Updated: Dec 2, 2019
I'm sure we all know the feeling: you block out some time to practice your calligraphy, grab your supplies, sit down and excitedly open to a blank page of paper.....and then stop. Now what? Where do you even begin when your practicing??
If you've ever experienced this frustration, I'm here to help! Here are some tips that I find helpful for overcoming that "where do I start?" feeling:
1.) Take time to set up your workspace.
Get your supplies out and organized, turn on some music, move that light so your workspace is bright....anything you need to do to make your space feel inviting and cheerful! Not only will this help ease you into the mindset to start practicing, but it'll also make your time feel better, and might encourage you to practice again tomorrow!
2.) Start by warming up your hand
Just like runners need to stretch before a race, or world-champion hot dog eaters need to fast before a competition (ok, I don't know if that one's true, but it makes sense to me haha!), we calligraphers need to warm up those muscles in our hands before we start trying to make beautiful letters!
Basic strokes and easy mark-making are the best warmups you can do. Go back to the fundamental strokes of calligraphy: upstrokes, downstrokes, ovals, half-ovals, etc. and work those until you feel warmed up and your marks start looking more consistent and less shaky.
3.) Set a timer
We all have busy schedules, and sadly our typical practice session needs to end at a certain time so we can continue with something else. If this is the case, the best thing you can do for yourself is to set a timer before you start practicing!
Setting a timer relieves your mind of worrying you're going to practice too long, or miss an important appointment later today. It allows you to focus fully on what you're doing, and really enjoy the time you spend practicing.
4.) Always use guidelines (for practice)
There are a few different schools of thought on this, but I'm a firm believer in guidelines! Practicing is when we form good habits and muscle memory...so take the time to set yourself up for success by giving your eyes and hands all the help they can get! Use base lines and waist lines, ascender and descender lines, and even angled lines if your script is slanted. There's no shame in using guidelines to keep your lettering consistent and even!
5.) Keep your workbook (or exemplar) handy!
Similar to #4, we want to use our practice time to build good habits. Our memories can be unreliable unless we're really familiar with something already, so don't let it fool you into practicing incorrect letterforms, or bad habits! Better to have an exemplar handy to reference if you're having trouble with a letter.
6.) As you become more comfortable and confident with the script, pick a book off your shelf and letter a random paragraph.
Blocks of text are the BEST way to practice a script you're familiar with! Lettering actual paragraphs allows us to practice things like word and letter spacing, actual sentences (with capitals and lower case, plus punctuation), various letter combinations, etc. Personally, I letter my way through the Harry Potter books for practice! (is anyone surprised by that?)
These are just a few tips for help in pushing past that "where do I start??" feeling, and I hope they work as well for you as they do for me! Do you have any other tricks for getting started with your practice? If so, share them below, I'd love to hear from you!