Copperplate Calligraphy Q&A with Tico Kanzaki

Hello and welcome to the Kalli Camp Academy blog, where we share educational and inspirational tips on being a calligraphy artist. It is our hope that this blog will become a resource for you as you navigate your creative journey. 

We aim to make it possible for artists at every skill level and culture to grow in their craft and connect with others on a deeper level through true friendships centered around shared passions. We also aim to support each other and help grow our small businesses as a result of this collaborative endeavor.

In our live interview on April 29th with KCA student, Tico Kanzaki, she shared her Copperplate frustrations and how she overcame them, her recommendations for focused practicing, and what to do if you're heavy handed.

Who is Tico Kanzaki?

Tico is a graphic designer by day and calligrapher by night from Japan, now living in the U.S. Her calligraphy journey began in 2019 using the Tombow Fudenosoke brush pen. When the pandemic hit, she found the perfect opportunity to learn pointed pen calligraphy through Kalli Camp Live - a free week long live camp hosted by Bill and Heather McKelvey on Instagram with a group of artisans from around the world! Attending the Camp motivated Tico to delve deeper into Copperplate.

Copperplate Frustrations and Resolutions

If you're frustrated with learning Copperplate, Tico shares how she too experienced the same issues you most likely have. Although smitten with the beauty of calligraphy, Tico found it difficult to master the tools needed - simply put, paper, ink and nibs. Even after ink blobs and nibs that seemed to mysteriously not work, Tico didn't give up. She learned how to master the tools required through patience, practice, and asking plenty of questions.

When practicing consistency with letters, she found it helpful to focus on one thing at a time rather than complete letters or words. For example, instead of constantly scripting the letter a, Tico focused on basic strokes and ovals to achieve consistent letterforms.  By practicing in this more focused way, she found that her letter a's (and of course, the entire alphabet) all looked consistent. 

New artists (and even experienced ones) can easily lose momentum in their creative journey by comparing themselves to others who seem more advanced in skill level. Tico shares how she struggled with comparison for so long. Her biggest recommendations to overcome this is to stop scrolling on Instagram and focus on using a calligraphy exemplar.

How to Practice

We asked Tico how she recommends practicing and her answer may surprise you. Rather than lengthy practice sessions (which can be counterintuitive), Tico used the method of practicing 15-30 minutes a day focusing on mastering one skill for 60 days. Rather than going over the entire alphabet repetitively and possibly practicing bad habits, Tico focused on the small details that help build muscle memory and refine a calligrapher's script - the oval shape, height of strokes, downstroke thickness and upstrokes (hairlines).

Recommendations to people who are heavy handed

Here's what Tico recommends to overcome or compensate for this, since Copperplate is such a delicate calligraphy hand. For thinner downstrokes, use a stiffer nib like a Nikko G. Another approach would be to practice with a more flexible nib such as a Hunt 101 and focus on intentionally using a lighter hand.

When is it Okay to Break the Rules

Many times, artists want to rush and break the rules of Copperplate in order to create their own style. Tico shares her insight to be sure and learn all the foundational strokes first before doing so. Equally important is to know the importance of not breaking the rules of legibility.

We hope that reading about Tico's interview has inspired you! If you want to watch the replay, click here to view on Instagram.

Are you thinking about learning Copperplate or brushing up your skills? Our Copperplate course opens soon! Click here to get on the waitlist to be first to know when registration opens. 

Until next time, stay creative!

Written by Angenise Rawls, Independent Marketing Assistant and Special Projects Coordinator

Calligraphy Artisan at The Graceful Pen Studio | Instagram: @thegracefulpenstudio |


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