My dad gave me a little bit of money for my birthday and, after many years of being reminded not to spend it on bills, I gladly went out and bought some DVDs and a set of calligraphy pens.

I've really been in the mood to create a font for my conlang lately. I'm pretty sure it was entirely because of this, which is a beautiful set of calligraphy for someone's constructed language by someone far more talented than me. Even knowing they have higher skills, more artistic talent, and a more developed conlang doesn't stop me from wanting to follow in their footsteps. I mean, the only way to get better at something like this is to actually do it.

Parts

This is going to be broken into multiple posts, mainly because there are a few distinct steps. I'll add links to the entire set as I go, but for now, these are the ones I plan on creating:

  1. Drawing the glyphs
  2. Scanning and cleanup
  3. Creating vector versions
  4. Creating a basic font

Calligraphy

I haven't touched calligraphy in a very long time. My mother used to have some pens that I would occasionally play with. I didn't expect much coming back to it, I didn't have the muscle memory or the skill.

But, I do remember the joy of trying to get curved, balanced lines. And that part is what I was looking for (and got).

Starting with the old

Back in 2012, I came up with a set of glyphs that I was pretty happy with at the time. However, in the two years since, they felt off but I couldn't figure out why. Trying to draw them out by hand helped me figure out the flaws: they were created on a computer.

A calligraphy pen is kept at a steady angle for the entire character. The glyphs I created were just put together the way I thought looked good on the computer. More importantly, they had shapes that were easy to draw in Inkscape instead of written on the page.

When I actually tried to draw them, my hand refused to move in the ways needed to match the screen. Plus, it didn't feel "balanced" to me. So, I decided to draw the glyphs until I came up with a more natural version.

I started with a cheap fountain pen but later switched to a marker-style pen. I found that I like the marker version slightly better, mainly for coverage, but neither compare to my precious Pentel A55 pencil which is completely unsuited for this endeavor.

Below are the progression of the images starting with the old versions. You can probably guess that this was done over time (a week) with random bits of plain white paper.

Coming up with the new

As you might tell from the above images, I played around a lot with the feel but started with the old ones. Mostly, it was changing the shape and arrangement while keeping the shapes distinct enough that they couldn't easily be confused with the other. The reason there were so many different variants was because I kept drawing it to see if it was a weakness in my muscles or a difficulty in the shape. Frequently, it was a combination of both.

Eventually, I came up with a new set of glyphs that felt pretty good to actually draw by hand. Around page five of my tests, I started to organize my symbols instead of just randomly drawing on the page.

I even made a few attempts to write names in it (mostly character names). On the next image was my attempt, though there was some discussions with a friend at the writing group about different scripts in our world (he's a former military translator and a micro-polyglot).

One cool thing came out of here is a bit of world-building. There are two ways of putting in the vowels, diacritics or succeeding. Since I've always said that Miwāfu's script was created by researchers and missionaries from Tarsan, the original language used diacritics. And since the desert folk hate agreeing with anything, the eastern part of the desert rebuked the diacritics and went with their own way of writing vowels.

Practice sheets

Once I thought I was done with the glyphs, I banged up a quick practice sheet in Inkscape using blue lines and printed off a few copies. Then, with my trusty new calligraphy marker, I just spent a few days drawing in boxes, working each one until it felt good but also looked "mostly right."

I say "thought" because I still ended up changing fonts after drawing them a few dozen times.

In the end, I figured I had a pretty good set of glyphs of various quality. I scanned them in and then promptly went to bed. Mainly because the next step requires a lot of thinking.

In the future

The biggest thing about these glyphs and my effort is simply practice. I haven't used calligraphy pens enough to be good at them, nor can I do the little swashes and flairs that I see others doing. This is obviously something I can improve, but it is a matter of time and desire.

2014-08-17