The Calligrapher's Life

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10 Dos and Dont’s for the Novice Calligrapher

You could read several books about calligraphy and never learn all the best and worst practices to follow. When it comes to lettering, it’s all about the experience. As we calligraphers prepare to work on a project, we don’t expect to make errors, but we’re only human.

Throughout our experience with lettering, mistakes come with the territory. We learn as we go along or we bend the ear of a colleague from time to time who might have struggled with a similar issue in the past.

While we address an envelope with pen and ink, it’s not uncommon to suddenly realize the ink type will cause problems and blur the work.  Or, we quickly begin a project without warming up first and discover our Copperplate “g” resembles the letter “j”.

As a novice, I’ve struggled with mistakes and nearly allowed the frustration to deter me from practicing calligraphy. With time, I grew to understand that both novices and veterans alike endure their fair share of countless errors during practice; it only makes us better calligraphers.

Although I’ve read a few books and gathered some important advice, nothing beats learning your mistakes from firsthand experience. So, I’ve compiled the following list based on my trial and error. Hopefully, it helps you limit mistakes and encourages better calligraphy practice.

Calligraphy Dos

  1. Sit properly in an ergonomic chair. – You’ll enjoy the experience much better if you’re able to practice without a sore back and neck. I highly recommend using a chair adjusted in height for maximum comfort.
  2. Use a slanted desk or table easel. – Sometimes it feels easier to write on a flat table surface, but in the long run, you’ll notice an unwanted discomfort from this position. If you plan to write less than ten minutes, it should be okay.
  3. Group similar supplies in an art box. – After lettering for a while, you’ll recognize the supplies you use more often. Add them in a container with individual dividers and close by for easy access.
  4. Take a small supply bag for extra practice. – Fill the bag with paper or a journal and one or two calligraphy markers or refillable ink pens to practice while waiting at the doctor office or auto service.
  5. Test your paper before starting a project. – Make sure your ink holds well on the paper before starting a project. It might be necessary to change paper or use paint instead.

Calligraphy Don’ts

  1. Don’t dry out your pen nibs. – Clean them regularly during and after practice to avoid clogging the nib. This ensures smooth writing for the next project.
  2. Don’t start without extra paper. – Keep a large quanitity on hand; you don’t want to panic if you make a mistake.
  3. Avoid last-minute or rush jobs. – Take your time to limit errors and create fabulous letters.
  4. Don’t push yourself too soon. – Think carefully before taking on a large project. If you don’t feel ready, practice smaller projects first.
  5. Don’t worry. – If your lettering doesn’t make you an overnight sensation, it’s okay. It takes numerous hours of practice to achieve flawless lettering and rank with the accomplished calligraphers.

Believe me, I’ve only touched the surface of the dos and don’ts, but the list offers a brief starting point. Lettering should be fun, not frustrating. Take my advice and enjoy.

Happy lettering!


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