Offhand Flourishing

Self-Study Course

Offhand Flourishing — Learn to flourish

Skillful Offhand Flourishing demonstrates free and graceful control of the pen. By utilizing a unique offhand pen grasp in combination with whole-arm movement, we can calligraphically produce beautiful representations of the natural world.

Learn to pen rapid, beautiful, and easy designs in three different categories: birds, quills, and ornament. These categories represent a foundational understanding of historic American flourishing and allow students to employ simple designs in combination with their existing pen skills.

The Curriculum

This course is designed to provide you with the ability to use Offhand Flourishing with confidence and enthusiasm. Modules consist of videos, essays, and diagrams covering all of the information needed to set you up for successful Offhand Flourishing. The syllabus for Offhand Flourishing I is outlined below:

Offhand Flourishing I — syllabus

Section 1. Getting Started

What is Offhand Flourishing?

Before getting started into the how, we must first explore the what. In this section, we will take a look at definitions, history, and the principles of successful flourishing so that our subsequent efforts can be goal-oriented.

Section 2. Flourishing Principals

What are the basics of Offhand Flourishing?

Without clearly defining some principal techniques, Offhand Flourishing can seem like a daunting discipline to study. In this section, I will cover a few different modular elements that you can practice on their own. In turn, we will learn to repeatedly apply these elements into more and more complex designs. This entire course is built upon these principal techniques, so I will cover them in depth.

Section 3. The Bird

What’s up with these birds?

Birds are symbols of grace and beauty. They are emblematic of desirable qualities in penmanship and thus are a staple of the offhand flourisher’s repertoire. In this section, we will deconstruct some common birds and reduce them into their basic components. Great care is taken to provide you with a strong sense of what makes flourished birds beautiful and where they commonly devolve. At the end of this section, you will have the necessary skills to produce a rapid, simple bird in less than 60 seconds.

Offhand Flourishing — A flourished bird by David Grimes
Section 4. The Quill

What’s so special about a quill?

Like birds, the quill has a soft spot in the heart of penmen. The flight feathers of various birds have been used as writing implements by scribes throughout history. The quill is to the penman what the hammer is to the carpenter: a totem of the profession and an iconic representation of the connective link between our hand and our Art. In this section, we will discuss simple quill designs and work to pair them with our birds into more complex designs.

Section 5. Ornament

How can I use Offhand Flourishing to ornament my other works?

Offhand Flourishing does not need to be pictorial to be beautiful. One such way that this discipline is used by penmen is in the filling of spaces surrounding text and script. In this section, we will learn a number of filling designs that can be used in conjunction with our birds and quills, but also in connection to calligraphic lettering. Some previous lettering experience will be helpful to some, but I will provide lettering templates for you to flourish around as well, so it is not required.

Section 6-8. Applied Flourishing

How can I use my new Offhand Flourishing skills?

My goal in producing this course is to encourage contemporary penmen and calligraphers to use their flourishing enthusiastically in their artwork, correspondence, and scrapbooks. In this section, we will tackle three small projects that can be given to friends, family, or tucked away as records of your progress in the Art.

Course Details

Prerequisite: Intro to Calligraphy (included)

The Offhand Flourishing Course is a Self-Study Course. It is designed to be completed with minimal instructor feedback, on a student’s own schedule.

With registration, you gain online access to the curriculum outlined above for one year from the date of your registration, and access to the Community Forum where you can share your work with other Self-study Dreamers (if you choose.)

Offhand Flourishing

(above) A specimen combining flourishing and script by John A. Wesco in 1906. Original, high-quality scans of samples like this are used as references throughout the course materials.

Course Duration

This course is released in weekly sections and takes roughly 8 weeks to complete. Some students take more time than that and some take less. Being a self-study course, you are free to pace yourself however you like! Lessons consist of pre-recorded videos, diagrams, and essays.

Required Materials

To participate in the lessons of this course, you’ll need:

Technology Notice

You are responsible for the technical side of accessing DIS and will occasionally need to research and solve problems with your devices. You are the first line of defense in your own technical support. This course is accessible through smartphone or tablet, but a desktop computer is recommended for the best experience. Please understand that is a fully online course that requires you to interact with digital technology.

Members of the DIS Community


With students from all walks of life, the DIS community is filled with some pretty incredible people working towards amazing calligraphic skills. I’m extremely proud to have an abundance of supportive students who have endorsed the programs.

Hear what they have to say »

Offhand Flourishing of two birds example by David Grimes

Enrollment Details

Tuition for the Offhand Flourishing Course is $195 USD plus tax.

Enrollment includes access to Intro to Calligraphy.

Access is granted for one year from date of purchase. Please familiarize yourself with the DIS Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before purchasing.

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