An Interview With Nina Tran (Anintran)

Today I bring and interview with Calligrapher Nina Tran. I met her through the seanwes community, and follow her creative work on instagram and her blog. She allowed me to do an extensive interview with her. 

Can you tell me a bit about yourself, and what did before Copperplate script? 

I’m a wife to a very supportive husband and a stay-at-home mom to 3 energetic kids in Los Angeles, CA.  Before I started learning Copperplate script, I was trying to grow a knitting and crocheting business with my sister-in-law.  Before that, I was pursuing photography and contemplating dental school. I’ve always been fascinated by calligraphy, but never in my wildest dreams did imagine I would be a calligrapher! 

Anintran, your first name backwards along with your last name - can you share how came up with this name?

My calligraphy journey started on Instagram where Nina Tran is a very common name.  I wanted to keep my name but standout from all the other Nina Trans.  It’s funny because sometimes people call me “Anin” or “Ani”. 

Do you have a dream client you'd like to work with or for in the future? 

I don’t see myself doing too much client work really.  What I really love to do is teach.  I love to teach anyone who wants to learn.

Are there any other styles in calligraphy you find interesting or would want to explore?

Yes, there are many!

I would really love to learn Spencerian and Fraktur.  I’d also like to learn Michael Sull’s American Cursive Handwriting. 

My workspace is my dining table.  I pretty much take up the whole table!  You can't see it, but I've got loose sheets drying behind my laptop 😂. I record a lot of videos. These are a few of my favorite tools: the gorillapod tripod and the dinky dips (mini ink wells).  They make my life so much easier. This is a Chris Held penholder --  favorite oblique penholder. These are my favorite pens (nibs): Spencerian 1, Hunt 101, Zebra G, Tachikawa G, Nikko G, and Brause 361 This is my small plastic bin of frequently used materials. Clockwise: speedball and Chris Held oblique penholder, metal tin with nibs inside, dinky dips, Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White, Kuretake Sumi Ink, Norton's Walnut Ink

My workspace is my dining table.  I pretty much take up the whole table!  You can't see it, but I've got loose sheets drying behind my laptop 😂.



I record a lot of videos. These are a few of my favorite tools: the gorillapod tripod and the dinky dips (mini ink wells).  They make my life so much easier.




This is a Chris Held penholder --  favorite oblique penholder.


These are my favorite pens (nibs):
Spencerian 1, Hunt 101, Zebra G, Tachikawa G, Nikko G, and Brause 361




This is my small plastic bin of frequently used materials. Clockwise: speedball and Chris Held oblique penholder, metal tin with nibs inside, dinky dips, Dr. Ph. Martin's Bleed Proof White, Kuretake Sumi Ink, Norton's Walnut Ink

What is the piece you are most proud of? 

I’m most proud of the quotes I’ve written – the #7daysofKonmari and #7daysofWayneDyer in particular.  Marie Kondo and Dr. Wayne Dyer are two people who have helped me transform my life.  So those quotes mean a lot to me.  

Who inspires you/Where do you find your inspiration?

I’m inspired by the growing community of talented hand lettering artists and calligraphers on Instagram.  I’ve made some really amazing friends and study buddies there.  They inspire me to keep practicing, keep sharing, and to keep going.

My dear friend Sharisse de Leon inspires me everyday.  Her drive, hustle, and positive energy are contagious!  She’s fearless and a natural-born-leader.  I really look up to that woman. She also makes the best accountability partner – she won’t let me get away with anything. She’s the best!

Dr. Gail Madalag (@the_md_writes), Dr. Joe Vitolo (@drjmvitolo), and Paul Antonio Attong (@pascribe) inspire me with their knowledge, kindness, humility, and generosity.  I am so grateful for all that they do and all that they share.  It’s because of them that I practice copperplate.

My husband John who has been so supportive of ALL my creative endeavors inspires me. He has taught me to let go of the outcome and just go for it.  Because of him, I’m not afraid.

My list goes on.  But I will name just one more person: Sean McCabe – another amazing and generous soul.  I’ve learned so much from him and the Seanwes community.  He makes me feel that I’m not dreaming alone.  The most important lesson he’s taught me is to just start. Start somewhere, anywhere, and to keep going.

Who are the top 3 people to follow on instagram? 

Gosh.  I have so many.  Can I give you 4? (Sure!)

@piecescalligraphy @the_md_writes @drjmvitolo @biancamascorro_art

I see you currently run workshops from time to time,

 Do you remember what your first workshop was like?

For my very first workshop, I invited some friends to my mom’s house for an afternoon of learning Copperplate.  I was so nervous because I had never taught a group of people how to do anything before.  It was a free event, but I did ask my friends to purchase their supplies. 

How did you determine what to go over?

The material that I cover in my workshops is based on my personal learning experience. I go over the basic concepts and information that was important to me when I was learning copperplate.

Do you supply the tools for your workshop? 

I did for the first workshop.  After that, the materials that I recommended were available for purchase at the venue that hosted my workshops.  For my upcoming workshop, the host Twig & Fig is providing the materials.

What are your future plans with anintran?

Great question.  My plans are to continue learning and teaching.  I’d like to continue blogging and eventually translate my posts into YouTube videos.  I’d love to teach at the annual International Association of Master Penman, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) conventions.  I’d love to create online courses and maybe have my own art studio.  I’ve got a lot planned.  Lambo goals!

Any advice to newly calligraphers? 

My advice to new calligraphers:

1.     Start with the basics. Start with the fundamental concepts and strokes.

2.     Do your drill exercises.

3.     Don’t worry about get it perfect the first time or the first 100 times.  We all suck in the beginning ;).  Seek progress.

4.     You don’t need a lot to get started.  But you will need good quality materials.  Otherwise, you’ll have frustrating practice sessions.

5.     Take good care of your supplies.  Clean them well and store them in a safe place.

6.     Surround yourself with people who inspire you and motivate you.  There is an amazing community of calligraphers on Instagram.

7.     Ask questions. If something doesn’t work, there’s a solution out there. Seek answers. Learn from others.

8.     Study reliable exemplars.  How will you know how to draw something if you don’t know what it should look like?

9.     Don’t give up.

What makes you different from others that practice Copperplate script and calligraphy?

Hmmm.  Good question. I think what makes me different from others who practice Copperplate script and calligraphy (on Instagram) is my video output.  Whenever possible, I post videos of tips and demos.

Congrats on achieving such a high number of followers on instagram (13.4 k) Can you share what you did to grow your list? 

Thank you so much, Keshna.  I had no idea that I would grow such a following or that anyone would be interested in seeing my posts.

In the beginning, my original intention was to open an Instagram account so that I could keep track of my calligraphy progress.  It wasn’t until I started teaching that I started to grow an audience.

I took some golden tips from Sean McCabe: 1)share everything I know; 2) curate my feed; and 3) show up everyday.

Over the summer, my dear friend Sharisse de Leon (@piecescalligraphy) and I started an ABCs challenge on Instagram – which was a success!  So many letterers and calligraphers joined us.  I gained over 4,000 followers throughout the challenge.

What it boils down to in the end is the value of the content.  Why should people follow you? What do you have to offer them?  Why should they care?

At first, I was monitoring my number of followers.  I mean, it’s so cool to have that many people interested in your work and what you have to share.  What interests me more now is the number of people who write me emails or comments to tell him how much I’ve inspired them or helped them.  That’s the number that really matters.

Can you explain your process?

How long does it take to complete a piece?

I haven’t really made any pieces.  I write quotes every now and then, but most of the things I create are teaching tips and demos.

Copperplate (Engrosser’s script) is a slowly executed script.  The letterforms are made up of individual strokes drawn precisely and carefully.  For me, addressing an envelope can take between 15 to 25 minutes.  A quote could take a while.  It depends on how many times I mess up – and I mess up a lot!

Can you share what your work space is like?

I sit on a piano bench and work on my dining table.   Once I’ve cleared the table, I bring out my Ott-light lamp, small plastic bin of supplies, paper, and exemplars.  I usually have my laptop beside me so that I can readily refer to online exemplars (zanerian.com and IAMPETH.com) and listen to Dr. Wayne Dyer’s teachings or Seanwes podcasts.

 I typically take up my entire dining table.  When I’m done with practice, I put all of my supplies back on the shelf. 

What are the size  variation of your pieces?

My pieces are not usually very big.  A word or two can fit on a 2x3” index card.  Quotes can take up half-a-page to a full 8x11” page.  I’ve never written anything longer, except for letters.

As for calligraphy pens (nibs), I recommend the following:

Nikko G

Tachikawa G

Zebra G

Brause 361

Hunt 101

Hunt 22

I recommend the following penholders:
Yoke Pen Company

Unique Obliques

Chris Held

You mention that you are a mother of three, how do you balance work, blogging and all the other things? 

Great question.  Being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job.  The best way to balance everything is to have a routine so everyone knows what to expect throughout the day.  We eat our meals at the same time each day.  Naptime, laundry, and even showers are scheduled.  A schedule is a must-have.

Can you share a tip that hand lettering artists can use?

I’ve got tons of tips.

Study and deliberate practice is key.  Don’t just study the letters, but study the tools of the trade as well.  For pointed pen calligraphy, there are many different kinds of nibs (pointed pens).  Not all nibs are created equal.  They all vary in shape, size, sharpness, and flexibility. Don’t be afraid to ask around and see what’s working or not work for other calligraphers.

Ask questions and don’t be afraid to try something new.

Where can people find more about you?

www.Anintran.com or on this Blog Feature .

Can you share your favorite positive quote with my readers? 

I love this quote that Dr. Joe Vitolo always shares:

“The meaning of life is to find your gift.  The purpose of life is to give it away.”

~ Pablo Picasso

People who inspire me:

Sharisse de Leon:
www.piecescalligraphy.com
https://instagram.com/piecescalligraphy/
 

Instagram community of handlettering artists and calligraphers:
https://instagram.com/handletteredabcs/
 

Dr. Joe Vitolo:

www.zanerian.com
https://instagram.com/drjmvitolo/
 

Dr. Gail Madalag:
https://instagram.com/the_md_writes/
 

Paul Antonio Attong:
http://paulantonioscribe.com/
https://instagram.com/pascribe/
 

Sean McCabe:

seanwes.com
https://instagram.com/seanwes/

Bianca Mascorro

IG @biancamascorroart
www.biancamascorro.com