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Inside Book Look: Calligraphic Drawing by Schin Loong

Inside Book Look: Calligraphic Drawing by Schin Loong

Posted by Sarah @ PIA on Jun 27th 2022

Schin Loong is a professional graphic artist, illustrator, and calligrapher based in Las Vegas, Nevada. Loong has a BFA from Ringling College of Art & Design, and she often incorporates artistic and playful techniques into her calligraphic work. Loong teaches workshops on Spencerian, Madarasz script, floral envelope painting, and calligraphic drawing & provides calligraphy services through Open Ink Stand Studio. Her hobbies are, in her words, “playing with my dog Wuffles, practicing piano, yoga, and collecting pointed pen nibs. God I have so many nibs.”

Loong’s work has been featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, 100 Layer Cake, Pen World Magazine, Fantasy Artist Magazine, Expose, and many more. Her long list of clients include notable figures and institutions including Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Burberry, Anthropologie, Montblanc, Art Institute of Chicago, and Mariah Carey. Loong debuted her first two books in 2018: Calligraphic Drawing and Spencerian Penmanship Practice Book: The Declaration of Independence. Calligraphic Drawing: A How-To Guide and Gallery Exploring the Art of the Flourish is one of our favorite books at Paper & Ink, as it covers a truly unique calligraphic technique that’s equal parts challenging and imaginative.

The basic steps for the strokes are simple, but as you learn each new pattern and stroke, you'll watch your drawings flourish and develop into more complex and beautiful compositions. Your process may be different from mine, but that is what makes flourished drawings so special–each is unique to the hand that created it.

Schin Loong, Calligraphic Drawing, Introduction

Calligraphic Drawing begins with a charming introduction–Loong sees calligraphic bird flourishing in an art store as a teenager, not understanding until years later that the beautiful work was done with pen and ink, not digitally in Adobe Illustrator. It's a funny story that prepares you for Loong's tone throughout the book–expertly explaining her craft in a way that is simultaneously casual and meticulous, approachable and comprehensive.

Chapter One, Basic Tools and Materials, introduces Loong's favorite nibs, inks, and paper, all tools that are essential to your calligraphic drawing journey. Loong emphasizes the importance of working with quality tools, and gives excellent advice regarding troubleshooting tricky nibs, which materials are important to splurge on, and keeping your workspace distraction-free. Our favorite part of this preparatory chapter? Loong reminds readers if they're feeling overwhelmed or out of their element: just take a deep breath. You got this.

Just like riding a bicycle, if you hesitate or pedal too slowly, you will inevitably lose your balance and fall. Gather courage and just go for it. When the correct momentum is achieved, you will be able to make graceful, beautifully smooth lines.

Schin Loong, Calligraphic Drawing, page 15

Chapter Two includes a series of exercises that are essential to practice before getting started on the big stuff. These Basic Strokes and Flourishes gradually loosen you up and encourage you to use your entire arm to create motion, rather than concentrating all your strength into your hands and fingers. The drills begin simply: use your nib to create loops in a single direction, forward or backwards. Variations are slowly added to complicate the movements; vary the size of your loops, create long strings of S-shapes, or descend your loops like a funnel to a single point.

Now that you're feeling relaxed, Loong introduces flourishing exercises. These bridge the gap between simple drills and creative freedom; flourishes can go anywhere and everywhere. By practicing them, readers will begin to create their own designs and figure out what their unique calligraphy drawing style is. Sound like too much freedom too fast? Don't fret. Loong includes multiple step-by-step flourish exercises to get you started.

It's time to get going! Chapter Three, Animals, jumps into your first complete drawing: a Pigeon. Loong includes images of pigeons and demonstrates how to pick out their most important curves and edges for your starting points. Follow along step-by-step to learn where and in what direction to place your curves and flourishes, creating a truly unique first drawing that uses calligraphic techniques to imply wings, feathers, and flight.

Don't hesitate to turn the paper around to find the best position for flourishing the shape you're working on. Sometimes I pirouette the paper around in different ways to find the perfect position before starting.

Schin Loong, Calligraphic Drawing, page 55

Once you've gotten a few practice animals under your belt, Loong introduces texture creation. You can create light and dark values using calligraphic flourishes, just like you can with different grades of graphite and charcoal. Using organic shapes and the elements of positive and negative space, Loong leads readers through a series of exercises that will elevate your calligraphic drawings to the next level. The chapter continues animal-by-animal, from swans and roosters to jellyfish and cranes, culminating with a gorgeous peacock drawing to round out this section.

Calligraphy is typically reserved for script, and Chapter Four introduces lettering back into the mix. Lettering and Cartouches demonstrates how to combine messages with your calligraphic drawings, a method that's perfect for adorning invitations, advertisements, cards, and more. Loong starts with two example alphabets, then moves into the first exercise: a simple ornamental cartouche. Cartouches look similar to banners and are a gorgeous way to add a greeting to your experiments. Once you grasp the basic shape, Loong includes additional exercises that complicate the design, adding bouquets, birds, and a series of whimsical curls and strokes into your repertoire.

Now that you've fallen in love with calligraphic drawing (trust us, you will by the end of Chapter Four), Loong stops the step-by-step method and simply provides a series of animal references for readers to try on their own. Basic line drawings and photos of parrots, raccoons, puppies, and even an elephant give you the perfect blank canvas to create a design that's uniquely yours.

Calligraphic Drawing finishes with a gorgeous selection of Loong's work, from our all-time favorite, a fiery dragon that we'd like to keep our distance from, to a knight in shining armor. As always, Schin's work leaves us truly inspired.

You can't always be the best, but you can always do your best. My philosophy has always been to be bold and fierce in art, no matter what the outcome. Be fierce!

Schin Loong, Calligraphic Drawing, page 124

Calligraphic Drawing: A How-To Guide and Gallery Exploring the Art of the Flourish can be purchased here.

You can follow Schin Loong on Instagram at @openinkstand. Visit her blog here.

For calligraphy services, classes, and a gallery of her work, visit Schin's website

Schin also has an active Youtube Channel that has a plethora of great calligraphy tips and advice.