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Ornamental Penmanship

With Michael Sull

Starting date : 6 July 2024

Fees : HK$ 1,170 or US$ 150

Workshop Description

To the skilled Penman, Engrosser, or Calligrapher, “Ornamental Penmanship” means much more than simply making fancy letters. In truth, Ornamental Penmanship is an expression of penmanship and calligraphy in which the words and the way they are presented on paper convey the emotion of the text, or the writer, or both. It is visible language rendered in such a manner that with any style of alphabet variation, ornamental or decorative accent work, size, scale, and/or placement in the overall composition, the words themselves can be seen and read as if the reader is listening to music that touches the heart. When written or lettered well, the completed artwork seems to have a voice all its own; instead of being read to the person, it’s as though it speaks to the person with the emotion of its content. 


In the effort to accomplish this goal of giving a sense of “life” to your work, all aspects that have a bearing, or influence on the words and their meaning must be considered in making the choices needed to successfully write or letter the composition. In this program, I will share the various techniques that I was taught and have used throughout my career. None of these techniques are difficult, but like anything else, they require attention to detail and practice. And importantly, the pen artist or calligrapher must learn to recognize and understand the meaning, or sense of purpose that the words of the text intend for the reader or recipient. Perfectly accurate letterforms are not always the goal, although we should always strive to produce our best work. Far more important is the way we choose to present our artwork that makes the difference. 


There is never only one way to present a body of text in its best light. Yes, in this program I will be explaining ornamental techniques such as artistic letter flourishing, filigree, decorative line work, scrolling, and use of color, but emphasis will also be placed on effective layout, maintaining a sense of gracefulness in your work, and becoming adept at knowing how to balance a sense of ornamentation with the raw text. Many hand-rendered compositions have been expertly rendered with the highest accuracy of letterforms, and yet to the eye they visibly present themselves with the same lack of emotion as if reading a printed newspaper article on the latest book selections from your local library. Instead, your work should present itself with its own voice of content, for this is what Ornamental Penmanship truly should be.


It will be a help, but is not required, for a student to already possess a level of skill in pointed pen writing to participate in this program. Since study and practice will heavily be involved in the homework assignments, this can also be a solid introductory course for students who wish to be introduced to what many penmen regard as the “magic” of Ornamental Penmanship. It was that “magic” shown to me by my mentors so long ago that captured me forever. I hope you will join me!

Lesson 1 - Text Techniques

  • Reviewing of Text

  • Selection of Style and General Format of Layout

  • Determining Composition of Layout Design

  • Landscape/Horizontal, Centered/Staggered

Lesson 2 - Artistic Script

  • Letterforms

  • The Magic of Oval and Negative Space

  • Techniques of Letter Flourishing

Lesson 3 - Instilling Gracefulness and Emotion into the Composition

  • Balancing Ornamentation with Text

  • Ornamentation Techniques (Don’t Overdo It!)

  • Linear Border Design

  • Filigree

  • Artistic Line Work

  • Scrolling

Lesson 4 - Materials and Tools

  • Pens, Brushes, Markers, Papers, Inks, Straight Edge ,Watercolor Pencils, Gouache, Light Table/Light Pad, Center-Finding Ruler, etc.

  • Creating the Finished Layout Rough

  • Creating the Final Artwork

Workshop Schedule

Lesson 1

Saturday, 6 July, 2024

22:00 pm - 00:30 am (Hong Kong Standard Time)

Lesson 2

Saturday, 20 July, 2024

22:00 pm - 00:30 am (Hong Kong Standard Time)

Lesson 3

Saturday, 3 August, 2024

22:00 pm - 00:30 am (Hong Kong Standard Time)

Lesson 4

Saturday, 17 August, 2024

22:00 pm - 00:30 am (Hong Kong Standard Time)

Note to Students

  • This is a live online workshop via Zoom (please make sure you have a Zoom account to access the workshop)

  • All live lessons will be recorded and available for 90 days following the final lesson.

  • All recordings expires on Saturday, 16 November, 2024 at 12:00 pm Hong Kong Standard Time.

  • Workshop handouts (if any), zoom links and recordings are available on the workshop page one week (or as soon as practicable) before the first lesson.

  • All workshop dates and times are according to the Hong Kong Standard Time.

Recommended Workshop Supplies

  • Click here for the supplies list recommended for this workshop.

Workshop Boarding Page (Only for Enrolled Students)

  • If you have not logged in, click here to access the instructions on how to access your workshop.

  • If you have already logged in, click here to access your workshop boarding page directly.

Refund Policy

  • All sales are final and fees paid for the online workshop are non-refundable.

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