Meet Geni! She’s a university student who works part-time packaging up TPK Supply Shop orders. For several months, I had no idea that she was interested in art or calligraphy! Then, after she went home one day, I saw that she’d accidentally left a piece of paper on the desk with faux calligraphy written on it. Next time I saw her, I asked if she’d like to learn how to use the calligraphy tools that she sends out!
When she said yes, Hernán enrolled her in The Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course, and I set her up with all the necessary supplies. As she completed lessons, I had a series of questions for her to fill out. This article serves as a Q&A as she moves through the course! I thought it would be nice to have a detailed student perspective instead of just having to go off of course reviews, and I hope this helps if you want to learn calligraphy online, too.
Geni’s Thoughts Before Taking the Course
Motivation is a powerful factor if you’re going to stick with learning calligraphy! When I asked Geni why she wants to learn, she responded:
“I want to learn dip pen calligraphy because I have experience with brush pens and I love hand-lettering. I’ve just never committed to learning to write calligraphy! It always seemed more complex and harder to learn. Once I learn it, I’m excited to make birthday cards for people. I love giving gifts and I think that would be a super fun way to make it even more personal.”
“I’m super excited to have all my calligraphy supplies! Calligraphy feels so old-fashioned and so new and hip at the same time. Ever since I got burnt out on drawing and painting in high school, I’ve been working to find a new media to work with. I think this will be perfect for me!”
Using a Straight Calligraphy Pen
The course starts out by giving you a feel for faux calligraphy, then you jump into using a straight dip pen. The straight dip pen lesson requires quite a bit of patience! Straight dip pens look deceptively similar to pens that you use every day, but the writing technique is totally different.
“Okay, so my pen definitely bled puddles onto my page at first until I saw your tip about shaking the pen above my water before starting. Additionally, I was frustrated a couple of times by getting little pieces of paper in the tip of my nib, but that was solved by rinsing off my nib every minute or so. Aside from that, yay! I love writing with this.”
After completing the straight pen lesson, Geni wrote:
“I think I will forever hate capital I’s. I’m not sure why — they just aren’t my favorite! Also, my pointer finger is cramping because it bends backwards but I’m not sure what to do about that. Oh, also, I stuck my left hand in wet ink to hold the paper which was just a silly mistake. But, I’m loving dip pen calligraphy! It’s definitely different from anything I’ve ever done with brush pens or faux calligraphy or even just normal cursive. It’s harder, but maybe it’ll become easier with time.”
Using an Oblique Calligraphy Pen
Lesson 4 of The Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course covers the oblique pen. When Geni geared up to take on this lesson, I asked her: “Before you started this course, you packaged up probably hundreds of oblique pens for TPK customers. What was your impression of oblique pens at that time?”
Geni said: “I thought oblique pens looked funky, but it made sense that they would help right-handed people for calligraphy. I honestly had no clue what it would feel like to write with it, but I was intrigued. When I used the pen for this lesson, I had to remember to hold the pen with the slant and at a 45 degree-ish angle. I also found that I didn’t know how to control the heaviness of the stroke at first, but that got better with practice. Also, I held the pen wrong until I saw your grip in the lesson video!”
In the oblique pen lesson, students move on to creating Flourish Formal Style calligraphy. I was curious to know whether Geni liked the whimsical style she practiced with a straight pen (Kaitlin Style) or this more elegant style better! She answered: “I feel like the Kaitlin Style calligraphy is more youthful and fits me better. I see myself using it on birthday cards or even just headings for my class notes at CU.”
Making a Calligraphy Medallion
TPK readers love calligraphy medallions, so I snuck instructions on how to make one in to Lesson 5 of the online course. I think calligraphy medallions are gorgeous, and they can make any envelope look beautiful. They also serve as great practice!
But, go figure — Geni didn’t love this lesson! That goes to show that everyone has different things that they like to do with their skills. She said:
“Making a calligraphy medallion was honestly kind of frustrating. I felt like it was really tedious and I think I just wanted to get it done instead of using it to better my skills! Also, it was challenging that the lines overlap so much. The ink from my old lines was drying and getting sticky so then it got caught up in my nib.”
Geni’s Thoughts After Taking the Course
It took about three months for Geni to learn calligraphy online. She did a great job of tuning in once or twice per week to knock out practice and videos! I got to watch her write in person a couple of weeks ago, and it was gratifying to observe that she was doing everything correctly. Great pen grip, awesome pressure exertion, and she always got just the right amount of ink on her nib!
As a teacher, one of the coolest things for me to see is how learners take the information from the course and adapt it to their personal style. Geni favors a bubbly, upright writing style, and she effectively used that to create this sketchbook page …
And the dip pen calligraphy on this birthday card:
Geni had a couple of remarks after finishing the course:
“I’m still struggling with a shaky hand on the upstrokes. Also, I get frustrated with having to dip the nib in ink frequently because I’m used to brush pens. The way I got over that was using watercolors as ink because it just feels like normal painting, and then I don’t see reloading my nib as a tedious process.”
“I really liked the course. I thought it was detailed, but not overkill on anything. The cheat sheet page for different letter lengths on envelopes (in Lesson 6) was really cool. I liked how learning calligraphy felt personal and achievable. Now, I want to work more with watercolors and the gold Finetec watercolor because I love the way those look!”
Should You Learn Calligraphy Online or in Person?
If you’re trying to decide whether to learn calligraphy online or take an in-person workshop, there are a couple of things to consider. First of all, taking an online calligraphy course is usually cheaper! There are some websites that charge $100+ for their online calligraphy courses, but my course is $25. (I feel that’s a reasonable price point for many learners.) Contrast that with $215 for an in-person TPK workshop spot, which has to cover the cost of the venue, supplies, and personalized instruction.
The obvious advantage of an in-person workshop is that a good instructor can spot and remedy bad writing techniques before they become habits. At in-person workshops, it’s easy for me to identify problem areas: many people have trouble with exerting balanced pressure on their nibs, and many students write too quickly. That’s something you may not immediately notice when you’re teaching yourself at home.
One advantage that you have if you opt to learn calligraphy online is consistency. An in-person calligraphy workshop takes half a day, which is enough to build the beginning of a foundation — but then it’s up to you to add to that foundation. When you’re learning online, you can practice a little bit every couple of days. That consistency ensures that your skills continue to grow over time. In short, when it boils down to online versus in-person learning, it’s about budget, schedule, and motivation.
I hope that today’s post gives you some clarity on TPK’s signature calligraphy course! It is an awesome resource, and I’m so happy that it exists for people whose budgets or schedules can’t accommodate in-person workshops. If you are interested in an in-person workshop, I do have a few coming up this year: I’ll teach in Miami in April, and I’ll switch off with Jess of Greenleaf & Blueberry to teach here in Boulder several times this summer. Email me if you’d like to be the first to know when dates are ironed out and sign-up is live!
Thanks very much for reading, and thanks to Geni for documenting her learning!