Using a Straight vs. Oblique Holder as Left Handed Calligrapher

As a left handed calligrapher, it took some time before I finally found my "sweet spot" in regards to pen holder and paper angle. In addition to writing with a proper posture, finding the holder and paper angle that’s right for you can dramatically affect your penmanship. After writing with a straight holder for the first year, I switched to a right oblique holder after meeting Master Penman Michael Sull in February 2016. Why the switch? The straight holder wasn’t a problem, but one thing that stayed with me from conversing with Michael was that writing with an oblique may increase my range in motion. He shared an analogy about swinging your arm that’s holding just a ball vs. holding a string that’s tied to a ball.

Currently, I do most of my work using an oblique holder; however, I will occasionally use a straight holder for more upright scripts or decorative flourishing.

This is how I position my paper with a right oblique holder:

The paper is turned about 90 degrees to the right and I’m writing towards my body. It took me some time to adjust to this, but i find this paper angle to be helpful with smoother upstrokes and flourishing. I also don’t run into smudging problems.

This is how I position my paper with a straight holder:

The paper is turned about 45 degrees to the right and I make sure the reservoir of my nib is parallel to the slant line. I spent about a year practicing Copperplate calligraphy with a straight holder before I tried the oblique holder again. It allowed me to write with my natural hold and focus on my letterforms rather than trying to adjust to so many changes at once.

Hope this was helpful to you. For my left handed friends, keep at it! Find what works for you and most of all, find joy in writing!

Younghae