I’m here to discuss what I have found to be the most efficient ways of producing beautiful handwriting as a left-handed person. I have tried and am familiar with numerous writing positions known to lefties including underwriting, side writing and overwriting (hooking). What I present to you is not the sole way of going about lefty calligraphy, it is simply what has worked best for me and some of the most capable left-handed calligraphers. If you find another method that works well for you, if you’re getting positive results, great! Do that if it works. I hope this will be of help to some of my fellow lefties.
Let’s make one thing clear: lefties are just as able as right-handed people to produce beautiful writing. If the proper positions are used, any type of calligraphy is possible.
If one searches thoroughly enough, one can actually find a decent amount of information regarding left-handed calligraphy and left-handed writing in general. Unfortunately, little of this information is standardized (especially on online forums), and a good portion of it is misleading.
I’ll start with something that causes perhaps the most confusion: scrips that require a broad nib like gothic, uncial, etc. In this case, I turn the paper 90 degrees clockwise and write vertically toward myself. The advantage of this is twofold; I never have to worry about smearing ink, and I can use a standard-cut broad nib (straight across, not an oblique) to achieve the proper angles desired. This puts me at exactly the same angle as a right-handed calligrapher. The only thing you might have to get used to is seeing the letters vertically.
Tip: While practicing, turn your reference script (if you’re using one) 90 degrees as well so as to familiarise yourself with what the alphabet looks like at this angle.
It’s very possible to use a left oblique nib. In this case, one should angle the paper clockwise at around 45 degrees. The paper should be positioned slightly to one’s left. This produces the proper angle. I prefer to write vertically at 90 degrees because it seems like the angle is more stable and it allows me to use a standard broad nib (not a right cut oblique, however).
I highly recommend watching this video concerning the subject:
Let’s talk about pointed pen calligraphy. There are two very effective methods: using a straight holder and writing under the writing line (this naturally achieves the correct line thickness), or using a right oblique nib holder and angling the paper clockwise somewhere between 45 and 90 degrees, the latter of which one is essentially writing vertically under the line as in the previous section on broad nibs. I go back and forth between the two methods. I think both are completely acceptable and efficient for pointed pen work. I will say, however, that making flourishes seems to be easier using an oblique holder.
Here’s a demonstration by the wonderful left-handed penman John DeCollibus:
As for standard cursive writing, I tend to angle the paper clockwise and write under the line. This works very well if you’re a frequent user of fountain pens as you won’t have to worry about which ink to use, nib size, flex, etc. With this position, any combination of nib, paper and ink work well.
You might have noticed that all of the positions that I’ve discussed are “underwriting” positions. That’s what I use and what I esteem to be the most effective technique for lefties; however, this doesn’t make other forms of lefty writing like side writing or hooking incorrect.
Unfortunately, in many calligraphy books the sections dedicated to lefties are often short and lacking in detail. There are very few books dedicated solely to the left-hander. Nevertheless, here are a few helpful resources on left-handed writing and calligraphy:
Left-handed calligraphy by Vance Studley.
The Calligrapher’s Bible: 100 Complete Alphabets and How to Draw Them by David Harris.
The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting: Cursive and Calligraphic by Fred Eager
Calligraphy 101 by Jeaneen Gauthier
This has been a quite lengthy post, but I hope that you got something out of it. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
For calligraphy and art related things, find me on Instagram @trsmith_art