A Story About the Little Word “And”

Lately I’ve been studying Copperplate calligraphy. I’ve always been interested in calligraphy, but it’s been only recently that Copperplate has revealed its beautiful self to me.

Copperplate is a stylized, cursive form of handwriting. It’s written with a pen with a flexible nib. As a form of calligraphy, you could almost say you draw it, more than you write it, and therein lies the pleasure. The pen glides and swoops over the paper, and as you press harder, the shining line thickens, and as you pull away, a hairline is created. You can almost fall into a trance as you watch the ink curl and ripple across the page.

It might seem backwards of me to decry the loss of cursive, but just think for a moment about the little word “and.” As issued from a bored computer, it is a little robot word, a replicant of any other “and.” Scrolling from the tip of your ink pen, though, “and” is like a little cathedral of letters, carrying a freight of history and aesthetics, trembling with the imperfection of its human creator. So using Copperplate, or any other calligraphic hand, transforms the invisible and the utilitarian into a tiny work of art that says “A human being was here.” Also, there is a pleasure for the calligrapher in mastering something, and the pleasure reveals itself like a bouquet of flowers in the beautifully written words.

Supplies for practicing Copperplate can be found at most art supply stores. When buying ink, be sure to buy non-waterproof. And I have been practicing in an old black and white lined student notebook, though you can get special paper. A good source for pens and ink on-line is Paper & Ink Art. You can get interesting inks there, such as walnut and the type of oak gall ink used by medieval illuminators, as well as beautiful rosewood pens. A good book to learn Copperplate from is “Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy,” by Eleanor Winters. It’s available on Amazon.

A fun sub-specialty of Copperplate is the art of drawing flourishes. You can make birds and flowers with strokes of the pen.

So now I will close the laptop and go to my desk and have the visceral pleasure of feeling the words go from my mind to my hands, through the pen, to the ink, and then to the paper.

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