Calligraphic Drawing: A how-to guide and gallery exploring the art of the flourish

Calligraphic Drawing: A how-to guide and gallery exploring the art of the flourish

by Schin Loong


$22.49 $24.99 Save 10% Current price is $22.49, Original price is $24.99. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions
Choose Expedited Shipping at checkout for guaranteed delivery by Wednesday, August 21


Calligraphic Drawing, written and illustrated by artist Schin Loong, is a step-by-step guide to the pictorial side of calligraphy. Learn how to make calligraphic flourishes, then apply the technique to draw 15 different  flourished animals. You'll also find instructions for embellishing letters and drawing ornamental cartouches.

In the past, masters of penmanship advertised their copperplate skills by shaping their calligraphy and flourishes into elaborate pictorial designs. Now the art of the flourish is back! With her fresh approach to this age-old art form, Schin will take you confidently through each step, from choosing your pen, nib, and ink, to creating calligraphic animals that express your own imagination and artistry. The basic steps for the strokes are simple, but as you learn each new pattern and stroke, you'll watch your drawings develop into ever more complex and beautiful compositions.

By following the step-by-step instructions, you can create stunning drawings of a pigeon, swan, crane, rooster, jellyfish, goldfish, peacock, parrot, owl, raccoon, elephant, puppy, rabbit, fox, and zebra. Each exercise includes a photo of the animal, followed by an illustration and written guidance for each numbered step. You'll find helpful tips and encouragement throughout. At the back, a gallery showcase provides examples of Schin's own artwork to inspire you in your own flourishing pursuits.

Whether you're a designer, calligrapher, doodler, or just picked up a pen, this guide to drawing with flourishes will enlighten and inspire.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781631593338
Publisher: Rockport Publishers
Publication date: 11/13/2018
Pages: 128
Sales rank: 753,197
Product dimensions: 8.40(w) x 9.90(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

Schin Loong is the calligrapher and artist for Open Ink Stand Studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. She has studied with numerous master penmen, including Michael Sull and Rosemary Buczek, and received her Fine Arts degree from the Ringling College of Art & Design. Her work has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, BRIDES, Southern Weddings Magazine100 Layer Cake, Pen World Magazine, Dasherie, HBO's Game of Thrones Compendium and Photoshop Creative. As a member of IAMPETH (The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting) and The Fabulous Las Vegas Scribes, Schin has taught and presented at the College of Southern Nevada, Twig & Fig, Berkeley and Sahara West Library, Las Vegas. Her recent clients include: Louis Vuitton, Montblanc, Chloé, Couture Design Awards, Casa Dragones, Remy Martin Louis XIII, Art Institute of Chicago and Mohawk Fine Papers.

Read an Excerpt



Have you ever heard the proverb "It's a poor carpenter who blames his tools"? Well, that doesn't apply to us. Half the battle of doing calligraphic art is having the right nib, so we can absolutely blame any poor work we do on poor tools. Our art relies so much on precision mark making that using a subpar nib, ink, or paper can greatly affect the outcome. Learning a new art form is difficult enough without the added frustration of the wrong tools, don't you agree?


Here are my personal favorite nibs, inks, and papers. These work the best for me, but you may have other favorites.


There are quite a few different brands and styles of nibs available. I've outlined some of them here. If you can, get a few of each to determine which you like best. It's good to know your favorites because you'll be replacing them regularly. Nibs aren't meant to last for very long. You can tell when a nib is worn and needs replacing when your lines start to look too thick, or too scratchy, or the nib starts splattering more than usual. How quickly this happens will depend on how often you use your nib.

When starting with a fresh nib, you'll need to break it in by cleaning it with rubbing alcohol or dish soap to remove the factory oils. Never let water or ink dry on the nib, as it is made of steel and will rust easily.


These are great if you're just starting out. They are beginner-friendly and relatively cheap. These nibs are quite large. If you don't already have a nib holder, buy one when you buy these to make sure that your Nikko G nibs fit in the holder.


These are basically the same as the Nikko G, but are more flexible and last a little longer. (I like the gold color, too!) Like the Nikko G, the Zebra G is beginner-friendly and a good value.


These wonderful, flexible nibs gracefully create dramatic variations in thick and thin lines. They're perfect for flourishing, but they can be a little tricky to use because the super sharp point can catch easily on upstrokes. Still, I recommend these once you're comfortable with using pointed nibs.

BR AUSE & CO. NO. 76 (ROSE):

These nibs are very flexible and are able to create very thick lines in a single stroke. I use them for larger artworks and bold lettering work.


Once you've chosen your nib, you'll also need a nib holder (also called a penholder). I recommend buying both a straight and an oblique penholder. Oblique penholders have a flange that holds the nib to the side of the holder. (Be sure to buy one that has a metal flange as these are adjustable.) Oblique holders are mainly used for calligraphic writing, but sometimes I use mine for flourishing as well. Try both to find out which type your hand prefers.


You'll need an inkwell to hold your ink. It can be any small container with a wide mouth. I like to use liquid sumi ink in bottle form — sumi makes a beautiful black ink that is perfect for calligraphy. Pour a little ink into an inkwell and add about 30 percent extra water. The water dilutes the ink just enough to make it flow properly. The only drawback is that it's messy. Be careful not to spill because it's a pain to clean! And never let it dry on your nib, as the ink will form a layer of dried crust, which will negatively affect your drawing and writing.


Paper is the trickiest part. It really is a matter of personal taste. My personal preference is Rhodia pads, but you can try any drawing, layout, sketchbook, or calligraphy practice pads. Good-quality copy paper works just as well, but don't use cheap dollar-store quality paper because the bleeding and tearing will drive you crazy.


Most of my calligraphy budget goes toward good paper because paper is where most of the trouble in calligraphy comes from!


Large container of clean, fresh water: Keep your nib clean by rinsing it in clean water at regular intervals. Sumi ink is made of charcoal, which is super dirty, messy stuff. You don't want sumi ink to dry on your nib — you'll be surprised how quickly it can happen. Whenever the water container looks black and dirty (which won't take long, either), refill it with fresh water. Otherwise, you'll just be reusing water full of charcoal bits.

Roll of paper towels: As soon as you rinse your nib, dry it. Never ever let water (or ink, for that matter) dry on your nib because it will rust.


Have I reminded you lately? Never Let Ink Dry On Your Nib.

Troubleshooting Guide

Here are some answers to frequently asked questions, which I hope will help you if you run into difficulties.

pressure during use or if the pen was dropped. Who knows? It happens. Sorry, but this can't be fixed. (Don't even try: it'll just cause pain and misery.) Throw it out and pop in a fresh nib.

Q: My ink isn't flowing from the nib.

A: The nib is probably dirty or oily — both will prevent the flow of ink. Swirl the nib in clean water and wipe it dry several times with a clean paper towel or cloth. Make sure your fingers do not touch the tip of the nib because even the oil from your hand can prevent ink from flowing. If ink still does not flow, use rubbing alcohol or dish soap to remove the pesky oils. Also, make sure the ink isn't too thick (add a little bit of water) or too thin (add more ink).

If the ink still doesn't flow, breathe and then take a look at your nib from the side. Make sure the tines (the two legs of the nib's point) are parallel to each other. If one tine is splayed out, it means your nib is ruined. That could be from applying too much

Q: My nib keeps catching on the paper on my up strokes, splattering ink everywhere.

A: I know, it still happens to me too sometimes. You can try a few things to reduce splattering. First, make sure you're not holding your nib at too steep an angle. The steeper the angle, the easier it is to catch on paper, so try lowering the angle a little. Next, make sure your paper isn't too porous. Papers that are too porous, with fibery texture, will, of course, invite splattering. Third, make sure your nib isn't too old. Nibs can become very sharp through wear and that sharpness will contribute to snagging and other weirdness on the paper. Replace nibs every so often, depending on how much you practice. Finally, try slowing down a little bit. If you're zooming across the paper, there is a higher likelihood of the nib catching. If you slow down and keep a mindful practice, you will notice the nib right before it catches and stop yourself.

Q: The ink is feathering and bleeding into the paper.

A: There are two possibilities here. Either your paper is too porous or your ink is too thin. Try changing papers or add a little more fresh ink to your inkwell to thicken it. You could also add a little gum arabic to the ink if you have some in your art supplies. But if I were you, I'd start with changing papers.

Q: My lines are Shaky and too thick and rough.

A: First, make sure you're not holding your pen too tightly. If you loosen up, it may help your lines flow better. Also, the movement for your drawing and calligraphy should come from your forearm and shoulder — they are what drive the flourish. Don't move your fingers or your wrist as you draw. That might feel awkward at first, but I promise you, with some practice, it's the best method for achieving the smoothest, cleanest lines.

Q: Oops, I made a mistake!

A: If it is a really big mistake, like a giant drop or smear of ink in the middle of your piece, it might be better for your sanity to just redo the whole thing. It sucks, but sometimes, trying to salvage something impossible will just lead into darkness and despair. Believe me, I've been there.

However, if it is just a small mistake, then you can try using a thick, opaque white paint — such as gouache or Dr. PH Martin's Bleed Proof White — to carefully blot out the mistake. Don't try to brush it off in layers, as the sumi ink will just dirty the white ink. Make the blots nice and thick and set the drawing aside to dry. You can also try using white markers or pens if these are more available to you. Good luck!


1 Don't Panic.

If a drawing starts to look daunting or you don't know what to do next, just take a deep breath and step away from the table to make a cup of tea or coffee and stretch a little. When you come back, you will look at it with fresh eyes and hopefully a calmer heart.

2 Have Courage!

Just like riding a bicycle, if you hesitate or pedal too slowly, you will inevitably lose your balance and fall. Gather courage and just go for it. When the correct momentum is achieved, you will be able to make graceful, beautifully smooth lines. Don't overthink it, just do it! After all, it's just paper and ink.

3 Keep Your Table Free of Clutter.

You can't really flourish freely if your arm is constantly hindered by clutter on the table. A clean, clear surface will also clear your mind and ready you for the most demanding and extravagant of flourishes.

4 Try Again.

One of the most important bits of advice my art teacher gave me was not to fall in love with my drawing. If it looks like it's not going to work, change it. If a giant blob of ink falls in the middle of the drawing, don't try to salvage it; discard it and start again. If you fall in love with a drawing, you will lose your freedom and try too hard to make it work even if it is not worth pursuing. You are the artist, and you are in control! If it doesn't look good or doesn't look right — no matter how much you love it — discard it and try again. You can make the next one even better!

5 Do What You Want.

Just like handwriting, everyone has their own way of flourishing and decorating. If you think your drawing needs a little something here or there, go for it, even if it is not a conventional look. Don't try to copy an established style completely. Let your own style come through by flourishing how you want. A flourish that is 100 percent yours will make you happy because it's your self-expression on paper. I can't wait to see what you come up with!



Freedom of movement is the foundation to good flourishing. In order to achieve a lively, artistic stroke, your drawing hand and arm must be free from "death grips" on your pen or cramps that can hinder a confident stroke. Try these exercises first in pencil to loosen up, but move on to nib and ink as soon as you can.


Grasp your pencil or nib holder lightly and move from your elbow and shoulder to swoop your strokes across the page. The drawing motion doesn't come from the fingers or wrist in these exercises; instead, every exercise should be accomplished using your entire arm in a speedy and controlled movement. Don't aim for perfection ... aim for freedom of movement and good control of your hand and tools.



These are the basic loops, going in two different directions. Apply pressure on the nib only on the downstrokes and release pressure on the upstrokes. It might take you a little while to get used to it, so slow down if you need to, but be sure not to hesitate too much. Once you get the hang of it, try going a little faster to establish a rhythm and bounce. Don't strive for perfect identical loops just yet! Strive for freedom of movement and smooth lines.


Now, try varying the size of the loops, from small to big and back to small again. Slow down if you need to, especially when the loops get big. The aim here is to have nice even strokes that go from thick to thin smoothly, without any snagging or blotting. Keep working on these until you are familiar and comfortable with the nib and ink.



Once you're used to making the loops, try making them more uniform. You can draw guidelines in red pencil as I have here (make the lines about 1 inch [2.5 cm] apart). Try to keep your loops inside of them. It's challenging but fun. Don't aim for perfection, but for rhythm and consistent spacing between the loops. Don't hesitate ... keep breathing ... and let your arm do its thing!


When you're done, make guidelines shaped like a long cone. Now, make tapered loops, from small to big. Again, we're looking for consistent spacing and a nice gradual change in size.


Now for some fun. Try following this pattern made up of small and large loops. The secret is to make the initial loop wider than usual, to make space for the inner loop. Is your arm moving more smoothly now? Don't worry if it's not: practice makes perfect. If you feel yourself hesitating or getting frustrated, remember not to hold your breath while you're practicing. Take a breather and come back when you're ready to try again. You can't force art!


This is one of my favorites — the long "s" shape. Make these ebb and flow across the page. Again, don't worry about making them perfect; just get your arm moving and your lines and spacing looking right. I use this design a lot in my work because it's very versatile, looks great, and is easy to execute!


Now, we'll play with texture. This looks a lot like the previous exercise, but look again: the loops overlap each other at the top and bottom. It will feel very different than the previous exercise once you're actually trying it. Get each loop as close to the next as possible for a layered effect. The trick is to keep the spacing even. This design is fantastic for filling in spaces.


Now, try a large and small "s" consecutively. Such a simple variation makes a big difference in the design! When you're creating calligraphic art, remember that every little variation creates new textures, which add interest to your work. Feel free to come up with fun new designs that will make your work uniquely yours.


This is similar to Exercise 5 where the loops overlap each other. It looks complicated, but it's really not. Study the loops carefully and you'll see it's just a matter of making a small "s" first, then looping the stroke around to form a larger "s," and repeating it again and again. This is a really fun exercise to work on and quite challenging to boot. But you've got it!


These are getting easy, right? This is another favorite. The first exercise is just a descending horizontal loop. The second and third do the same, with different degrees of overlap. Make sure these designs remain horizontal and do not slope too much to the left or right. Try to keep the spacing even. The lines should crisscross each other neatly. These make great ending flourishes to a word or design.


Flourishing exercises are a little different than the basic stroke exercises we did earlier. The basic strokes are mostly repetitive drills, meant to train and loosen up the hand and arm. Flourishing, on the other hand, develops like a flower. It grows and expands within a design, making it a more complete work of art.

In this section, we'll try a few flourishing exercises. You can follow along or make up your own designs as we go. Eventually, you will develop your own way of making your flourishes dance.

Before we start, make some quick free-form flourish strokes with your nib. Fill up one or two pages with them. Do not hesitate or stop: if you think something looks weird, just keep going. Don't use more than one stroke for each flourish. The idea is to loosen your creative juices and come up with some cool new designs. Some from my own practice pages follow; maybe they will inspire you!



Now that you have pages full of quick strokes, choose a simple one that you like. Here are two that I chose. What I like is that they both have a nice bold shape, with plenty of space around them to flourish. Make sure your stroke has generous space around it for flourishing, too. It's frustrating trying to flourish in a tiny cramped space: the design won't grow!


Now, I'll add two more strokes to complement the first. The key word here is complement. Don't overpower; instead, think of flourishing as adding leaves to the main stem. It can grow however and wherever you want, but it should always come from the main stem/stroke. Add one on the left and one on the right for balance.


It's time to flourish! I added more swirls and leaves and things, all still growing from the main stroke. Take your time to think where to place your next flourishes and don't be afraid to turn the paper around to find new angles and gain fresh perspective. I turned the paper for almost all of these flourishes — some even upside down!


Now, I've added more texture. Instead of more of the same line flourishes, I added short strokes that look like commas and little leaves that fan outward. This creates visual interest and variety. As you flourish, try not to repeat the same designs over and over. Add texture and variety and it will bring your art to life. Don't be afraid to be playful!


To finish up, I like to add little decorative elements around the design. These little extras aren't always necessary, but then again, I'm the kind of girl who likes an umbrella and curly straws in my drinks. Little starbursts, circles, and fernlike leaves at the end of flourishes aren't strictly traditional, but I feel they add personality and liveliness to the piece. Try some on yours.


Excerpted from "Calligraphic Drawing"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc..
Excerpted by permission of The Quarto Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What You'll Need, 8,
Other Things You'll Need, 12,
Troubleshooting Guide, 13,
Before You Start, 15,
Start to Loosen Up, 18,
Finishing with a Flourish, 24,
What Not to Do, 37,
Thinking in Shapes, 40,
Pigeon 1, 40,
Pigeon 2, 44,
Swan, 46,
Creating Light and Dark Textures, 48,
Crane, 52,
Rooster, 56,
Jellyfish, 61,
Goldfish, 64,
Peacock, 70,
Embellish Your Lettering, 78,
Create Ornamental Cartouches, 80,
Parrot, 97,
Owl, 99,
Raccoon, 101,
Elephant, 103,
Puppy, 105,
Rabbit, 107,
Fox, 109,
Zebra, 111,
Encouragement, 113,
Gallery Showcase, 115,
Acknowledgments, 127,
About the Author, 128,

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Calligraphic Drawing: A how-to guide and gallery exploring the art of the flourish 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 6 months ago
"Calligraphic Drawing" takes calligraphy to the next level, and the book offers creative ideas which are suitable for both beginners and experienced artists. This is not the conventional calligraphy book which focuses on penmanship or lettering but to explore other possibilities using the calligraphic techniques. Similar to other arts and how-to books, "Calligraphic Drawing" provides detailed walk-through about tools, things needed and basic skills before getting into any projects. The author illustrations how to use the calligraphic techniques to produce amazing artworks on animals, 16 projects in total. The instructions are easy to follow and accompanied by sketches, final products and even some special details. There is a short chapter about lettering and how to add embellishments and fancy elements for final touches. The possibilities for calligraphy are endless, and this book provides insights and basics for users to think outside the box. Readers could create their own artworks beyond drawing animals. I'm certainly impressed with the book and I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in using ink and nibs for their projects.
MontzieW More than 1 year ago
Calligraphic Drawing A how-to guide and gallery exploring the art of the flourish by Schin Loong is a book I requested from NetGalley and the review is voluntary. This book is so gorgeous! The flow of each art piece is absolutely fabulous! Even the dinosaur is breathtaking! Lol! I have terrible handwriting so I really appreciate such beauty. This book gives exercises and shows how to make stunning art of doves, swans, peacocks up to elephants and more! It is laid out logically and with simple exercises at first building up to slowly to show the reader the concepts. The end has not only a large practice area (shows reader the blocked areas needed) but a finished example if needed! Then it has a gallery to expand the reader's mind! I love this book and hope to be able to buy it! This is going in my favorite folder!
CathyGeha More than 1 year ago
What an interesting and creative use of calligraphy pens and strokes this book proved to be! With the history of the art form and the way the author became involved in learning the technique followed by information about tools needed, examples of strokes and flourishes to use and examples and exercises this book had me wanting to see whether or not I actually had the nibs needed to try my hand at creating a bird, animal or cartouche using the information in this book. It also reminded me of being under twelve and visiting my grandfather in Des Moines. Why? His wife’s mother, in her nineties, spent time showing me how to make feathers using techniques I now realize were included in this book. Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group – Rockport Publishing for the ARC – This is my honest review. 5 Stars