This post was written by Ana Corral. To learn more about Ana, you can click here.
I grew up familiar with a variety of brushes. I was practically birthed with a paintbrush in hand, brushing my hair wasn’t too difficult to grasp, and brushing my teeth is pretty much second nature. The only brushes that truly haunt me are brush pens. Despite a background that’s rich in illustration, typography, and design, I find brush pens to be quite intimidating. Honestly, the only brush pens I’m familiar with are the Faber Castells I stole from my dad’s art stash before I left for college (he knows now, don’t worry)! Up until this week, I’ve used them exclusively to illustrate. So, when Lindsey asked me to write my first blog post about conquering the brush pen, I cued up all of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts, burned some palo santo, booked an extra therapy session, and buckled in!
1. The Prep
With my brush pens in order, worksheets printed and the videos loaded, I dove headfirst into TPK’s Janet Style Premium Brush Pen Calligraphy Worksheet + Videos. I laid out the pens I had to work with: the Pigma MB and the Tombow Dual Point. Personally, I prefer the flexibility and longer tip of the Tombow Dual Point, but I completed most of the worksheet with the Pigma MB.
I’ll be honest with you: I have a pretty big ego when it comes to art. I watched the first of the “Getting Started with Brush Pens” videos where Lindsey gives you the run down on brush pens. Then, I poo-pooed the others, assuming I could figure out the mystery that is brush pens via just the worksheets. And boy, was I wrong! On the bright side, my downstrokes looked decent. However, my upstrokes were broken and shaky, and my hand felt awkward. I was back to square one: frustrated! Thus, quietly, I resolved that Lindsey might just know what she is talking about. Needless to say, I decided to watch the videos after all. I am so glad that I did!
2. The Videos
In the brush pen videos, Lindsey talks about some pretty crucial, foundational knowledge. Some things I found useful that I wouldn’t have known otherwise are:
- How you hold the pen matters. The angle at which your hand cradles the pen drastically changes the ease of your stroke. Letting the pen rest more on its side opens up the full potential of the brush element of the pen.
- There’s no need to strangle the brush pen. I found that when I let the energy flow in my wrist but kept my fingers still, I had much more control over the pen, the weight, direction, and the thickness of the stroke.
- The speed at which you move the pen matters depending on the type of stroke. When I moved at a more confident pace on upstrokes, they were smooth, clean, and proportional.
Basically, Lindsey saves you a lot of hair-pulling by setting you up for success in the videos. Additionally, the worksheets are set up like the ultimate “paint-by-number” guides — but for calligraphy. Dots, lines, arrows, and numbers guide each movement of the brush pen across the page.
When I started to get frustrated, I revisited the videos to watch Lindsey’s hand glide across the page to magically produce some flawless character. There’s a beautiful moment in one of the videos where Lindsey says, “… you may want to stop here and collect yourself”. That was kind of great because her voice came out of my outrageously loud computer speakers right as I was gritting my teeth, death-gripping the brush pen in a rage. “This is supposed to be relaxing?!” I remember thinking at the beginning of the worksheet.
Eventually you get into a groove with brush pen practice. It’s not dissimilar to when you’re cooking a meal and you start floating around the kitchen, tip-tapping spices into your cauldron over the fire, singing with the birds on the windowsill, doing the two-step with a broom. (Tell me I’m not the only one who does that?)
It starts to come naturally: you’ll be able to feel when to exert and then let up on pressure. You’ll know when the brush pen tip should fold over itself to sweep a thick, pigmented stroke across the page. And, finally, you’ll know when to let go of a stroke or reconnect with another. In fact, you may notice my improvement over just the span of time I spent filling out the worksheets (which is super fun, once you get the hang of it)!
4. I Came, I Saw, I Conquered
After I felt more comfortable with the technique and the pens (it took a couple of days!), I embarked on a brush pen vision quest of my own. I corralled all of skills I’d just absorbed filling out the worksheet, and and I gussied up a package label addressed to my beautiful mama.
After a bar of chocolate, a glass of wine, and plenty of practice, I can say I feel significantly more comfortable with brush pens. I’m far from a professional. However, I’m also far from afraid, and the brush pen may just live to see another day in this household. Plus: my mom is about to receive the best package of her life! So, in summary—you’re welcome, mom.
And you’re welcome, readers—I can personally testify that TPK’s Janet Style Brush Pen Calligraphy Worksheet + Videos are crafted to take you all the way to home plate. The course is clear, concise, and will likely open up your calligraphic chakra! Don’t Postman’s Knock it before you try it.
Thanks so much for reading, and have a wonderful and creative weekend!