King Blotto III is perhaps Instagram’s most unlikely star—with over 180,000 fans who simply watch him write words. Confused? Don’t be. At the young age of 23, King Blotto III is a master calligrapher. Calligraphy fuses writing with the art of drawing, creating work that is more than the sum of its parts. We talked to King Blotto III to get his take on art, calligraphy, and the creativity in the digital age.
How did you first become interested in calligraphy?
My interest in calligraphy was sparked when I saw an old fountain pen in an antique shop. I was struck by the fact that this pen, which was nearly a hundred years old, was still fulfilling its same function and writing better than ever. It had developed a patina of scuffs and scratches over the decades, and I wanted to learn how to write with it and express new stories.
For me, calligraphy is like meditation.
To an observer like myself, your calligraphy seems both intensely focused and effortless at the same time. Is practicing calligraphy more of a zen state or one of intense concentration? What do you think of when you’re calligraphing?
For me, calligraphy is like meditation. It encourages me to slow-down and exhale, to engage in a simpler and more tactile experience. I become absorbed in the rhythm of writing, with the nib scratching on the paper and the colorful ink flowing smoothly across the page. I find myself both very relaxed, yet intentional and focused — rather than pushing to make something happen, I aim to let go of the distractions and clear my thoughts.
You’re extremely popular on Instagram. Did you actively promote your page, or did the fans just come virally?
I am grateful for and amazed by the support and encouragement the Instagram community has shown me. When I first started, I never could have imagined that my gallery would be where it is today. I really enjoyed the world of writing and simply wanted to share that with others. I got a lot of positive feedback, so I kept posting, and the page kept growing!
I sometimes feel like people are starved for real art, for authentic connections, and for something that lasts longer than a few minutes on the internet. Calligraphy feels so much more permanent and meaningful than a tweet. Does the massive reaction your work has received give you hope about a revival of interest in art forms that have seemingly been forgotten—or do you think that interest never truly left?
It is really encouraging to see just how enthusiastic people are about analogue writing. I think we have a basic need, deep down, for authentic tactile experiences, particularly in the context of our modern digital lifestyles. Rather than viewing digital and analogue experiences as opposing forces, I think we find ourselves today with exciting new possibilities. Platforms like Instagram make connecting and sharing art and stories easier and more accessible than ever, and I’m excited to see how else technology and art will complement each other.
Can you tell us about the important milestones on your journey from beginner to master, and also recommend some resources for those who also want to develop calligraphy skills?
A big milestone for me on my calligraphy journey was when I started to view words as sequences of strokes rather than letters; the visual structure of the letters began to take precedence over their linguistic function. We think of calligraphy as an external additive process on the page, but really we have to be able to visualize and feel what we are going to create. For anyone who wants to pursue calligraphy seriously, I would advise looking with intention — look at your favorite logos, fonts, and product labels, and take apart the letters until you can see their most basic structure. You will be amazed how much this helps when you put pen to paper.
What are your favorite pens and types of ink?
I have a number of favorite pens. If I had to choose just one, it would probably be my vintage Waterman 52. This is the pen that got me started on my calligraphy journey, so it has a lot of symbolic meaning to me. It also writes beautifully, and has one of the most expressive and sensitive nibs on any of my pens. My favorite inks are by Montblanc and Sailor. They have lovely saturated colors, great flow, and good performance on my favorite stationery.
Have you considered releasing your own calligraphy sets?
I’m asked quite frequently about which writing instruments I’d recommend for a new calligrapher. There are so many options available, so I can definitely understand feeling overwhelmed. I would love to provide starter kits for those who want to try out calligraphy.
What is next for King Blotto III?
Looking forward, I’m excited to pursue collaborative projects and continue with my current line of videos. I also aim to focus more on outreach and education for those who are interested in the world of analogue writing.