I decided to write this article for people who are thinking about learning calligraphy because it’s important to know what to expect! If you jump in with the assumption that you’ll have gorgeous penmanship next week, you may be disappointed! Approach your new endeavor with a realistic attitude, however, and success will follow.
Stage 1 of Learning Calligraphy: Excitement + Inspiration
At this point, you’re feeling excited and empowered about learning calligraphy! Perhaps you’ve seen some beautiful photos on Pinterest or received a beautiful envelope in the mail. Or, maybe you’re just looking for a way to decompress, and calligraphy showed up on your radar! Either way, in this stage, you’re feeling giddy at the prospect of being able to create gorgeous things with a dip pen.
Stage 2: Information Overload
When I first started TPK in 2012, there actually wasn’t a lot of information out there about how to use a dip pen. Now, you’re perhaps at a disadvantage because there are so many articles online that recommend this or that! I find that the conflicting and copious information available online can actually discourage rather than empower! The trick is to pick one resource to learn from — at least in the beginning.
I’m biased, but I would start with TPK’s own The Beginner’s Guide to Modern Calligraphy. It’s helped thousands of people get their start in calligraphy and is tried and true! In that article, you’ll find a roadmap detailing how to learn calligraphy. The guide is famous for being exact, and will walk you through precisely what to do and when!
Stage 3: Jackpot!
Once you source the proper calligraphy supplies, it can feel like you’ve won the jackpot. You feel a sense of accomplishment for doing your research and finding the right tools! Trust me, it’s easy to start off on the wrong foot with supplies. I began learning calligraphy with a low-quality craft store kit that didn’t provide suitable supplies for a beginner! I was *this close* to quitting when I couldn’t get the supplies to cooperate, but we’ll talk about that in the next stage. 🙂
Stage 4: A Cycle of Discouragement + Elation
I won’t sugarcoat it: calligraphy isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. There are several concepts involved that take time and persistence to grasp! “Write with your entire arm” comes to mind, as well as “always apply balanced pressure to both tines of the nib”. It’s even challenging to figure out how to hold the pen at first!
Every roadblock you encounter represents elation in the future. What I mean to say is that if you stick with practicing, you will overcome every problem that you encounter! That problem solving — coupled with your improvement — is truly rewarding. No matter how high your skill level reaches, you’ll never quite escape this cycle. At times, you’ll feel discouraged, but it’s important to realize that the only way to improve is through experimentation and persistence! In short: don’t stop at this stage!
Stage 5: Improvement
At some point, you’ll start to notice that your calligraphy is improving … a lot! It will be easier to see your exact progress if you take a photo when you very first start, then continue to photograph your work every couple of weeks or so.
Enjoyment is part and parcel of improvement. You might start to look forward to calligraphy creation as a relaxing activity rather than a (sometimes discouraging) challenge! This is when you should really start to seek out projects to take on — whether it’s personal practice in a sketchbook, writing out envelopes for friends, or starting a calligraphy side business.
The Final Stage of Learning Calligraphy (Stage 6): Satisfaction
The “satisfaction” stage sneaks up on you over a few months (or years)! You realize it’s arrived once you consider calligraphy to be one of your core hobbies. It’s something that makes you feel tranquil, fulfills you via the amazing projects you create, and potentially garners you recognition — even if it’s just among family and friends!
The prospect of reaching this last stage is absolutely not the reason you should start learning calligraphy! Not to get too philosophical, but you garner so much knowledge and joy out of the calligraphy journey. There will be things you figure out that make you absolutely giddy — like finding your perfect nib (mine is the EF66)! There will be projects that you create along the way that you fall in love with, and projects that you’re not so impressed with. It’s important to remember that it’s all a process, and there’s no need to get frustrated if one stage seems to take longer than it should.
If you have any questions about learning calligraphy (or anything, really) please feel free to comment! It’s always a pleasure to hear from you. In the meantime, don’t forget to enter the latest TPK giveaway for a Modern Calligraphy Starter Kit — it’s the perfect beginner gift and a wonderful complement for Stage 3 of Learning Calligraphy!
Thanks very much for reading TPK, and have an amazing week!