How do you connect strokes to one another? It’s not just a matter of putting them together and hoping they look great. (If only it were that easy!)
Instead, you need to be conscious and precise of where you place the pen each time you create a stroke.
Since the pen is flexible, it really matters where you place the pen each time. You can’t just write the way you do with cursive, not lifting your pen.
Now remember this mantra: Lift, lift, lift! Each time you create a stroke, lift it up and completely off the page. It may take some getting used to, but building this into your muscle memory is crucial for your letters to look good.
Let’s compare what happens when we lift (on the left) to when we don't lift (on the right):
Lifting after each stroke By lifting after each stroke, you can carefully place the pen in the next position so that it fits very well with the previous stroke. You don’t want strokes to overlap, otherwise you risk having letters that look too heavy.
Instead, you want to lift after every stroke so that the thins and thicks (shades and hairlines) fit together smoothly like puzzle pieces. When strokes are connected well, your letters can breathe and they look so fluid and graceful.
It takes time to build this kind of muscle memory. But it’s oh so worth it!!!
Learning to lift after each stroke is the most important skill you can take away as a beginner. There is still much to learn – letterforms, spacing, etc. – but learning to lift is something that you must conquer as part of your brush calligraphy foundation.
Don’t worry if this technique feels weird to you. It felt very weird to me at first! It was hard for me to break the habit of cursive. I kept wanting to keep my pen on the page and just continue writing letter after letter. Lifting seemed like such a chore and I felt it slowed me down too much.
Once you learn to lift, you will actually write faster. One of the most helpful quotes I took away from Melissa Esplin is, “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
Melissa was stressing the importance of going slow and writing stroke-by-stroke. While it may seem to take longer than you’d like, this process of going slow and steady actually increases your accuracy and builds your muscle memory. This in turn allows you to eventually go faster because you no longer have to think so much about the actual lifting and can focus more on the placement of each stroke and structure of your letterforms.
So go slow, and then go even slower. Be patient with yourself! Don’t rush through your strokes and instead focus on lifting and connecting each stroke carefully.
In the next lessons, we’ll dive deeper into stroke connections and I’ll introduce you to drills that can help you build your muscle memory and lift like a rockstar!
Beginner Brush Calligraphy Course
A step-by-step course to go from complete beginner to confident calligrapher!