Left-handed Calligraphy and Lettering with Brush Pens

Left-handed Calligraphy and Lettering with Brush Pens
March 9, 2016 Daniel Palacios

Matt Vergotis is a logo designer and lettering artist from the land down under (Gold Coast, Australia).

He has a knack for brush pen calligraphy and beautiful high-contrast scripts. Aside from handling a pen with unbelievable control, he’s also one of the few left-handed lettering artists I know.

I’ve been following Matt’s work for four years now and I’m always amazed with what he can do, especially the entertaining stuff on Snapchat.

To answer some of the questions I’ve received, I invited Matt to share his advice when it comes to tackling calligraphy with brush pens and lettering as a lefty.

(Other than the questions, everything is written by Matt.)

Is there a specific brush pen that exists for left-handed calligraphy or lettering artists?

Not that I know of. Brush pens have that 360º flexibility to the tip, so they’re not like chisel tip pens or calligraphy pens where the nibs split. Those pens are usually suited to specific angles whereas a brush pen with that 360º range of flexibility, isn’t a disadvantage to leftys.

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Do you recommend holding the pen a particular way? Like the tripod grip?

I’ve my whole life been told I hold my pen differently. I mean, apart from being a lefty I have always come from over the top of the word a bit, which I guess is unorthodox, but for me, completely natural. I think this is the key to me being able to do what I do successfully without smudging. This approach also means I replicate the same transition angles as a righty. If you can imagine a typical righty holding a chisel tip pen and then a mirror image of a lefty (underneath approach) it creates a completely different angle of the chisel tips ( \ / ). This makes it challenging for underneath leftys to use certain calligraphy pens. So because I rotate my approach clockwise to come over the top a bit, that angle then meets the same angle of a typical righty’s approach ( // ).

I think learning brush pen calligraphy all boils down to that one word. Repetition!

How do you reduce smudging and smearing?

Because of that over the top approach the side of my hand/ palm travels above the letters I’m writing. I do sometimes hover my hand when I’m doing fast dynamic strokes that move the hand all over the page.

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Do you have any tips for consistency and control?

Repetition! Repetition! Repetition! Mr. Miyagi’s “wax on wax off” approach served the Karate Kid well. Same applies to what we do. Just keep doing the same thing over and over and over until you iron out those kinks and it becomes second nature. I think learning brush pen calligraphy all boils down to that one word. Repetition! No more, no less… write > repeat.

Any other advice you want to share with people just starting out in hand lettering or calligraphy?

The learning curve is really steep. If you put aside the time to practice often, and I’m not talking hours upon hours at a time. Just 15-20 minutes here and there between other jobs to give yourself a break from monitor time, you will work it out and you will see promising results that give you the confidence to keep going in no time. When you come to a problematic letter, take a look around and see how other designers approach it. Write > repeat until it becomes your favourite letter.

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