In 2012, I officially became a calligraphy beginner. Filled with the unique type of excitement that results from a Pinterest binge, I lit off to a big box store, and I bought a random calligraphy kit and some ink. Like most calligraphy beginners, I expected to pick up a pen and immediately be able to create cool things! When I got home, though, I tried writing on some printer paper. Surprise! My “calligraphy” looked terrible.
For a few months, I gave up on my calligraphy endeavors. I now realize that’s because my expectations didn’t match reality. But: how could I have realistic expectations? There wasn’t a lot of information out there about calligraphy at the time, so I naturally assumed it was just one of those things a person was either good at, or not good at. Today, I’m here to tell you: calligraphy isn’t a natural talent. It takes patience, time, and positivity to hone your skills! If you’re a calligraphy beginner, watch out for these misconceptions as you set off to learn this gorgeous art!
1. Calligraphy is for Those with Good Handwriting
Calligraphy is the art of letters. As such, it really has nothing to do with your everyday writing. You can have awful everyday handwriting, but that doesn’t mean your dip pen calligraphy won’t be fantastic! Dip pen calligraphy and the writing you use to jot down notes are two entirely different beasts. Of course, this also means that if you have impressive everyday handwriting, you can’t necessarily expect to be an overnight dip pen calligraphy pro. Don’t let that disappoint you!
2. Any Ink + Paper Combination Will Work
In your everyday life, when you pick up a pen and you put it to (any) paper, you expect that pen to write well on the paper. In the calligraphy world, though, you’ll run into issues if your ink and your paper aren’t compatible. If you try writing on regular 20# printer paper, the ink will most likely bleed. Try writing on cardstock, and you’ll run into the same problem.
Many calligraphy beginners run into problems with ink bleeding because they don’t have an understanding of their materials. It’s tempting to attribute the problem to user error, but oftentimes it’s not! Take a look at your supplies before you decide to abandon your calligraphy endeavors. You can read about the best papers for calligraphy here.
3. Dip Pens and Fountain Pens are One and the Same
I receive emails on a fairly regular basis that contain questions about fountain pens. I have to be honest: I really don’t know much about fountain pens! Dip pens, yes, but not fountain pens. While fountain pens and dip pens look similar, they don’t work quite the same. With dip pens, you’ve got a pen with a nib that you can easily switch out, and you can just as easily use your pen with any ink. Dip pens (with pointed nibs like the Brause EF66 or Nikko G) are known for their divine stroke contrast, which is why they’re used to write out luscious envelope addresses.
Again, my knowledge of fountain pens is limited, but it seems to me that fountain pens are best suited for elevated everyday writing. Meaning: they’re nice to write correspondence or sign papers with. Fountain pens have an ink cartridge inside of them, so you don’t have to dip it in any ink. Fountain pen nibs, however, are fairly difficult to switch out, and they’re usually not flexible like dip pen nibs – probably because flexible nibs wear out quickly! While some people use vintage and/or modified fountain pens to write calligraphy that’s full of stroke contrast, they’re in the minority.
4. Lefties Can’t Create Calligraphy
Most calligraphers are right-handed, but that’s only because most people are right-handed! That absolutely doesn’t mean that left-handed scribes cannot create beautiful things. In fact, if you’re a lefty who can keep your hand under your writing, you may find it quite easy to write right-leaning letters!
From Elisabeth Young to Younghae Chung, there are plenty of talented lefties writing up a storm out there! If you’re a lefty, don’t be discouraged from giving calligraphy a try. With some experimentation and modification, you’ll be able to write just as well as anyone else! For more information, check out these articles:
5. Calligraphy is Just a Hobby
If you want to practice calligraphy in order to pass the time in an enjoyable way, power to you! Most people do use calligraphy as a fun pastime/hobby. However, it doesn’t have to just be a hobby! If you want to, you can advertise your skills to make some extra income on the side. After all, that’s how I started TPK!
If monetizing your calligraphy interests you, you can check out these articles:
- How to Know if You’re Ready to Sell Your Calligraphy Services
- How to Stand Out From the Crowd When Selling Calligraphy
- 8 Tips for Starting a Calligraphy Business
- How to Make Extra Income Selling Calligraphy
- How to Address Envelopes for Clients
6. The Faster You Can Write, the Better
I see it over and over again in calligraphy workshops: people try to match their calligraphy speed to their everyday writing speed. And why wouldn’t you? It’s not common knowledge that calligraphy with a dip pen is slower than calligraphy with a regular (e.g. ballpoint) pen!
Many a calligraphy beginner starts to feel paranoid that he or she isn’t “doing it right” if letters come together slowly. For some reason, we tend to equate speed with skill – but that’s not the case with calligraphy. Yes, a seasoned calligrapher may pull his or her pen across the page more deftly than a calligraphy beginner, but the vast majority of calligraphers write slowly and deliberately. Honestly, that’s one of the best aspects of calligraphy! In creating it, you’ll be forced to slow down and focus, which is welcome in a world where everything else comes at us quickly.
Whether you are or were a calligraphy beginner, you’ve probably run into at least a couple of these misconceptions! The best way to move forward in your practice is to keep these misconceptions in mind. Write slowly with quality materials, be forgiving of your mistakes, and keep an open mind about the opportunities your calligraphy skills can offer! With the right mindset, you’re sure to improve and derive immense enjoyment out of your calligraphy creation.
Thanks very much for reading, and enjoy the rest of your week!