If you’re a lefty, you are already aware that you’re in the minority. That has, unfortunately, probably led to frustration in your left-handed calligraphy learning endeavors. Hopeless as it may seem, I promise you that anyone — right- or left-handed — can create calligraphy! For this blog post, I decided to go to the source, and I asked south paw newsletter subscribers about their experiences with writing left-handed calligraphy. I received quite a few responses discussing issues and struggles when writing, tips and tricks for improving lettering, plus some examples of work. This blog post is a compilation of the most important takeaways.
A common theme among the lefties I heard from has to do with hand position. Lefties really are special because everyone has come up with their own strategies to write, whether it’s everyday notes or calligraphy. Some lefties write like most right-handed people (“underwriting”), with their hand under the calligraphy. These lefties generally won’t have a lot of problems creating calligraphy. Other lefties “overwrite”, bending the hand into a sort of a “hook” to write words from above. “Overwriting” may feel more comfortable, but it may result in smearing the ink as you write. On the other hand, “underwriting” does not cause smears, but it’s an uncomfortable, impossible position for some left-handed writers.
In the end, the main goal for any calligrapher, left- or right-handed, is to exert even pressure to both tines of the nib. Once you figure out how to do that, you’re golden! You may need to get creative in order to accomplish that; for example, left-handed calligraphy pro Younghae Chung writes from the side with a right oblique pen (you can see her in action in this video).
The trick is to develop a grip that works for you, and don’t be frustrated if you have to do things differently from other calligraphers! Many readers mentioned that “overwriting” is the most comfortable position; however, the resulting ink smudges can be frustrating. A trick that some left-handed overwriters developed is to go slowly! Maybe you can write a word, take a very short break while you wait for the ink to dry, and then continue. If you use a fast-drying, thin ink, the calligraphy shouldn’t take too terribly long to write. Iron gall or walnut ink (learn about both here) would be good choices!
Left-Handed Oblique Pens
Many right-handed calligraphers benefit from using oblique pens because they correct our writing angle as we attempt right-slanted styles. For lefties, it’s a toss-up as to whether a left-handed oblique pen will be helpful or not.
Penmaker Rodger Mayeda explains: “To achieve the correct slant (with a straight calligraphy pen), some left-handed people will need to move the pen away from his or her body, or they can tuck their elbow in closer to their body. However, with a left-handed oblique pen, this repositioning isn’t necessary. So: while the conventional thought that a left-handed person doesn’t really need to use an oblique is true, a left-handed person may experience a more comfortable writing posture if they do use a left-handed oblique.”
When I conduct workshops, I always provide lefties with a straight pen and a left oblique pen. If the straight pen doesn’t feel right to them, I have them try the oblique. This is what I would recommend for you as a lefty! Try the straight first, and if it’s just not clicking for you, then move on to an oblique. If both of those don’t feel right, you can always do what Younghae Chung does and try writing with a right oblique pen! (If you’re interested in trying that out, definitely check out Younghae’s blog post Using a Straight vs. Oblique Holder as a Left-Handed Calligrapher.)
If you are having issues creating left-handed calligraphy with a dip pen, you may want to try brush pen calligraphy! It is not a foolproof solution, but some lefty readers report a much higher rate of success with this tool.
The flexibility of the brush pen is very forgiving, and its tip can rotate 360 degrees. This makes it easier to maneuver the pen regardless of which grip you favor. It’s certainly worth a shot to try out using brush pens as a gateway tool into lettering! Once you become familiar with using brush pens, you can always give dip pen calligraphy another go.
Some left-handed TPK readers swear by the ability of the Apple Pencil to create calligraphy. From what I’ve read, the iPad can make adjustments to its app based on whether you are left- or right-handed. This makes life easier for a lot of lefties because the iPad responds appropriately to their touch. There’s also zero possibility of ink smudging!
I have long been wanting to test out writing on an iPad, and maybe even creating iPad-friendly versions of TPK calligraphy worksheets. If you would be interested in creating calligraphy with an Apple Pencil, let me know in the comments! I’m curious about what your take is on the iPad lettering trend — namely: is it a trend, or something that will remain popular? (I’d appreciate answers from both lefties and righties!)
There is nothing better than get the creative juices flowing than to get on Pinterest or Instagram. All of the following resources come highly recommended from other left-handed calligraphers, so I definitely advice that you check them out! If you have any other resources to recommend, please feel free to contribute them in the comments.
- Elisabeth Young’s Instagram page @elisaannecalligraphy
- John DeCollibus’ Basic tips for Left-Handed Calligraphers
- Younghae Chung’s Instagram page @logos_calligraphy
- Sarah pearson’s Instagram page @theinkyhand
- Chalked by Mabz’s Instagram page @chalkedbymabz
In the end, left-handed calligraphy learners admittedly have more hoops to jump through than right-handed learners do. That’s mainly just due to the uniqueness of how each left-handed person writes, and the fact that most calligraphy instructors (myself included) are right-handed. However, difficult does not mean impossible … you just have to get a little more creative and have patience with yourself. If you are feeling discouraged, remember that there are many lefties who felt just like you did, but they powered through and are now creating beautiful letters! Keep on keepin’ on. 🙂