It’s easy to resolve to learn calligraphy. The tough part is sticking with it after you start! You can follow these six calligraphy tips to stay on top of your calligraphy practice and ensure continuous improvement.
1. Start Learning with the Right Supplies
Would-be calligraphers often abandon their interest in the art after they try out cheap, readymade calligraphy kits. It’s important to remember, though, that kit manufacturers generally compromise material quality to make a profit. Oftentimes, the supplies included in these kits aren’t well suited for beginners! Plastic oblique pens can lead to unnecessary frustration, and high-flex nibs result in ink spatters and pressure exertion issues. Also, paper matters so much! Ordinary printer paper soaks up ink like crazy, which results in fuzzy, unclear strokes.
Instead of buying a readymade kit, I beseech you to make your own. Really: it will be cheaper and higher quality than what you’ll find in big box stores. Furthermore, you’ll have a much higher chance of success with your DIY calligraphy starter kit! You can learn about how to put together your own starter kit in The Ultimate Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit post.
2. Gradually Add to Your Calligraphy Collection
Once you have mastered calligraphy with the basic supplies, you’re ready to start growing a collection. There are all sorts of nibs, inks, papers, and pens out there! A word of caution: resist the temptation to buy a lot of things at once. Instead, add to your collection with intention. Acquire just a few supplies every so often, and allow yourself some time to get acquainted with those supplies.
It may be exciting to receive ten bottles of ink in the mail, but it’s overwhelming to try out every single one of them right then and there. Instead, do yourself and the calligraphy supplies a favor. Buy a couple supplies at once, and give each supply a fair shot. Challenge yourself to make several projects with each supply and get to know its quirks! Otherwise, you’ll end up like me and have a closet full of ink (a lot of which can grow mold — and probably is growing mold), nibs, and pens that you never use.
3. Embrace Birthdays and Holidays as Practice Opportunities
Birthdays and holidays are an amazing motivator to create some of your best work! There’s a big incentive in making someone you care about feel special with handmade work. Plus, you have a deadline — which is helpful to those of us who aren’t so great at finishing projects!
If you want to use your calligraphy skills to make something, you need but look at your calendar. If no one has a birthday coming up in the near future, no problem: make a card now, and save it until the date rolls around. Remember, too, that it’s never too early to make holiday calligraphy. I regularly receive emails from readers in the summer asking about holiday tutorials. They’ve got the right idea: this time of year can be crazy, so it’s nice to have a handmade card or envelope art ready to send!
4. Don’t Let the Pros Discourage You
I post on Instagram every day, and many times, I’ll receive self-depreciating compliments from people that make me cringe. Comments like “I could never do that,” pop up a lot. Those sorts of comments make me worry that people will get discouraged and stop trying. I mean, truly: I want you to remember that, first of all, everyone starts somewhere. Every single calligrapher was once at your skill level.
Secondly, as I’ve mentioned before here on the blog, most of the photos that calligraphers post on social media are styled. I mean, I love the photo below from the Christmas Tree Holiday Envelope Art Tutorial, but, let’s be honest: it’s idealized. The envelope rests on a buttery silk handkerchief, a beaded garland twinkles around it, and lace peeks out of the corners of the photo. This picture is beautiful, but it’s not real life.
Listen: exercising your creativity is something that you do for your personal well-being. Who cares if someone else’s work seems to look better than yours? As long as it makes you happy to create calligraphy, then that truly is all that matters. If you struggle with internalizing that message, try reading the 5 Ways to Stop Being Your Own Worst Creative Critic post!
5. Take Photos
As you create more and more calligraphy, your skill level will improve. It happens so gradually, though, that it’s difficult to notice. Keeping a photographic record helps you to clearly see your progress!
You don’t have to show your photos to anyone, but if you want encouragement or to swap tips, you can post them to social media. Instagram in particular has an encouraging and supportive calligraphy community. Just make sure you add appropriate hashtags (for example: #calligraphy, #moderncalligraphy, #calligraphybeginner, #dippen, #pointedpen, etc.) so people can find your work!
6. Remember That the Pursuit of Perfection Will Lead to Disappointment
Even if you’re not comparing yourself to others, you’ll often hear a nagging voice of critique in your head as you work on projects. The voice may tell you that your letters look juvenile or that you made your “B” too big. It will pick the project apart until you look at it and only see imperfections.
If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that only you notice the subtle mistakes. Your errors may seem obvious, but other people often won’t spot them. You have to learn to step back and view your work as someone else would. Don’t let the little things bother you, and if you really did make a big mistake, then let yourself learn from it! Keep in mind that hand-written calligraphy appeals to people precisely because of its imperfections. Otherwise, we would all be using computers and printers to write out addresses.
I hope that these six calligraphy tips give you some food for thought! I think the best takeaway from this post is to keep a positive attitude. Practice may help you to improve, but it’s positivity that fuels continued practice! If you have any other tips for fellow calligraphers of any level, please feel free to contribute them to the comments. Questions are also welcome, of course! Thanks very much for reading TPK, and we’ll reconvene in Friday’s post, which will announce the release of the new Holiday Calligraphy worksheet!