The Fine (and Disappearing) Art of Calligraphy


The first project in a middle school art room is usually a portfolio for the students’ artwork. In Mrs. Strong’s  eighth grade class, we decorated ours with a cute little doodle made from our name written in cursive. Then we wrote our names in uppercase Roman letters. With serifs. Made with a Speedball C1 nib. Dipped in India ink. I cannot even imagine how much ink was spilled while learning the alphabet. I am pretty sure there was a lot on my fingers.

I learned Italic in high school, mastered the alphabet in college, and taught it for many years. Many of my former students tell me they still use their lettering skills. With so many fonts available on computers, hand lettering is becoming a lost art. Students no longer learn cursive, so when several of my high schoolers  said they were interested in learning to write Italic, I was excited to teach the alphabet. To me, it is a bridge between printing and cursive, which many young people cannot read. 

I don’t think the students realized how much practice was involved. They spent weeks mastering the letters before choosing a quotation for final pieces that had personal meaning. At one point, one of the sophomores almost gave up because she had several spelling errors, but with patience and a double edge razor blade, they were “erased.”

Today I read in the old school print newspaper, that “writing by hand is making a comeback” and “the humble notebook has become trendy again.” (I keep my old notebooks so I can look back and see what I purchased at the grocery two years ago. A little eccentric, I suppose.) I tell my students repeatedly that they will remember what is written by hand. Hopefully their beautiful Italic will be used to make notes that will not be forgotten.

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