The word calligraphy comes from two Greek words stuck together, kallos, meaning “beauty,” and graphein, meaning “to write” — literally “beautiful writing.” — www.vocabulary.com
I set myself a goal in January 2017 that I was finally going to learn calligraphy. I had tried many times before. I would find examples on Instagram and Pinterest and set out to recreate similar designs but they never looked right. My letters lacked consistency and the words didn’t flow, and I couldn’t figure out why.
I signed up for a challenge called “Show me your drills” by The Happy Ever Crafter. The workbook would teach the basics of calligraphy without drawing a single letter.
I realized the mistake I had made was skipping the basics. I didn’t understand the foundations of calligraphy. Like most things, you need to learn the basic techniques and rules before you can start breaking them. I had to forget about all my prior attempts and what I thought I knew.
What do I need to get started?
The first thing I needed to do was make sure I had all the tools to get started. Luckily, the workbook had a list of the best supplies and it turns out you don’t need a lot.
I set myself up with these tools:
There are hundreds of different types of pens and paper you can buy but you don’t need anything fancy when you’re starting out. It was also a good way to test if this was something I wanted to continue with, before spending a lot of money.
Practice, practice, and practice
The workbook walks you through all the basic strokes in calligraphy. These are essentially the building blocks. You need to understand what all the pieces are before you can start putting them together. You learn each stroke one by one and practice it to build up muscle memory. Repetition is a big part of learning, you can’t get good at something without practicing it over and over again.
Connecting the dots
A letter is like a piece of furniture, you need to connect the pieces in the right order before it works. The beauty of learning the stokes first is that you build up consistency. You always pull from the same set of pieces to create the letters so everything looks like it belongs.
Pulling it all together
The follow-on workbooks for letters and words teach you how to pull all the basic strokes together.
Below are eight different strokes that create two words.
These are all basic strokes that I needed to understand before getting to this point. Join them together and you will see:
This was a huge aha moment for me. It can be intimidating seeing the beautiful finished work other people make. But it’s easy to forget the hours of practice they put in before reaching that point. I learned that if you break things down far enough it becomes a much more attainable goal.
I spent the year working my way through all the workbooks. From strokes, letters, words, and then on to adding flourishing and bounce to my letters. To learn something new I needed to start from scratch, like a beginner with no prior knowledge. I’m still learning but I am happy with the progress I was able to make this year.
Beginners mind is a powerful thing. It opens up so many possibilities than if we already assume we know enough.