Where I Started With Calligraphy
My handwriting has changed so much throughout my life, I remember learning how to write in cursive during primary school which was a skill I completely lost during high school as I had to adapt to taking notes as fast as possible – to say the least, my hand writing turned into chicken scratch! Until my last year of school in arts class, we were no longer allowed to write in our own “handwriting” (you can imagine how I panicked) I had to change and learn other styles of writing within a couple of weeks!
During my last year of school I completely winged it and I had no real guidance into the strange world of hand lettering, calligraphy and cursive writing. I came to a point where I could skate by, by modifying my own handwriting which was still nowhere near all the beautiful flourishes I saw on the internet. After school, I was sick and tired of everything school-related so I never really continued practicing fancy lettering – until about a year ago.
Now, before I dive into the how to’s and what not’s, lets’ get a clear picture of what calligraphy is.
What is Calligraphy
In a simple explanation, calligraphy is translated into meaning “beautiful writing”. But calligraphy is very different from cursive writing and lettering, so what is the diffs?
Calligraphy: is the art of writing and giving very specific attention and detail to every part of each letter. Calligraphy is done slowly, usually with very specific tools such as nibs and ink, and is marked by variation in the upstrokes and downstrokes of each letter. A lot of thought and time goes into calligraphy and in my opinion is the hardest to learn.
Lettering: is the art of drawing letters where each letter is a mini illustration or artwork. Rather than writing in one continuous stroke, like cursive writing, each letter has individual attention. These letters can be plain or very decorative.
Cursive: is a style of writing where all the letters in a word are connected, and the word is written without lifting the pen from the paper.
Faux-calligraphy: the word faux means imitation. Faux-calligraphy is an imitation of calligraphy. It is a technique, using cursive writing, where downward strokes are duplicated so that they look thicker than the upward strokes, creating a “fake” calligraphy.
Now that you are familiar with the ‘technical’ terms, lets dive into why your are really here!
1. Start At The Very Beginning
I know this is something EVERYBODY says, but it’s true. When I first made my spur-of-the-moment decision to learn calligraphy, I raced to the nearest stationery outlet and spent 100’s on fountain pens, inks, paper, you name it! This was my biggest mistake because not only did I waste a lot of money, I also caused myself lots of frustration – my first time using an Oblique Calligraphy pen was a disaster, the ink went everywhere, I had no technique and long story short, those expensive tools ended up in the back of a stationery storage bin. So how do you start at the beginning in the right way?
Start Simple: This is one of the first pieces of advice I give anyone starting a new hobby. Don’t go buying advanced tools, you most probably already have stationery that you can use! Start with a simple pen or pencil and paper (yes, that is all you need)
Practice Simpler Styles: By starting with writing styles that are “easier” you might be saving yourself a lot of frustration. I suggest learning Faux Calligraphy and Cursive writing to get yourself started (especially if you are a total newbie)
Study: Yes, you can go buy books on calligraphy, but when I say study, I mean the letters! There are several elements that make up a letter – upstrokes, downstrokes etc. Knowing these elements will give you the technique to really master your writing.
Practice Drills: Calligraphy drills are a MUST! These simple drills will help you build a foundation you need for calligraphy, it will also help practice wrist movement and exercise your brain! Where can you get a calligraphy drill sheet you ask? Right here! on our Freebees page, go and grab your free practice sheet
Be Patient: Remember when you were 5 years old and learned how to write? You didn’t pick up a pen and wrote a novel right? No. The same goes for calligraphy, it is a completely new skill and it will take a lot of practice, mistakes and learning – so please be patient with yourself!
2. Get Familiar With The Tools
Like I said, you don’t need a whole calligraphy set to get started, a simple pen and paper will do, BUT, as you start getting more advanced, you need to start getting familiar with the right tools because they are not all made equal.
One you have the basics down, you might want to start dabbling with other tools, however all pen holders, fountain pens, brush pens, nibs and inks are not the same – each serve a different purpose. It’s very important that you research tools and get familiar with their purpose.
3. Practice Makes Perfect
This is probably the best piece of advice that I can give. All the brush pens and calligraphy guides in the world won’t help you get better without practice. Don’t make the same mistakes I did! For a very long time I thought that every pen I saw advertised was going to be my big talent break – the secret sauce is not in the pen, its in you (I know its cheesy!)
Oh, and another thing, stop comparing yourself to others. Chances are, that calligraphy account you follow on instagram, that person has had years of practice! I also believe in individual style, you might want to copy a specific look, but chances are, you never will – and that is not a bad thing! Much like handwriting or a signature, each person’s is unique!
Give yourself some grace, I can’t even remember how many times I threw my pens down and vowed that it was my last calligraphy attempt! I was never serious. I have been busy learning calligraphy for 2 years give or take (not counting times I started and stopped for long periods of time) and I still plan with a pencil, use guidelines, throw away 5 attempts before I got it right!
4. Diving In
By now you are probably all fired up and ready to get going. Well, that is my fourth piece of advice – stop scrolling other instagram calligraphy accounts and start practicing to start you own!
A key point in everything I teach, is to get started. Your learning process will not be the same as mine, but hopefully with these tips you can start on your goal to learn calligraphy.
PS: If you feel you want to dive a bit deeper into this take a look at our journaling club, where I have done a 4 part video tutorial on writing (including calligraphy). The club also offers many other video tutorials on creating spreads and journal art!