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Six Things You Need to Know When Getting Started on Calligraphy

By: Suzanne Gayle

I've been doing calligraphy for the past three years, and I can speak honestly when I say it's changed my life for the better. Through this craft, I have grown as an artist, strengthened my penmanship, and have gotten the chance to make people happier by creating for them personalized signs, gifts, and invitations. What started out as a small hobby for me has grown into a business where I can be myself and fully relax. Beginning calligraphy is not as tricky as you would think. It's actually very simple and rewarding, and I'm here to tell you what to keep in mind when getting started.

1. Don't go crazy on materials.

I started out on calligraphy using Crayola markers and Sharpies, and they really helped to get the job done. It's easy to get wrapped up into the pressure of having to buy expensive pens and brand name paper, but as a beginner, or even just in general, none of that is necessary. The broad tip of the Crayola markers makes it easy to get the thin upstrokes and thin down-strokes given by other calligraphy pens. It's all in the pressure you put on the pen, so take it slow and practice with what you have to get the hang of things before you spend money, and time, on materials you don't need.

2. Don't be afraid to explore the content of other artists.

This is exactly how I began doing calligraphy. I came across a video that another artist posted on her Instagram page, and from that, everything just sort of clicked. It's a super easy way to get started. Don't be afraid to do some social media research and see what works for you. From that, you can learn from other artists while continuously developing your own style.

3. Don't Compare Yourself to Other Artists

I know that I personally do this more than I should. It's hard sometimes, especially with social media, to not feel bad about your own work after seeing someone else's. But remember, every artist is different. Some are beginners, while some have been doing calligraphy for years. Some artists specialize in traditional copperplate calligraphy, while others have a more modern style. It's just whatever works for you. But it is important to remember that you are your own person, you have your own style that no one else can replicate. Keep doing YOU and focus on your own progress rather than someone else's, and the process will be so much more rewarding. 

4. Practice Makes Progress

I cannot reiterate enough how important it is to practice daily. Keep writing quotes. Keep doing drills. Keep doodling in the margins of your notebook. I promise you will see progress and you'll only keep improving to be the best artist you can be. You will never improve by wishing or writing once every few weeks, so take advantage of practicing every chance you get. You will see incredible results in such a short period of time, and I can assure you, you won't regret it. 

5. Your handwriting doesn't have to be perfect for you to be a calligraphy artist.

Whenever I encourage someone to give calligraphy a try, they typically reply to me with "But I don't have very good handwriting!" Just to let everyone know: YOUR NATURAL HANDWRITING IS NOT A DETERMINING FACTOR IN YOUR CALLIGRAPHY JOURNEY. Calligraphy is not penmanship! I know plenty of artists whose regular handwriting is loopy and quick, but their calligraphy is very neat and evenly spaced. Calligraphy is an art, and it is something you learn, so don't let your handwriting determine your own hidden talent! Push through those doubts and grow into the best artist you can be!

6. Calligraphy Takes Time and Patience

You aren't going to be perfect on your first try, and that's okay. Calligraphy is something that takes time and patience. I've been doing this for three years now and I'm still learning. There are some projects that take a little longer than others, some that make me frustrated with myself, some that are complicates and require extensive planning, having me work late into the night. It won't be easy all the time. There's always going to be a journey behind any finished product. Take a deep breath, and know you are capable of doing this. Be strong, but pace yourself and stay calm.

7. It's okay to put yourself out there!

Once you start getting the hang of things, get out there and make your name known. My mom teaches at an elementary school, so I offered to help with her other teachers' classrooms and bulletin boards. I sold little handmade signs to people at church, made Christmas ornaments for my cross country team, and personalized gifts and cards. A friend of mine reached out to me when her daughter was engaged, which is how I got started writing wedding invitations and addressing envelopes. Make yourself known to family, friends, and colleagues, and you'll be amazed at how fast your little hobby will turn into a small business. It's a great way to keep yourself fresh in terms of maintaining your style, not to mention you make a little money!

8. It Will Change Your Life

I can't imagine where I would be without this art form in my life. Not only has it helped me creatively, but it's an amazing stress reliever. I am forever focused on bettering myself as an artist, and calligraphy has helped me to do just that. I'm so glad I got started on it, and I know you will too!

I hope these tips have helped! Best of luck on your calligraphy journey, it's definitely worth the ride!

-Suzanne

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