“What is modern calligraphy?” For years, I’ve grappled to answer that question. Modern calligraphy is difficult to describe because so many styles can be classified under its umbrella!
Modern calligraphy is any calligraphy that is not traditional calligraphy. Traditional calligraphy styles like Spencerian and Copperplate have been around for years, and you create them with very particular strokes and formations.
Many people today have embraced traditional calligraphy styles, and it seems the traditional calligraphy community opinion splits on modern calligraphy. Some traditionalists love the creativity that modern calligraphy allows. Others, however, dislike the deviation from order and rules. While I respect the latter traditionalist point of view, I, myself, think that modern calligraphy is amazing! It provides a creative outlet for people of many skill levels, and I’m grateful that it’s part of my own life.
Characteristics of Modern Calligraphy
There are exceptions to every generalization, but modern calligraphy usually has a few hallmark traits. They are:
1. It Doesn’t Adhere to Traditional Rules
Many traditional calligraphy styles require you to make very particular letterforms. Your letters should look just-so for the calligraphy to be considered “Copperplate”, for example.
If you’re writing modern calligraphy, you can ignore traditional rules. Don’t fret over “O”s that look a little bit too squished or descenders that go too far down. Instead, those variations are something to celebrate, and you can exaggerate them for effect!
Right now, we live in an age of intense consistency. Take the words that you’re reading at this very moment, for instance! All of these typed letters look the same, and that’s what we see every day. When we can take a step back and create or observe letters that are imperfect, that’s refreshing!
2. Modern Calligraphy is Accessible
A while back, a friend alerted me to a Facebook calligraphy community that was having a fit over this TPK article. In the article, I asserted that anyone can learn calligraphy. The community was outraged, and the general consensus was “Not everyone can learn calligraphy — you have to have talent to do it!”
First of all, I think that attitude is bologna, pure and simple. If you want to learn how to do something, you can learn how to do it! You just have to want to do it, and you have to put in some time. I agree that perhaps the rigid rules of the calligraphy of yestercentury aren’t for everyone — myself included. And that’s the beauty of modern calligraphy!
If you want to make calligraphy, you can grab a pen and toy with making your own style. Be playful and come up with your own thing! People gravitate toward uniqueness, and you’ll be surprised at how many people admire your work.
3. Modern Calligraphy Favors Mix and Match
A lot of modern calligraphers like to write a veritable quilt of letters. I constantly keep an eye out for individual letters that I like, then I remember and emulate the letters for future projects.
Sometimes, letterforms stick with me and become part of one of the styles that I regularly use. Other times, writing a certain letter a certain way is a short-lived, albeit happy, phase.
How to Learn Modern Calligraphy
Since there’s no real definition to modern calligraphy, there’s no set-in-stone way that you have to learn it. I’m biased, but I think the Beginner’s Modern Calligraphy Online Course is a *fantastic* resource (check out its reviews)!
I also love Molly Suber Thorpe’s book Modern Calligraphy. It’s also a great read if you’re interested in dip pen calligraphy. Of course, if you’re a hands-on learner, you can search to see if there are any calligraphy workshops in your area (I teach calligraphy workshops every summer here in Boulder, CO)!
How to Learn Traditional Calligraphy
If you want to take a crack at learning traditional calligraphy, here are some great resources:
Of course, you can seek out local traditional calligraphy workshops as well!
Ultimately, “modern calligraphy” means different things to different people. The thing that I think everyone can agree on, however, is how awesome any kind of calligraphy is! It brings joy and creativity into the lives of both creators and observers, which is why I love it.
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your day!