I’m sure when you read the title of this article, you already know the answer to the question: practice. Yes, you are correct! If you ask any calligraphy artist or lettering professional that question, you will surely get the same answer: practice. Everyone talks about how important practice is, but rarely shows how to practice effectively.
I assure you, this is not another article that talks about the importance of practice, but shows you how you can effectively practice brush calligraphy that guarantees results!
Check it out –
Practice is a process of repetition. We practice by repeating the letters or brush strokes over and over again to gain familiarity of the brush pen and to develop control of it. Well, that’s not wrong. In fact, that is the definition of practice. But it lacks one key component: critique.
Critiquing your work after each repetition is crucial to improving your brush calligraphy skills. You need to always analyze your work by asking yourself questions like, “Is there anything wrong with that?” or “How can I do better on my next try?” By asking yourself these questions, you are purposefully looking for ways to improve your work, and at the same time, training your eye to detect those tiny important details that make a huge difference (which is another important skill every professional develops over time and practice).
Two ways to critique –
Let someone else critique your work
You may be thinking, “But I have no idea how to critique my own work!” If this is how you feel, you can ask someone to do it for you. But don’t just ask anyone, or you might not get a helpful feedback to work on. Reach out to someone whose work you admire or one of your “calligraphy-friends” and ask that person if he or she can spare a few minutes to help you improve by critiquing your work.
I’ll be honest, hearing critiques of work can be painful to hear, but it does open your eyes to the changes you need to make to become better. Even seasoned calligraphy artists can benefit from this because there are some “improvements” that our biased eyes do not see on our own.
Critique your own work
If you can’t find someone or if you don’t feel like bothering others to give your work a critique, you can always do it yourself. I have designed a printable practice sheet you can use as a guide. You can get this step-by-step guide on how to improve you lettering guide sheet here: https://ruehigh.com/products/pdf-7-steps-to-improve-your-brush-calligraphy-by-nico-ng
But if you don’t feel like printing the practice sheets, I have prepared a checklist you can refer to. These are the tips I always give to my workshop participants or to anyone who sends me a message for advice.
Here’s the list –
1. Check for Consistency
Consistency is a huge factor that determines one’s level of expertise in this skill. Seasoned calligraphy artists have developed the skill of keeping everything consistent through years of practice – and with the use of guide lines.
Consistency of letter angles
Choose an angle you want to write your letters in, and make sure all of your letters follow that angle. You can draw diagonal guide lines to help you keep them all in one angle.
Consistency of brush thickness
With brush pens, we are able to draw a range of stroke thickness, but make sure to keep the same thickness for all downward strokes and the same thinness for all upwards strokes.
Consistency of letter widths
You know there’s something wrong when one of your letter ‘e’ is wider or narrower than another letter ‘e’. Make sure to keep letters with the same widths consistent – letters like a, c, e, n, o, and u should have more or less the same width.
Consistency of letter spacing (kerning)
Letters within a word should be evenly spaced, otherwise, it will be difficult to read your lettering.
Consistency of letter appearance
I don’t need to tell you that it doesn’t look good when you type a word in one font and change some random letters to a different font. Make sure the letter styles are uniform – letters ‘g’ and ‘j’ normally have identical descenders and letters ‘l’ and ‘b’ normally have similar ascenders.
Consistency of letter heights and alignment
Unless you are doing something extra to your letters, they should all be aligned at the baseline and have uniform heights. Drawing your guide lines are very helpful (e.g. cap-height, x-height, baseline, and descender line).
2. Pay Attention to the Details
A quality work is judged by its details, and a seasoned calligraphy artist sees the tiny details beginners often overlook. You can actually tell whether a work was done by a beginner or an experienced artist by looking at the details. Being able to spot and correct those tiny details will elevate your lettering work above the rest, and it is a skill you will eventually develop through practice and studying other quality work. Now, what are the details you need to look for?
Here they are –
Never pause in the middle of a line or curve (even if you do not release the brush tip). If you pause in the middle of a line/curve, it is extremely difficult to continue that same line/curve without creating a break in the middle. Even if you don’t lift your pen, when you pause, ink will scatter at the point where you paused. Make continuous strokes to avoid disjointed curves.
If you are going for a wavy style, stick to it, and if you are going for a stiff style, stick to it. Don’t combine the two in one stroke.
I know, that is one long checklist. But don’t worry, you don’t have to work on everything in one day. Work on them one at a time. Remember, patience and persistence is the key to effective practice.
I would love to see the progression of your work. Share your work/progress on your social media and tag me (@nic_the_). I will share my favorites in my stories!
If you have any questions, feel free to comment down below or drop me a message or check my social media pages:
I strongly recommend my favorite brush lettering materials (click on the image to get one on Amazon):
|Tombow Fudenosuke Brush Pen, 2-Pack. Soft and Hard Tip||Tombow Dual Brush Pen, Galaxy, 10-Pack||5-inch Composition Ruler by Nico Ng|