not the best option as the ink bleeds a little but it's good enough for now.
I've also been practicing Perano's alphabet in pencil in an effort to build up some kind of muscle memory. For this activity, and for practicing with the ink, you can buy lined calligraphy layout books or you can download and print a lined calligraphy guide sheet from Perano's website. I chose the latter option. Alternatively, you can rule up your own pages (I tried it once, but it takes forever and despite careful effort my lines still didn't end up straight). I'm using an Art Studio A4 Bank Layout Pad from Riot Art & Craft for this activity, the paper is just the right thickness to allow me to see the lines of the guide sheet underneath. For now I'm just working on the letters 'A' to 'J', my goal is to master them before continuing on to the rest (although, Mother's Day is coming up in May so I need to start including 'M' and 'u' in my practice routine soon).
In the beginning I hated writing the letter 'A' but I've since worked out the the example I was using just wasn't the right one for me. In Nib + Ink Perano gives three examples. The first was the one I struggled with. I like the second example but I've found the third example is the one that suits me. If you find yourself struggling with a similar problem I highly recommend you try a range of different styles until you find one that works for you. It's basically a Goldilocks situation. Now that I've figured this out, 'A' is one of my favourite letters to write. 'H' is the the other.
At the moment I'm finding the hardest letters to replicate are the curviest ones: 'B' (the first letter of my surname and half of my family's first names –oh joy), 'C', 'D' etc. It's like they exist to to test my commitment to the task (or maybe just to torture me). Despite the frustration I can feel trying to get these letters (and the calligraphy marks) right I find the whole activity very calming and enjoyable. After all, you're supposed to use the book to develop your own style, not to replicate Perano's letters exactly.
You can read a sample of Nib + Ink on google books and view Perano's calligraphy work on her Lamplighter London Instagram. If you are looking for an alternative to colouring books or other mindfulness methods, or you just want to improve your handwriting, modern calligraphy could be the right hobby for you (also I need people to geek out about calligraphy supplies with!).
Until next time,
*This post is not sponsored.