The Calligrapher's Life

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Paper Planning

Today, computers help limit the need for paper, so we avoid waste while cutting costs. It’s also the best solution for saving our environment, but I’m an avid paper lover and living life without it would be unfathomable. My fascination with paper started as a child because it delights the senses and offers tons of inspiration.  From decorative greeting cards to adorable stationery, the artist in me lights up with dozens of possibilities swirling in my head.

So, it’s not surprising I became fascinated with calligraphy. 

In the early practice phase, I grabbed inexpensive copy paper to test my new-found skills. What a disaster! Ink bled throughout the paper, and you couldn’t read any lettering. On top of that, the nib and runny ink easily ripped the paper with every stroke.  Of course, frustration set in and I almost thought my chances for creating beautiful lettering were over until I purchased calligraphy practice paper.

Calligraphy practice paper resembles a graph paper with slant lines and it’s sturdy enough to handle most inks while avoiding unnecessary bleeding and smearing. After purchasing the paper, I gained more confidence in my lettering skills and used it religiously. 

During my novice period, I had no clue why someone would choose one paper over another except for obvious color or texture differences. So, I continued to buy the “official” calligraphy practice paper until I discovered the best types of paper to use for my lettering projects. Oh, what a big difference it made! 

I’ve learned valuable information from classmates and instructors, which might have taken me months or years to learn on my own.

Calligraphy is no different from any art form that uses paper. Certain papers help enhance an artist’s work without ruining the paper or the overall piece. Depending on the project, artists generally work with a heavier standard bond paper (for practice) and they use stronger papers with weights up to 100 lb. or more for specialty pieces.

The stronger papers hold light grade inks much better than standard bond papers because they contain a greater pulp content, which makes them less susceptible to bleeding and smearing. If an artist must work with a lightweight paper, it’s better to use inks with heavy carbon content, such as Sumi ink. Acrylics and watercolors also hold well for standard bond papers.

Earlier this year, I discovered a fantastic method to save paper and time in the future. Before working with your favorite papers, turn them into reference pieces.

First, choose your entire medium, like watercolor, paint, inks and markers. Next, cut out a piece of paper large enough to include a description of each medium. For example, write out the name of each substance directly onto the paper. You’ll receive an instant example of how the paper responds to the marker, ink or paint. It might seem time-consuming at first, but you’ll reap the benefits when you’re ready to start your next calligraphic project.

 Have you ever endured problems using the wrong paper for your art project?

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