There has always been a battle in the calligraphic world - freedom vs. discipline. There are those that only advocate disciplined, legible work and those, myself included who prefer expressive, abstract lettering; who have no issue with the work being illegible. For the latter gang, it is the strength of the mark, the power behind it, not the traditional form that is exciting.
Kirsten Burke's calligraphy using an automatic pen
Edward Johnston's instruction on penmanship
That said, I had a formal training so that I understood the rules and geometry behind creating the letterform, before going crazy with a ruling pen. I felt that with a foundation knowledge, I could then move on and break the rules. With amazing teachers such as Gerald Fluess, Gaynor Goffe and Ewan Clayton, I learnt the history and rules of calligraphy. The knowledge they passed on to me has served me well, it has meant I am able to complete work for clients who require formal styles of calligraphy, as well as those who want something expressive.
Kirsten Burke ruling pen calligraphy
Now I have worked as a professional calligrapher for 18 years now and the times they are a changing. From America comes a new sort of calligraphy. This new calligraphy is anything but formal, yet it isn't about the expression of letterform either. It seems to be inspired by the 'vintage' 'shabby chic' style; Pinterest is full of this curly, deliberately naive looking lettering. Huge contrasts between the thick and thin strokes and created, not, as I was taught, with a flat nib held at a constant angle, but instead with a fine nib and applying more or less pressure.
I am intrigued by all this, calligraphy has been reinvented. The cobwebs have been blown away and the stuffiness has vanished with this new, funky, instant style of lettering. There are tutorials and demos everywhere you look online, one is even called 'how to cheat at calligraphy'. But is it cheating? If it looks pretty, does it matter that you didn't study for years and have never heard of the Lindisfarne Gospels?! I don't think it does. This new calligraphy lets everyone have a go, it's light and fun. So hooray, lets all get busy with a dip pen and a pot of ink, and see if we can make something quick, beautiful and fun.