When you first set out to learn calligraphy, it’s difficult not to have some preconceived notions and expectations. Like with anything, if your expectations aren’t met, disappointment can set in and prevent you from making progress! In this article, my goal is to provide a “reality check”. We’ll go through seven important points to keep in mind as you set out to learn (and practice) your calligraphy! Remember them anytime you get frustrated, then carry on with your dip pen!
1. You’re Never Going to Reach Perfection
No matter how good you get, your calligraphy will never be absolutely perfect. There will always be a letter that should lean a bit more to the right, a stroke that should be thicker or thinner, or an iffy transition! Part of the point of your calligraphy practice is to learn to selectively ignore your inner critic.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t learn from your mistakes; just don’t let them get in your way! Every time you practice calligraphy, try to see the bigger picture instead of honing in on little errors. Focusing on the positives of what you wrote will get you much farther than taking the negatives to heart!
2. You Don’t Have to Practice Every Day
Moderation leads to success with most undertakings, and calligraphy is no exception. If you resolve to practice calligraphy for hours every day, you’ll almost certainly burn out! (Of course, if you’re enjoying your practice so much that you want to do it every day, that’s a different story. But as soon as it stops being fun, slow down the pace!)
My advice? Incorporate calligraphy into your life in manageable doses. Try to create calligraphy 1-3 times per week, and make your practice time a special treat!
3. A Guided Start is the Best Start
When I started learning calligraphy in 2012, there weren’t many informational resources available. I had to figure out a lot of things for myself, like how to exert balanced pressure on both tines of the nib. That lack of information made it difficult to figure out how and what to practice! Not having structure also meant that I took a lot longer to build up my calligraphy skills!
Now, I realize that things would have been significantly easier with guidance! That’s why I’ve spent the last few years making worksheets, drills, and a comprehensive beginner’s calligraphy course. You’ll also find a vast amount of informational articles peppered throughout this website! I’d start with The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy, and follow the links in that post to go down the learning rabbit hole!
4. Your Calligraphy Practice Material Doesn’t Have to Be Boring
The word “practice” has a negative connotation for some people! When I hear “practice”, I am automatically taken back to second grade piano lessons (and a grouchy teacher). That’s why I try to make my calligraphy practice stimulating, challenging, and fun!
Whether you’re making a “stinging jellyfish” from the Under the Sea Drills packet or creating a calligraphy medallion, practice should be pleasant! At the end of the day, the point of your calligraphy practice is to improve your ability to use the pen. There’s nothing that says your practice has to be tiresome!
5. Projects Count as Practice
It’s easy to get caught up in thinking that calligraphy practice only happens when you’re filling out a worksheet or writing letters on repeat! However, every time you pick up your pen, you’re practicing. I consider all of my projects to be excellent practice, and I learn something from everything I make!
6. Your Environment is Important
Your practice environment is nearly as important as what you are working on! Try your best to make your calligraphy practice time a relaxing and indulgent part of your day. To achieve that, you’ll need surprisingly little. First, try putting on your favorite music or a great podcast. Next, make sure you have a clean, uncluttered surface to work on. Finally, keep a drink (and perhaps a few snacks!) nearby for sustenance.
The more effort you put into ensuring that your environment is pleasant, the more you’ll enjoy the writing process! In turn, the more you enjoy the writing process, the more you’ll want to write.
7. Your Practice Will Pay Off Quickly
Improvement takes time, but you will notice that your calligraphy skills grow at an alarming rate! It’s amazing how much difference a day of practicing can make. If you are a person that finds motivation in progress (don’t we all?), then be sure to document your creations!
You’ll be astounded at how fast you improve — but it might be difficult to notice if you don’t have a photo for comparison. I’m always shocked when I look at photos of my early creations!
I hope that you found this article to be motivating and helpful, especially if you’re a calligraphy beginner. The biggest point I’m trying to make is that anyone can learn how to create calligraphy! It doesn’t matter how much or how little time you have, or how tolerant you are of tedious tasks! Bottom line: your calligraphy practice should be a fun and enjoyable thing, and it’s up to you to make sure you feel that way about it.
If you have any questions or input, I’d love to hear from you in the comments! Thanks so much for reading today’s post, and happy practicing!
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