Expanding My Style with Bent Nib Calligraphy

Last weekend, I took a workshop called, “Writing with a Bent Nib” with artist and calligrapher Randall Hasson. I’ve seen bent nibs at Sarnoff Art and Framing and guessed at how to work with them. When I bought the Speedball Textbook, I discovered text written with a bent nib. I never made time to get to working with them, and then along came this workshop.

What is a Bent Nib?

A collection of Speedball Bent Nibs

A “bent nib” means that the nib has a shaped piece at the very tip of it, called the “foot” that sits flat on the page as you work with it. The foot is what creates the unique serifs and strokes in the letters. (Check out my post and video, “What is a Calligraphy Nib??” if this is a new word to you.) We worked with 3 bent nibs: a square foot with the Speedball A nib, a circular foot with the Speedball B nib, and an oval foot on the Speedball D nib. For each nib, we worked with a few different sizes of nibs and a couple different hands.

These were written with the Square-Footed A Nib:

Randall put together a great presentation sharing his knowledge of the development of bent nibs. Speedball developed these steel nibs for writing show cards for shop windows to boost sales. They could be used by a skilled lettering artist to write quickly. Time is money!

Written With a Round B Nib and an Oval D Nib:

Randall also shared with us possibilities of developing our own script style to use with bent nibs. He also demonstrated how to manipulate them to be used for calligraphic hands we are familiar with. He even gave an example of how to use a bent nib to write in a brush script style.

Expanding My Style

Lately I’ve been feeling pushed toward creating with less structure, relying on what I know and pushing my boundaries further. I am learning to have faith in my creativity and relaxing into the waves of unknown potential. This year I am participating in a group called Scribbled Lives, organized by Carol DuBosch . It’s a group of lettering artists that respond to a weekly prompt. I like it because it gets me in the habit of finishing what I start. Taking the bent nib workshop gave me access to letters that I love to view. It also gave me the permission to let the letters be a little imperfect — a fear that regularly trips me up. Both of these experiences are expanding my creative potential.

I intend to extend this effort to teaching yoga and calligraphy, painting signs, designing stationery, and creating self-initiated calligraphic pieces to show.