Modern Calligraphy - How to Get Started
Apart from figuring out what supplies I needed to purchase (check out my recommendations here, if you need a quick shopping list), the biggest hurdle I ran into when beginning to learn modern calligraphy was figuring out where in the world to start. Naturally, I wanted to immediately pick up my pen and begin jotting down words and phrases, but much to my surprise, even figuring out how to get the ink flowing from my nib proved to be a struggle.
It's a common myth that you need to have good handwriting, in order to be good at calligraphy. The truth is, calligraphy is very different than the type of writing we were all taught, back in grade school. This can be a sad reality for someone who has good handwriting and thought that picking up calligraphy would be a breeze, but it's a welcome surprise for those who didn't spend way too much of 8th grade trying to make their handwriting look less like chicken scratch. (not that I know of anyone crazy enough to do such a thing...)
In reality, no beginner has an upper hand - everyone has to start from the same square one. The good news is - anyone and everyone can learn! The only requirement needed is your commitment to 'sticking with it'. But, let's be real - sometimes commitment is hard. Especially if you feel like you aren't making any progress and you don't know how to start seeing improvements.
Trust me - I've been there too. That is, until I started using this trifecta as my 'lesson plan' for learning modern calligraphy. So, if you feel like you're shooting in the dark and wondering where the heck to start with modern calligraphy,
Check out these three tips for 'getting started'!
1. Start with Drills & The Happily Ever Crafter's Workbooks
If you haven't already been practicing drills, this piece of advice is going to be like finding a big shiny Easter egg, with a five dollar bill hidden inside. When I first started trying to learn calligraphy, I was doing a lot of copying. Essentially I was just replicating letters and words, in styles I liked. The problem with this is that I wasn't really learning anything. I could copy something, but I couldn't create anything from scratch because I didn't have any foundational knowledge.
It wasn't until I stumbled across Becca Courtice's Instagram account @thehappyevercrafter that things started falling into place. Becca has hands down been the most instrumental resource in my calligraphy journey, thus far. She stresses the importance of starting with drills and not moving onto writing letters until you have the basics down. And this was a game-changing philosophy for me.
Shortly after discovering @thehappilyevercrafter, Becca launched her first workbook called the Show Me Your Drills - Basics Challenge. This workbook quickly became my calligraphy bible and is the way I got into a habit of practicing on a daily basis. It's a four-week challenge that outlines which drills to practice each day and Becca provides tons of tips/tricks, along the way. I highly highly recommend downloading this free workbook, if you haven't already. (did you catch that word - FREE?!)
The big a-ha that Becca teases in the Show Me Your Drills Challenge is that all of these drills are basic strokes that ultimately make up the letters of the alphabet. *MINDBLOWN!* So while at first, it may seem like a waste of time to spend four weeks practicing 'silly drills' - what you are really doing is learning the foundation of how to create perfect letters. It's genius.
And as if that wasn't enough - Becca has now created Show Me Your Letters workbooks for both minuscule and majuscule letters, where she shows you exactly how all your drills come together to form letters. These books are so incredibly helpful guys. They aren't free, but they are under $20 USD and are worth so so much more. She's also launching a workbook on April 1st that will be focused on teaching you how to connect your letters.
Y'all, I can't say enough about these books. You need them in your life. And if you don't believe me, her results are proof enough - Becca has created such a large community of avid followers over the past few months from her workbooks that she was able to quit her day job and start doing calligraphy full time. Major #girlboss inspo.
2. Find Inspiration & Community on Instagram
Instagram is a wonderous place for creativity. Over the course of my calligraphy journey, Instagram has been not only a source of incredible inspiration, but also a source of encouragement and community. I am shocked every day at how supportive this community is.
My challenge to you is to head over to Instagram and start searching some calligraphy hashtags. (A few that I follow are #moderncalligraphy, #handlettering, #modernscript, #organiccalligraphy & #weddingcalligrapher) Scroll through all of the gorgeous photos and find some styles that strike your interest. Then follow those fabulous people and engage with them! Drop a comment, give their picture a double tap, check out their Instagram Stories - you'll be amazed at how many people are eager to connect with fellow calligraphers - or in my case, aspiring calligraphers.
I have found quite a few people on Instagram, who I now consider to be some of my biggest supporters, even though we've never met. It's one of the more beautiful happenings of social media. :)
And of course, use the work you find and love as inspiration. Let it push you outside your comfort zone and don't be scared to try something new. This can also help you start to identify your own calligraphy style.
3. Practice, practice, practice!
Remember when I said that no beginner has an upper hand - well this part is definitely true. But, want to know how you CAN get an upper hand? Practice, practice, practice!! All those calligraphers you drool over on Instagram didn't get there overnight. There was no calligraphy fairy that dusted them in magic fairy dust to make their lettering perfect (although, that would be kind of amazing if this was a thing). No, these artists practiced relentlessly and pushed themselves to keep going, even when they felt like progress didn't come easy.
The only way you'll ever become more confident and more skilled at your lettering is by putting in the time and effort to engrain your drills and letters to muscle memory. And remember - #progressoverperfection! I have a bad habit of being my toughest critic, but when it comes to lettering, it's important to celebrate your progress rather than judging yourself for perfection. Keep your practice sheets and compare them to each other week over week. You will be absolutely shocked at how far you come, in just a few short weeks. And when you notice that progress, do that victory dance! You'll deserve it!