When you see photos of beautiful calligraphy online, it’s easy to forget that once upon a time, the calligrapher’s work didn’t look nearly as polished. Today, I’m sharing a collection of my calligraphy progress photos to remind you that improvement takes time, practice, and a willingness to experiment!
1. Envelope Calligraphy Progress: 2012-2015
When I first set out to create envelope calligraphy, I was too terrified of the dip pen to attempt using it. That’s why I chose to use faux calligraphy instead. Centering and consistent letter spacing weren’t even on my radar, and that’s okay. I had a blast making my faux calligraphy envelopes, and it was great practice for when I felt ready to take on “the real deal”!
2. Save the Date Progress: 2013-2014
This one is a fun comparison to share because it shows how much progress a person can make in a year! At the beginning of 2013, my idea of a pretty DIY save the date was simple and involved my safe go-to: faux calligraphy. By mid-2014, I felt confident enough in my calligraphy to make an eye-catching save the date wedding map! (A growing knowledge of Photoshop also helped quite a bit.)
3. Birthday Card Calligraphy Progress: 2012-2016
My calligraphy progress has mostly been propelled forward by boundless optimism. When I made the birthday card on the left, I was glowing with pride at my creation! Again, I used faux calligraphy because I didn’t feel comfortable using a dip pen. The birthday card on the right, created four years later, looks much more professional and polished.
4. Kansas Calligraphy Art: 2013-2020
I’m a Kansas native, so I’ve been experimenting with using calligraphy to commemorate my home state for nearly a decade now. The piece on the right, created three months ago as a holiday gift for my brother, looks much more confident and cohesive compared to my 2013 attempt.
5. Valentine’s Day Card Progress: 2013-2020
When a coworker heard that I was starting an Etsy shop back in 2012, he commissioned me to make a Valentine’s Day card for his wife. I was absolutely thrilled to have a client, and — again — I was so proud of what I made. Now, I’ve upped my Valentine’s Day card-making game considerably!
6. Place Card Calligraphy Progress: 2013-2020
These two place card concepts start off with the same step: cutting and folding a little card out of black cardstock. It’s amazing how a project can start the same but end with two very different results!
7. Faux Calligraphy Letter Art Progress: 2012-2016
In 2012, I set out to make a personalized gift tag for my little brother. In 2016, I expounded on that concept to contribute eye-catching lettering art to the book More Creative Lettering. Though both of these works feature faux calligraphy, you can tell that my writing comfort level grew a lot over the course of four years!
8. Holiday Envelope Art Calligraphy Progress: 2013-2017
Though I gained the confidence to write with a dip pen in 2013, I still didn’t understand how to get it to work well for me. The calligraphy on the left has uneven stroke contrast and a bit of a choppy look! The piece on the right, however, features lovely, rounded calligraphy that communicates a proficiency with the dip pen.
9. Calligraphy Sketchbook Page Progress: 2013-2019
I love to incorporate calligraphy into my sketchbook pages because it’s a great way to get in practice and punctuate pages with memories and opinions! When I made the page on the left, I didn’t have a great understanding of how to achieve stroke contrast, though my calligraphy was starting to improve. The calligraphy on the right, created six years later, is much cleaner!
10. White Ink Calligraphy Progress
White ink is a supply that’s not super beginner-friendly. It can be really tough to figure out the proper viscosity for it! The photo on the left shows my first try with white ink. I had a pretty difficult time achieving stroke contrast. That becomes especially apparent when you compare the calligraphy to the photo on the right, which features sumptuous downstrokes and delicate upstrokes.
When I started learning calligraphy in 2012, there weren’t a lot of learning resources around to jumpstart my success. Now, a calligraphy beginner will find countless information, online courses, and worksheets at their fingertips! That means today’s beginner will make quicker progress than I did. The disadvantage you’re working with as a calligraphy beginner in 2021, however, is the vast amount of gorgeous calligraphy photos that are available to see online. (There weren’t a whole lot of those when I first started to learn.) It’s difficult not to get discouraged when you see the beautiful things that others are making! That’s when it’s important to remind yourself that everyone starts somewhere, and you’re on your own journey. Keep on creating the things you love, and you’ll inevitably develop that professional and polished look!