Becoming a Calligrapher

My First Class

When I started, I didn’t know “becoming a calligrapher” was an option. I fell hard for broad edge calligraphy as a child. My first class was over a school break in 5th grade. I got a scholarship for the course my teacher, Theresa Randolph, was offering. We used Elegant Writer felt tip markers to write Italic script and what we called “Old English”. I got to keep the markers and I was hooked. I loved the way the strokes fit together and I could just write and write. 25 years later, I still love those elements of calligraphy.

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+ Threshold Calligraphy in Uncial Script

Threshold Calligraphy for Yoga Oasis

Darren Rhodes, owner of Yoga Oasis and founder of yogaHour, asked me to paint calligraphy in the teacher training here in Tucson. Yoga Oasis was making improvements throughout the space, adding artwork and structural interest to different areas. He took some time to think over what he wanted the mural to read and settled on the same inscription carved into the entryway of the main studio room:

“Friend, our closeness is this: anywhere you put your foot, feel me in the firmness under you.”

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Handmade Collage Book

Ali Manning taught us how to make this handmade Collage Book in a Zoom workshop. She sells her books and teaches through her website, Vintage Page Designs. I’m a member of her Handmade Book Club. She gave the workshop up in several segments throughout the day with ample breaks in between. Ali used Zoom features to make it similar to an in-person workshop experience. A note about the timeline of this workshop . . . She’s in Massachusetts and I’m in Arizona, so we, “we”, were starting at 5:45am my time. I got out of bed around 7 my time, (I think?) and tuned in to the current meeting.. All I brought to the computer was my coffee and the theme I chose for my book: Dream.

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“With the Heart” Calligraphy Birthday Gift

Ed, my client, called me and asked if I could letter an excerpt as a calligraphy birthday gift for his new girlfriend. I smiled and said, “I do that all the time.” The excerpt is from a book titled The Little Prince. It reads, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”. We discussed different sizes for the piece and other decor of the home. After consulting with a conspirator, he gave me the green light to get started on this sweet and thoughtful gift.

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Floral Versal Letters

I drew these versal letters to spell out the phrase, “Be the reason someone smiles today” and added the floral illustrations in watercolor. These are one of my favorite types of letters to create because there’s so much room for variation and decoration.


Eloise Birth Page

Eloise is the first daughter of a friend of mine — they call her Lou for short! I asked my friend for the details of her birth — the date, time and her measurements. I included her birthstone and a couple of her astrological placements in the border surrounding her name. The flowers are snowdrops, flower of the month for January. I used Arches watercolor paper for this piece. I really enjoyed the opportunity to practice with decorative capitals and illustration.


Pay Attention to These 4 Things for Better Calligraphy

Over the years, I’ve developed an understanding of what makes skillful calligraphy sooo appealing. I mean, there’s so much to love — paper, color, texture, fluidity and confidence of lines — but what truly elevates calligraphic work is invisible: it’s the negative space. When I say “negative space”, I mean the shapes inside the letters, the spaces between the words and letters, and the space around words and sentences. The mind is truly satisfied when these things are in order and it can relax, allowing the gravity of the work to sink more deeply into the viewer. Sounds a little like magic. And come to think of it, the space isn’t nothingness. It’s deliberate. The lines and motions made by the penman carve out those beautiful shapes from the blank page. As if they were already there before the lines were.

It comes down to consistency and for that, practice is required.

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On Studentship

Numbers for my website have jumped, people being home or online as a result of self-quarantine measures. Firstly, thank you for participating in physical distancing. It’s one of the many ways we can work together as a community to stay the damage of this virus and its effects.

With that, I’m seeing tons of creative learning opportunities spring up online and for the first time, people have the time to dive into something that’s maybe been on their list for a while. Calligraphy is so popular right now and it can be difficult to find a “way in”. Calligraphy is also a little deceptive because often times we just see a hand, writing. There is sooo much more to calligraphy than that. The first comparison that comes to mind is stock car racing to driving a regular car. They look the same, but one is way more nuanced and focused than the other. Calligraphy isn’t a life or death situation, but at times there’s a lot more at stake than say, penning a letter to a friend. In the following sections I’ll offer the things that have worked for me the best in my own studentship of yoga and calligraphy over the past 20 years and counting.

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Expanding My Style with Bent Nibs

When I learn something new from a calligraphy teacher, I am reminded of how magical calligraphy can appear to be. As someone who practices and teaches calligraphy, I can get caught up in the aspects of difficulty and perserverance that accompany the writing. But there’s nothing like watching someone who has honed their skills at something deftly demonstrate for you.

To be in a classroom setting is similarly enjoyable to me — to be in a room with people who have differently nuanced knowledge around calligraphic hands, tools, and materials can offer lessons in and of itself. Of course, I know that this is not unique to calligraphy.

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My Calligraphy Studio Edit (Confessions)

I often write for the web with an audience in mind. Maybe this one can be me writing for myself like I normally do, and you can be a witness, as you normally are.

Toward the end of 2019, I felt like I was crawling out from under a rock. A few months after my big dog passed, and just after my 35th birthday in October, I started giving the living and dining areas of my home a facelift. I may go into detail about that on a different blog, but a friend helped me remove the popcorn ceiling that was original to the house, built around the time I was born. I painted the ceiling and walls and replaced the trashed carpeting with interlocking vinyl planks. This was a satisfying project and this is now the part of the post that I address the title.

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+ Calligraphy Seating Chart on a large mirror for spring Tucson wedding

How I Wrote in Calligraphy on a Large Mirror

Rackel Gehlsen, a wedding planner in Tucson, contacted me about this exciting project — a seating chart on a huge mirror.  She said it was so big, it could only be transported by truck to the venue. I collected a deposit from the bride, Samantha, and did a little research on the best way to execute this project. I learned that china markers, or wax pencils, mark on smooth and ceramic surfaces, but can be wiped away easily, which was the most important part of the planning of this piece.

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What I Wish I’d Known When Starting Calligraphy

There are some things I learned from experience and from preference, and there are some things that deterred me from even wanting to sit down to write. I wrote this to share what I wish I’d known to support your comfort and success in your calligraphy practice.

In this post, I touch on:

  • Posture
  • Loosening up the Pen Grip
  • Taking Breaks
  • Study and Practice
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