As I am writing this post, I am a bit in disbelief. Last week I realized that I was coming up on the one year anniversary of the first post on my instagram feed. Now, as a little disclaimer, I had posted a few photos before this one, and they have been long since deleted because they were so shameful. But I did keep some of my early work on my feed as a reminder of where I began. In this post I will share some of my early Instagram images as well as some insight on what it takes to improve in your skills, be it in calligraphy, or anything else.
About one year ago, my husband and I relocated back to beautiful Northern Michigan. We had lived out of state for a few years, but were very happy to come back to Petoskey, a quaint town on a beautiful bay of Lake Michigan. With this fresh start, my ever supportive husband encouraged me to do something creative for work, and offered to support us for a year so that I could get some education, acquire a new skill and start a business. Well, I must say that a year ago, I didn't really think that it was possible. I started out thinking I would start a little Etsy shop, and did, and it was horrible. I really hadn't developed any skills yet, I didn't know how to market myself and basically, I had no direction. Then I discovered hand lettering and calligraphy.
The Early Days
Here is one of my very first attempts of pointed pen calligraphy. A friend had given me a calligraphy set and there were some ball point style pointed nibs. Very stiff, but different from anything I had tried before. This led me down the internet rabbit hole of calligraphy discovery. I read everything I could get my hands on. I subscribed to blogs, took online classes, and PRACTICED.
The above picture is one of my first attempts at hand lettering. When I look at images of my beginning work, it is both humbling and inspiring. I am hoping that by sharing this little glimpse with you, it can encourage you a bit too. Because EVERYONE has to start somewhere. No one is going to be a pro when they begin learning any new skill.
Talent Vs. Skill
The Talent Myth:
I am going to share something with you that I feel very strongly about. One comment that I often hear when I share my work with people outside of the hand lettering/calligraphy community is, "You are so talented, I could never do that." Well, quite honestly I don't believe that's true. Webster's dictionary defines talent as: a special ability that allows someone to do something well. Guess what guys? I am NOT talented. Saying that an artist is talented can imply that it must, somehow, be easier for them, that their skills just come naturally. And this idea can make people feel like they must not be able to achieve what others can. If someone becomes frustrated because learning a new skill is harder than they thought, they can easily think, 'well, I'm just not talented enough.' I feel like this is an over generalization that can discount the work that people put into their craft. Calligraphy did not come easily to me. I am left handed for one, and I struggled. I even tried to teach myself how to do calligraphy with my right hand. Not only was that an epic fail, but also extremely frustrating. I had so many hard days where I felt like I would never be at the place I wanted to be. And in all honesty, I still feel that way sometimes. This was also true with drawing. For years I loved drawing and painting... but was also really bad at it! It took intentional practice and critique to improve. And that is how it will always be, constant improvement and practice.
Webster's Dictionary defines a Skill as the ability to do something that comes from training, experience, and practice. Calligraphy, illustration and design are all skills. While it may be true that some people may need to work harder than others, to get better at anything will require training, experience and practice. To me this thought can be both inspiring and daunting. Yes, I believe that anyone can do calligraphy. I think that everyone should try! But, it does require work. It means you will have to schedule time to practice. It means you need to develop an eye for inconsistencies. It means you will need to learn from your mistakes. It means that you will need a little bit of grit to push through all of the bad work, to be able to make thing things that you can be proud of. BUT, it means that you can do it.
Coming Up Next:
In the next couple of blog articles I will be sharing some of the things that helped me to grow the most in my fist year of learning calligraphy, and starting a business. If you don't want to miss these tips, and insights please sign up for my news letter by filling out the little form below!