Last week, I dove deep into my old three ring binders to find calligraphy from years past. Specifically, I wanted to look at early examples of Amy Style calligraphy — back when I used to write it with a ton of loops and flourishes! As I sifted through my early projects, I noticed a few things that have changed over time. You, too, can expect to see these calligraphy changes to occur with practice and a bit of patience:
1. Your Stroke Contrast Will Improve
When you’re a beginning calligrapher, there are *so many* things to remember! First of all, you’re trying hard to hold the pen in a way that probably feels awkward. Second, you’re concentrating on making new letterforms. Then, there are additional things, like struggling to make sure you’ve got the right amount of ink on your nib and exerting balanced pressure on the tines. It’s a lot.
It’s no surprise, then, that you can forget to focus on stroke contrast. Making thick, dramatic downstrokes and thin, delicate upstrokes might slip your mind until you’ve got the other basics down! That certainly happened for me.
2. Things Will Start to Look More Orderly
Two things that I used to have immense difficulty with were letter slant and centering words. I think it’s natural for your letters — and words — to be all over the place at first! Time will help with that, but so will slant lines and centering techniques.
3. You’ll Become More Experimental
When you first start learning calligraphy, it’s smart to stick to using one kind of ink, nib, and pen — at least for a little while. I started off with sumi ink, and I rarely strayed from that for the first few months of learning calligraphy. Being consistent with my practice tools were important: I could accurately gauge my success, and I didn’t have to worry about learning the quirks of new materials.
4. Your Personal Style Will Evolve
When I first started learning calligraphy, I was all over the place with how I wrote! I hadn’t practiced enough to develop a personal style, so my writing resembled whatever I saw and liked on Pinterest. Not having a personal style isn’t a bad thing; in fact, it’s a great way to create foundational skills to build on (which is why I offer worksheets in several different styles).
5. Your Confidence Will Grow
As a calligraphy beginner, I remember being terrified of a few key things every time I started a project. For example: was my ink going to spatter or pool up? Would I misspell a word? Would my letters bleed through the paper? If something turned out well, it seemed like luck had played no small part in my success.
Now that I have seven years of calligraphy experience under my belt, I am confident about my understanding of techniques and materials. I know that if I use a fibrous paper, the ink will bleed. If I don’t concentrate hard on what I’m writing, I will misspell something. If I have an excessive amount of ink on my nib, the ink will pool up. You just learn these things as you go — and mostly you’ll learn them from making mistakes!
Appreciate Your First Attempts
While most of your calligraphy changes will be good, you may notice that you start to take your lettering a little bit too seriously. That’s what happened to me with Amy Style calligraphy! At first, I incorporated lots of loops and flourishes into the letters. The result was playful — but I started to see it as juvenile, so I made some drastic changes. In 2015, I dramatically reduced the amount of flourishes and made the style less rounded.
Now, four years later, I realize that all the letter embellishments served to communicate a cheerful effect. The embellishments weren’t childlike, as I’d seen them before! That’s why I just released a CLASSIC Amy Style Limited Edition Worksheet — to pay homage to the fact that sometimes we’re onto something as beginners.
The point of this blog post is to assure you that continued practice leads to evolution! The more time you spend writing calligraphy, the more that calligraphy will reflect your personality — and, of course, your skill level. Remember two things as you practice: first, take photos. This will allow you to gauge your progress as you go!
Second, don’t assume that practice means rote writing in worksheets. Instead, maintain a healthy balance of worksheets with actual projects! You can make mail art, place cards, calligraphy artwork, and/or sketchbook journal pages to hone your calligraphy skills. As long as you’re using your dip pen, you’re practicing!
Have you noticed a change in your calligraphy over time? How so? If you have any input, I’d love to hear it! Either way, I hope this article — and my old photos — were helpful or interesting for you, and that you have a wonderful weekend!