Calligraphy allows for endless creativity and a great technique to add flair and personality to your lettering is "bounce." Bounce calligraphy introduces a rhythmic, dynamic flow to your writing that makes it visually captivating. In this step-by-step guide, we'll explore the art of creating calligraphy with bounce.
Bouncing calligraphy involves variations in the baseline to give your letters a dynamic feeling.
Bounce calligraphy thrives on being imperfect, and in its simplest form, you simply stretch letters that have straight downstrokes to make them longer than they would normally be. Letters with a circular form are shrunk to become smaller than normal, like in an a, c, g, o, d, or q. This formula is the starting point, but it can hit a stumbling block when a word has lots of circular letters at one end as shirking all of them would create calligraphy that looks off balance.
Here are some methods to try that will allow you to bounce, while keeping balance within your work:
Calligraphy Bounce Method #1 - The Wavy Line
Letters in an alphabet follow a common baseline, an imaginary horizontal line that the letters rest upon (excluding descenders that reach below). The baseline ensures uniformity and helps maintain consistency. The waistline marks the top of the letters, (excluding ascenders that reach above) and these two guidelines usually run parallel to each other.
In the Wavy Line Method, rather than drawing the baseline and waistline straight, draw them with a wavy line. Making them different from each other will give the best results, but both need to be wavy. As you write, vary the height of the letters so that they reach the wavy guides. This will mean increasing the height of some letters and reducing others, with the ascenders and descenders not confined by the wavy guidelines. Feeling comfortable stretching and shrinking your letters in this way will allow you to become far more fluid in your calligraphy bouncing.
The calligraphy becomes bouncy as it reaches to make contact with the guidelines.
Calligraphy Bounce Method #2 - The String of Beads or The Kebab Stick!
For this method, think of your calligraphy as having a string or a stick through its middle. Draw a straight guideline and make all the letters make contact with it. You can drop descenders low, and reach ascenders up high, but every letter must have the guideline running through their middle. Think of different-sized pieces of meat and veg all being held together on a skewer, or different-sized beads making up a necklace.
Use a straight line that travels through the middle of your calligraphy. Draw the shapes that are like pieces of meat, or beads (depending on the metaphor you prefer) at different sizes to help you.
The calligraphy bounces, but because of the central guideline, it remains balanced.
Calligraphy Bounce Method #3 - A Family of Letters
For the final method, decide on an oval shape and draw a few. They can be slightly bigger and smaller than each other, and bob up and down in a row. Use these ovals as the guide for where to put each letter of the word you're writing, taking care to still connect the letters with a thin stroke.
This method gives you more freedom to experiment with bounce in your calligraphy and helps you see the letters as shapes that can contort and change to bring life to your lettering.
Don't be Afraid!
With all these methods, use them to take your calligraphy as far as you can. Don't be afraid to make ugly calligraphy while you push yourself out of your comfort zone. Doing that will allow you to see what works, and how far you can take things, to help you discover a bounce in your calligraphy that works for you.
Compare Results and Make Notes
As you work on this technique and try these different methods, keep notes to remind you of what you liked and what worked best for you.
The examples used in this blog are courtesy of Jane Walker who attended our Calligraphy Retreat weekend. We focused on ways to create a calligraphy style of your own and these bouncing exercises were part of that.
We loved her examples and hope that they've helped you to apply bounce to your calligraphy. For more info on the calligraphy retreats that we run, click here.
Here is a worksheet to help you to practice bouncing your calligraphy.