Pen Holds for Left & Right Handed Calligraphers

For all my calligraphy students, in your first lesson you will be taught how to hold the pen. Establishing a way to hold the pen that allows a light, yet firm grip that enables you to change the pen angle when needed.

Resting the pen on the first joint on the middle finger and using the thumb and forefinger to guide the pen to maintain its angle.  The barrel of the penholder rests on the knuckle of the forefinger.  The exact position will vary a little from person to person. This is the approach used for the broad edged nib.

When you want to flatten the pen angle, this resting place can be changed to rest as far over to the left as the knuckle of the thumb and positions between.

Understanding and maintaining the pen angle is the first problem for the beginner calligrapher. It is important to constantly check the pen angle at first.  As you progress through the different writing styles, the pen angle changes.  Then low and behold you learn that pen angle changes are required in some of the letters too. This can be a challenge for right handers so spare a thought for left handers who have a whole set of different challengers to overcome.

Positioning of the pen in the hand, your wrist position, resting the side of your hand on the paper, the grip you have on the pen holder and the position of the paper on the desk are all things that enable you to find your “sweet spot”.
These are considerations for both Left and right handers

Hints for left handers
Each individual needs to experiment with hand, pen and paper positions, make adjustments that work for them to find their own techniques.  In the classroom I find that by observing the student as they write enables me to see what’s happening and therefore I can suggest ways to tweek their technique.

Stroke direction: Standard strokes are aimed at right-handers. Most often the pen is pulled across the paper instead of being pushed. It is not possible to simply use mirror a image of the right hander positions. Try pushing some strokes in opposite direction to your instructions.

Oblique left handed nibs can help achieve accurate angles.

Oblique pen holders, flipped from their normal hold as for copperplate, will also assist to maintain correct pen angles.

Arm position: An under arm position, the same as for right handers, is considered the most effective. If this doesn’t work, try the hook position or turn your paper, placing it at 90 degrees to the horizontal.  This way it’s difficult to judge the letters, but enable strokes to be rendered the same as for right handers.

Paper Positioning: Maintaining the correct pen angle may be solved by turning the paper up to the left. This may disturb writing the verticals and constant slant


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