I want to get into the art of calligraphy. Where do I start?

Start from the beginning. Perfect your basics. Here are links to Jake's recommendations for books and supplies available on the market for beginning your endeavor into the art form. 


For those looking for a place to start specifically with Spencarian script, this book is a must read!


There has never been so many resources for the art of calligraphy as there are today. The art form has seen an uptick in popularity in recent years and there are many forums to participate in for those looking for education and community. 


With all the various trades that I put my hands to, I am frequently asked what tools I use to create each work of art.  So, in order to satisfy the curiosity of those who follow my work, I decided to begin with Calligraphy.  More specifically, the pointed pen. Starting from the surface up…

Writing Surface


  • This may seem obvious to some, but the type of writing surface sometimes varies from different styles of calligraphy. For the pointed pen or script calligraphy, you want to write on a flat, even surface (as opposed to a slant surface which is required for broad-edge calligraphy).
  • Table should have plenty of room for you to work, unencumbered by clutter and/or any sort of distractions.
  •  Never allow yourself to write where your hand is elevated above the flat surface, i.e., writing on a pad of paper. This will inhibit proper hand positioning and whole-arm movement.

   Cushion Sheet

  • Critical when writing script calligraphy as it provides elasticity to the writing surface, allowing the pen to kiss the page ever so softly.
  • Allows for very fine hairlines
  • Brings forgiveness to to the writing surface and thus prevents less catching of the sharp tip of the pen into the paper.

      I use a leather pad from Saddleback leather. I've used scrap leather in the past to get the kind of surface I wanted, but this leather desk pad has made for a sweet writing/desk experience. 

Check out the Saddleback Leather Desk Pad here.


You want your table flat and your paper smooth. An extremely smooth paper surface gives your pen the freedom to dance fluidly. Avoid paper with fibers that will quickly absorb your ink, lift, and gum up your nib. Avoid paper that is too rigid and stiff, like card stock. These types of paper will negate the supple surface you created with your cushion sheet.

The types of paper I recommend…

  For practice paper :
    • Clarefontaine Writing Pad (but remember, tear off in sheets, never write on the pad itself).
    • Rhodia
    • Hammermill 28 lb. Bright White Color Copier Paper
    • Life Co. Paper from Nanami Paper


For Finished Work:

  • Strathmore Bristol Plate
  • Arches 90lb Hotpress Water Color Paper
  • For black paper: Strathmore Artagain.




 There are endless varieties of paints and inks that can be used.  To make things simple, these are the ones I use most.

  For practice and correspondence, I suggest:

1. Iron Gall

 This is the choice ink of past masters as it offers ideal viscosity and fluidity for ornamental penmanship. Although this ink is acidic and will cause faster wear and tear on your nibs, it allows you to create beautiful hairlines and dark, bold shades. My two favorite brands are: McCaffery's and Old World


5. Sumi Ink
  • This is Japanese or Chinese Stick Ink.
  • My choice ink for finished pieces.
  • A carbon-based ink, which means it is archival and is lightfast (opaque).
  • Brand of choice: Moon Palace.



And what about other ink storage possibilities? Something like this would work well for keeping your ink in an air-tight container and at-the-ready for your next calligraphy project!



 Again, there are countless types of nibs on the market, making it sometimes difficult to know which ones to choose from. Here are my top three choice of nibs: 1. Leonard Principle
  • This nib has a sharp point that allows fine hairlines yet is flexible enough to create thick shades.
2. Gillott 303
    •  I recommend this nib for finer (smaller lettering) work.
    • This smaller nib allows you to create fine hairlines, and fairly large shades.


3. Zebra G
    • This is the nib I recommend to anyone new to the art. For the heavy-handed beginner, this pen is very forgiving. It also has a sharp point and good flex.


     The two primary characteristics to be mindful of when choosing a penholder are functionality and comfort. Here are the top two (oblique) penholders I recommend:


1. Ergonomic Oblique Penholder As some of you know, I create my own penholders, the Ergonomic Oblique being one among many. In the beginning of my calligraphy career, I found many of the penholders available on the market to be unsatisfactory. I exclusively and whole-heartedly recommend my penholders as I have made them to be the very best, faithful tool I have ever known in the art due to the care and tailored craftsmanship that goes into each one.

  •  My unique ergonomic design embodies functionality and comfort.
  • Encourages whole-arm movement and proper grip of the pen.
  •  Lends as a  gentle reminder of correct hand position.
  • These specific design elements lend well to both beginners and advanced calligraphers.

My Ergonomic Oblique Penholders are individually carved in various types of wood and hand-poured resin. They can be purchased through my website starting at $350.00. Sign up for my weekly newsletter and follow me on Facebook and Instagram to found out when new penholders are available in the gallery.

2. Brian Smith of Unique Oblique Penholders, a talented pen maker from Louisiana makes some beautiful pens that I have had the honor of owning. You can check out his available penholders on his Etsy site at https://www.etsy.com/shop/UniqueObliques


Wishing you all the best in your calligraphic endeavors!