ne of the more frequent questions I receive from beginners is how a left-hander should approach the challenge of calligraphy. I understand the difficulty for left-handers when it comes to calligraphy. There's no denying it, you are the minority and among the 10% of the population who are left-hand dominant.
Everything is catered towards right-handers. In the western world (as well as others), we read and write left-to-right. When the majority writes, the hand is moving on an empty surface, but for you, the hand is making contact with the ink which can lead to smearing.
So before going any deeper down the Crayligraphy hole, I think it's a good time to grab the bunny by the ears and tackle him before he scoops you up and bops you on the head dragging you into the great abyss.
In other words...
IF YOU'RE LEFT-HANDED, INTERESTED IN CALLIGRAPHY AND JUST STARTING OUT,
I HAVE YOU COVERED!
Cue Mr. Matt Vergotis or “The Verg” if you will. The man from down under. The guy with the funny (but enviously awesome) accent. The dude who makes writing look effortlessly cool.
Besides being a renowned logo designer and lettering artist in the industry, Matt is one of the best when it comes to the calligraphy game. If you have any interest in Crayligraphy—let alone being a left-hander—the following interview is for YEWWW!
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Tell us a little about yourself
I’m Matt Vergotis from the Gold Coast, a coastal city just south of Brisbane, Australia. I’ve been self-employed now for 7 years specializing in Corporate Identity along with lettering and brush pen calligraphy related commissions. I’m a lucky father of two and when I’m not working or with the family, I’m usually in the ocean surfing at ungodly hours.
As a leftie, what was your biggest obstacle when you began your venture into calligraphy?
This might confuse some lefties and righties out there, but writing has never been a struggle for me. My left-handed approach is all I know, so to me, it’s perfectly natural and comfortable to be a southpaw. I don’t feel like I’ve ever had a handicap being a lefty so when I started busting out the brush pens and venturing into the world of calligraphy, I didn’t have to adjust or change my approach—it just came naturally.
Are you an Overwriter (write with wrist above the baseline) or an Underwriter (write with wrist under the baseline)?
I’m an overwriter. Not a hugely rotated overwriter, but enough for it to help my approach and compensate using the opposite hand. The angle I write pretty much aligns the nib of say, a chisel tip pen to that of a righty.
How do you prevent smudging your calligraphy?
So basically, being an over the top lefty (overwriter) means your hand is rotated clockwise around 15°-20° so that when you move from left to right, the side of your palm that rests on the paper is moving above the writing. Voila! no smudging. Sometimes when I’m doing quicker and larger, more expressive style calligraphy that has a gestural approach then sure, I’ll run into a few smudges now and then because my hand is moving all over the page. When this happens I simply raise my hand a little and am aware of what I’m doing when moving over wet ink. When writing fast you have to write with confidence so it’s not necessary to rest your hand on the paper to steady yourself.
You do the occasional workshops. Do many lefties attend and if so, how do you help out the underwriters compared to the overwriters?
It's in that last quarter of the downstroke where you should be easing off the pressure before starting the upstroke.
From classes of roughly 20-30 attendees, usually, there’s anywhere between 1-3 left-handed people. From those numbers there have been quite a number of underneath lefties (mirror image of a natural righty) which is typically the approach that's hardest for people wanting to overcome smudging. You see these lefties with their paper set up at really odd angles trying to compensate the hand dragging over the ink. So for underwriters they've had much better success when I’ve taught them to adapt an over the top approach like mine. Of course, for many, it’s too challenging to change, but I’ve had many underwriters click with going a little over the top and when they have it’s like they’ve unlocked the door that’s kept them from progressing. So, I highly recommend underwriters to give it a good go.
For the over the top lefties I’ve taught (and this applies to the righties too), the biggest tip that’s helped has been to think about lifting the pen for the lighter upstrokes before they get all the way to the bottom of their thicker downstrokes. It’s in that last quarter of the downstroke where you should be easing off the pressure and sliding the pen (for righties) or rolling over the tip (for lefties) to the tip of the brush pen (or Crayola) before you start your upstroke. A lot of newbies go thick all the way down and then lift the pen’s pressure for the upstroke and the tip of the pen can be completely in the wrong spot for the upstroke. If you address this before you get to the bottom, it makes for smoother transitions.
Right-handers mostly pull their strokes when writing, is this the same for left-handers or do you find yourself having to reverse the stroke by pulling (from bottom up) to compensate?
Hard tip brush pens are easier to use than soft tip brush pens because they steady the hand when writing.
I’d say pretty much where right-handers pull, I push and vice-versa. Again, this is because I’m over the top and that puts the nib of my pen at an opposite angle to a righty’s. For the underneath lefty, it’s trickier because their pen is at a mirror angle which means if they’re holding a chisel tip pen it doesn’t align itself to that of a righty’s approach.
What do you find most appealing about Crayligraphy?
The simplicity. It’s no secret that hard tip brush pens are easier to use than soft tip brush pens because they steady the hand when writing. Well, with Crayligraphy it takes it to another level because the tips are shaped in a way that it really does allow you to focus on the letters without worrying about any sort of give with a brush pen nib. Above all, they’re fun and lately when designing logotypes I’ve picked them up first to get familiar with a word I’m writing as a warm up.
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