I’ve been creating calligraphy for a few years now, and occasionally I get restless with the same-old, same-old. I know that I can’t be the only one who feels like this, so in today’s blog post, I thought I’d go over five ways that I keep my calligraphy creation process fresh. It is my hope that these tips help to keep you motivated, and spark your creativity a bit in the process!
1. Don’t force yourself to adhere to stylistic rules.
All of the Learn Calligraphy for a Latté worksheets are essentially a collection of rules. Through the graphics in the worksheets, you learn things like: “Make your ‘M’ like this”, “Cross your ‘t’ like so”, and “Always make your ampersand this way”. If you’re just getting the hang of a style, those rules are great! They give you a specific formula to follow, and you know that if you use that formula, your results will be favorable.
That said, it is my hope that once you get a hang of the rules, you will experiment with breaking them. If you want to experiment with a new way to put a tail on your “y”, I hope you do it! Never be afraid to make your letterforms inconsistent; just because you made a “g” look a certain way in one address line does not mean that “g” has to look the same way in the next address line. Frankly, I break my own rules all the time. For example, when I developed Janet Style calligraphy, I meant for “t”s and “A”s to be crossed with a short, straight horizontal line. If you look at the envelope below, for example, all of the “A”s and “t”s follow that rule.
Recently, however, I’ve been feeling a more flourishy variation, and I cross my letters with reckless abandon. I love to swoop the cross up on the right and add a little tassel of ink to finish it off! Even though that’s not part of the original style, I love the endearingly ostentatious vibe that the new variation adds. Check out the “A”s and “t”s in this envelope!
So — even if it goes against the rules you have been following for a while, take a chance and try some new techniques. Throw convention to the wind and spice things up a bit; you’ll be glad you did! (And, worst case scenario, if you don’t like a variation that you come up with, you at least know that that particular variation doesn’t quite work. That makes it easier to go back to the drawing board!)
2. Try new (to you) calligraphy products.
I know it sounds like I’m trying to perpetuate consumerism here, but sometimes there’s nothing better to jump-start your calligraphic creativity than a new little goodie. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it just needs to be something you’re excited about using. Usually, for me, “new calligraphy products” means ink. Just when I think I’ve tried them all, I invariably find a new one that I fall in love with. (My current obsession: Dr. Ph. Martin’s Iridescent Inks, specifically the Black Sparkle.) There’s something about getting a new ink that inspires me to try new projects; for example, working with yellow gouache gave me an inexplicable hankering to try out drawing a lace motif on an envelope. I was just sitting there and the thought hit me; “I’ll bet this yellow would look pretty on a brown envelope. Ohh, and what if I used the gouache to draw lace?”
You know how it goes: when you get a new toy, you excitedly figure out all these possibilities to use it. When you obtain new calligraphy supplies — be they ink, pen holders, or nibs — it can really help you to think outside the box and come up with new ideas.
My love for new supplies is the reason I conduct a giveaway of art- and calligraphy-related supplies every weekend on both the TPK Instagram and the TPK Facebook page. I know how creatively stimulating it can be to get some fun goodies in the mail, so I like to give everyone a chance to experience that! If you’d rather not wait for a potential giveaway win, however, here are some supplies that have sent my creativity soaring:
- Finetec: Both the Golds and the Pearl Colors Palettes; they are hands-down the most beautiful metallic “inks” available, in my opinion! (You can click here to read a tutorial.)
- Any watercolors; you can use them with your dip pen to make watercolor calligraphy!
- Walnut ink; it’s got such a gorgeous, earthy color.
- Brush pens (I use Tombow); theses are so fun and quick to write calligraphy with, and the effect is very unique!
- Gouache; it still makes me giddy to be able to write with opaque light colors (like yellow) on dark paper!
3. Make projects not for yourself, but for other people.
Frankly, I think it’s hardest to make things for you, yourself, as opposed to other people. My theory behind that is it’s easier to categorize other people’s likes than it is to recognize/isolate your own. For example, I was making a thank-you card for glass artist Summer Sarinova the other day to show my gratitude for some glass straws she made for me. Even though Summer, obviously, is a multifaceted human being with a range of likes (just like all of us), it was easy for me to think: “Hmm … well, Summer likes feathers, so I’m putting feathers on her card. Also, she is a glass artist, so by default she likes shiny things; therefore, I’m using iridescent ink for the calligraphy.”
Making projects for yourself, however, can prove to be the ultimate challenge. It’s harder to succinctly categorize your own likes and whip yourself up something for yourself as opposed to doing the same for other people — or, at least, that’s my experience (tell me if I’m just crazy!). For example, if you scroll up to the very top of this page, you’ll see my “tpk” logo with the little hand-drawn bird on the upper left. In all honesty, it’s just something I cobbled together three years ago out of a computer font and an old drawing because I needed some logo. The irony there is I can design hand-calligraphed logos for other people (like the Kaitlin Style logo pictured below), and I’d love one for myself; but as of yet, I just can’t pin down exactly what I’m “into” enough to make one. Again, this could just be me … but I do find that it’s easier to be inspired if you’re working with someone else in mind.
So, if you find yourself in a creative rut trying to make something for yourself/your own home, take a break to make something for someone else. You’ll be surprised at how easily ideas come to you when you have a loved one’s personality and likes for inspiration!
4. Integrate illustration and calligraphy.
To be clear: calligraphy is art, and that’s why even if you have terrible everyday handwriting (trust me — mine isn’t great), you can still write beautiful calligraphy. If you want to enhance your calligraphy, you can add illustrations to it for a drool-worthy combination. I know I refer to the Save the Date map below in quite a few blog posts, but I just adore it because of the perfect combination of watercolor illustration and Kaitlin Style calligraphy. Supplementing drawings with calligraphy makes for such a wonderful way to communicate ideas and concepts!
If you don’t think you can draw — well, first of all, I promise you can draw something! You can add in a simple banner to write a few words of calligraphy ink; supplement a calligraphed piece with, say, some roses; or try your hand at the lace tutorial here on the TPK blog. I promise: if you can follow instructions, you’ll be able to add a fun little illustration using one of the tutorials I just mentioned!
5. Start an Etsy shop.
There are a couple of misconceptions about Etsy shops: first, that you have to wait to open one until your calligraphy is breathtakingly beautiful. Second, that if you start an Etsy shop, that means eventually it needs to become your full-time job. While you can start an Etsy shop with the goal of having your business become your profession, I know a lot of people who are very happy with their day jobs and just “do” Etsy as a supplemental, fun thing. It’s a nice way to meet people, get plenty of opportunities for calligraphy practice, and make a little extra jingle, so why not?
As far as skill level, as long as you are representing what you are capable of in your item photos and you get a sale based on those photos, the sale is well-earned. (You shouldn’t feel nervous that the client won’t like what they receive because they have seen the item photos!) And once you do sell, that’s when the fun part happens! Suddenly, you become a part of someone’s event, which is fantastic motivation to challenge yourself to put your best foot forward. For example, the Beth Style watercolor place cards below were custom-created for a summery California wedding with a country/sunflower theme. Working with the client to come up with the concept was very creatively rewarding!
Part of the fun of selling on Etsy is coming up with creative products and different ways to display your work in photographs. I’m sure I’m going to make myself sound geeky here (what’s new?), but I love making a sample and putting it in an imaginary setting, like this photo of Kaitlin Style invitations on a platter with dried lavender. It’s not like people are going to receive the invitations you calligraphed and spread them out like this with some dead flowers for effect … but this photo does set a certain type of elegant/whimsical mood.
I think it’s also just neat to prove to yourself that your work is desirable and that you are a professional who can effectively work with clients. That kind of validation can really help to keep you propelling forward with continuous calligraphy creation!
I hope that you enjoyed today’s post, and if you have any other tips or input, I’d love to hear them in the comments section! Enjoy the rest of your day, and thanks a million for reading the TPK blog. 🙂