It’s Not as Easy as It Looks


When I saw the drill sheets for week one, I almost laughed. Easy peasy, I thought. In fact, I was wondering if I was going to be bored with this whole learning calligraphy thing.

And then I started. Who knew? First of all, it took weeks of detective skills to track down the special pens I could choose: big brush, small brush, hard tip, soft tip, pointed pen, nib holders… and the list goes on and on. Even Amazon seems to have to look to Japan for some of the pens. The ones I ordered on February 3 have still not made it here yet. And that’s just the pens.

I’ve also been visiting paper supply stores and “petting” all of their stock feeling for just the right smoothness. Most of the papers we use all the time are quite abrasive and can apparently wreak havoc on pen nibs and tips. Rhodia has  a paper that is very smooth, a high grade vellum. Pens just seem to want to write on this surface.

The drills started this past Monday and were accompanied by a video. How hard can this be? A simple upstroke and downstroke and a combination stroke. It turns out, it can be very hard! There’s slant and pressure and holding the pen in the right way to get those nice thin and thick lines. Just to demonstrate, I am showing you some of my first results.  Yes, those ARE “drunken cobras” you are seeing where a downstroke should be.


Now that I’ve been humbled, I can see I have work to do. Apparently people can become quite tense while practicing and some people have suggested a glass of wine and relaxing music. I can do that. My teacher has suggested yogic breathing as being helpful too in getting the right speed and rhythm. Inbreath up, outbreath down. You laugh, but this is probably the most helpful piece of advice I’ve received so far. It seems we all go way too fast, especially in the beginning. Isn’t it amazing that in calligraphy, as in most things in life, the secrets to success  are the same:

  • Relax
  • Breathe deeply
  • Exercise

If anyone else is interested in learning calligraphy, I have included the link here to the online course I’m following.


2 thoughts on “It’s Not as Easy as It Looks

  1. When I took art therapy at Bishop’s, our teacher had us warm up with big sheets of paper where we’d use the whole arm, even the whole body to make marks, breathing, relaxing, expressing feelings…a really remarkable way of loosening up and getting into the flow. It was wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like the idea of doing large movements before beginning the concentrated smaller strokes. Do you still practice calligraphy? I remember some of your lettering. It was beautiful.


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