Why Pointed Pen?

What’s so great about pointed-pen calligraphy (compared to broad-edge pen, brush, digital, etc)?

It comes down to several factors:

– The ‘aliveness’: Writing with a broad-edge pen is kind of like writing with a stick.  It is stiff and unresponsive.  On the other hand, a flexible pointed pen feels alive and responds instantly to the slightest changes in pressure.  Different pen points – and even the same pen point in different pen holders – have their own unique personality and feel.  And when you write with a pointed pen, one is intimately in touch with the paper surface – the microscopic hills and valleys of even the smoothest paper are apparent and become part of the texture of the experience of writing.

– The freedom: With a broad-edged pen one’s writing is a series of disjointed strokes.  Stroke. Stroke. Stroke. yawn.   Because the broad-edged pen basically only writes in the pulled direction, true decorative flourishes must be constructed clumsily in pieces.  By contrast, the pointed pen can move and ink a hairline in any direction, swooping down to whisk a wide smooth shade or subtle accent at just the right moment.  It really invites the calligrapher into a joyous dance of curves and flourishes.  Rather than a series of disjointed strokes, pointed pen calligraphy at its best is much more a process of continuous movement – just as real life is.

– The challenge: Admittedly, learning to do beautiful decorative writing with a pointed pen is more difficult than using a broad-edge pen.  Besides the neuro-physical aspects of learning to use the various degrees of freedom, there is much interesting about pen holder and nib design, hand ergonomics, etc.  The broad-edge pen, in a sense, does all the work for you – but the flip side is that a broad-edge pen also takes away much creative control.

– The heritage: While it has often been said that the broad-edge pen is the classic writing tool of Western Civilization, in fact the steel pointed pen – born of the ideals of science, reason, and the democratization of both literacy and technology — is the West’s unique contribution to the world’s calligraphic toolkit.  And the styles of calligraphy that developed around the pointed pen are a written celebration of the Enlightenment and Humanist traditions, not the suffocating religiosity and feudalism of the Middle Ages.


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