The other day, a friend sent me over this Instagram video of Nina Tran creating a gorgeous calligraphy medallion. Naturally, I stopped what I was doing and decided to try creating one myself. And, today, I’d like to show you how to make one, too! Just take it step by step, and you’ll be delighted as the project unfolds into dip pen gorgeousness.
1. Make Pencil Guidelines
Before you get your dip pen out, you’ll need to make pencil guidelines. Start by tracing around a medium-sized circular object. I used a spool of ribbon, but you could use the bottom of a drinking glass, a coaster, etc. Note that this first set of circle guidelines is exactly how big your calligraphy medallion will be.
Next, find a significantly smaller circular object, and trace around it in the center of the circle that you just drew. I traced the inside of a tape dispenser.
Once you have traced around the smaller object, use your ruler and your pencil to draw a vertical line that divides the circles in half. Next, draw a horizontal guideline to divide the circles into fourths. Finish up by drawing “X” guidelines that further divide the circles into eighths.
As a side note, don’t fret if your pencil guidelines aren’t perfect. You can see in the photo above that my lines don’t intersect exactly in the middle of the circles. That won’t adversely affect the end result, I promise!
2. Draw Hooks and Spirals
In this portion of the instructions, words can only do so much! I’ll explain as best I can, but the best directions will come from the photos. So — here we go! Once you have drawn the pencil guidelines, get out your favorite dip pen and ink. Draw a relaxed S-shaped “hook” that starts to the right of a straight guideline, loops to the left, then ends again at the right.
Continue to draw that same “S” shaped hook along every pencil line. The hooks should end at the larger circle guideline.
Now, put the point of your pen on the small circle pencil guideline between two of the “S” shaped hooks. Pull down to create a “U” shape that extends about 2/3 of the way to the large circle guideline. End the “U” between the two hooks on the other side, and loop around to gear up to draw another “U”.
Continue drawing connected “U”s around the rest of the circle until you’ve got a circular spiral.
3. Draw Blades of Grass
At this point, you’ll want to draw two left-leaning blades of grass beside each “S” hook. To draw the first blade, put your nib to the right of an “S” hook, just a little bit inside the smaller pencil guideline. Start by exerting minimal pressure on the nib, then increase pressure as you pull down to make the blade of grass. The grass should be about 1/3 the length of the “S” hook. Draw a second blade of grass to the right of the first one.
Continue to draw blades of grass all the way around the circle, until your calligraphy medallion looks like this:
4. Draw Wheat
Now, put your nib to the right of one of the loops that connects the “U”s. Exert very little pressure on your nib, and make a line that curves to the right. The line should end at the larger circle guideline.
Make curved lines to the right of every “U” loop, until the calligraphy medallion looks like this:
Now, use small downstrokes to draw grains of wheat along each curved line that you just drew. I generally draw five grains on each side and one at the tip. The grains should extend about halfway up the curved line.
Add grains of wheat to each curved line. At this point, take a step back to admire your progress — the calligraphy medallion is really coming along!
5. Draw More Blades of Grass
This is the last step! Put the tip of your pen to the right of one of the springs of wheat, and draw a right-leaning blade of grass. Once you’ve drawn that, draw a slightly smaller blade of right-leaning grass beside it.
Continue drawing two blades of grass to the right of every wheat sprig in the circle.
To finish up the calligraphy medallion, use your pen to draw a small, right-curving piece of grass in the center of every “S” hook. The grass should intersect the smaller pencil guideline.
Draw a small piece of grass in every hook around the circle.
Wait for the ink to dry, and erase your pencil guidelines … you’re finished!
Applications for Calligraphy Medallions
In addition to being providing fantastic dip pen practice, calligraphy medallions make mail art sing! I love using it on the front of envelopes, as shown on the Flourish Formal envelope pictured below.
Calligraphy medallions also are awesome on the back of envelopes. Remember, if you’re writing with white ink, you can use a white pencil to make guidelines.
In addition to mail art, calligraphy medallions would make a beautiful addition to gift tags, stickers, and sketchbook pages. I heartily encourage you to try making one — they’re gorgeous and addictive! If you like making this calligraphy medallion, you’ll definitely do well with the equally intricate Not Your Average Calligraphy Drills, which also require good hand-eye coordination.
I’d like to thank Nina Tran for posting the original calligraphy medallion video on Instagram. Again, you can see that by clicking here! I believe the concept for this calligraphy medallion came from Pat Blair, so many thanks go to her as well. And — of course — thank you for reading the TPK blog! It’s always my pleasure to have you here.
Enjoy your weekend!