How do you practice?

I was talking with some fellow scribes and one asked, “How do you find more than 24 hours in the day?  How do you find the time to practice?  Your all so much better than I am and I have been doing this as long as some of you.”

It is a fair question and a good question.  We all have the same hours in a day after all.  Unless we are so fortunate to make our living as calligraphers or are financially independent, we have other pressing things to do with our time.

There are several things one can do.  For me, the single best thing is to get in 15 minutes of practice ever day.  After my very first calligraphy lesson, the instructor gave me this instruction.  More than 15 minutes in the beginning will likely cause fatigue and thus bad muscle memory.  Once doing 15 minutes is easy go ahead and add 5 more minutes.  Keep upping the time limit by 5 minutes to build up stamina.

But the key here is 15 minutes a day to develop and maintain that muscle memory.  Consistency in your pen strokes is an important key to having beautiful calligraphy.  Consistency comes from muscle memory.  Less than 15 minutes for most people won’t build the muscle memory.

Be an opportunist.  Carry you calligraphy materials with you.  Practice whenever you have time.  Lunch break, in the park, on a plane trip, on public transportation, when waiting for a meeting are all examples of opportunities one may be able to take advantage of.

Focus your practice.  It is very easy to spread your practice around and be scattered.  Focus.  For me I focus on the strokes.  Every practice I first do the strokes, the lines that make up the scripts.  This helps me with all of my scripts.  Then if I have time I focus on one script during practice for a week or two.  This focus helps me work on and overcome any issues I may have with any particular script.

Use pangrams.   These are sentences that use every letter in the alphabet.  The best well known is, “The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.”. You can find lists of pangrams by doing a google search.  My favotie site.

Pangram practice helps you practice not only the letters of the script, but also interletter spacing, and interword spacing.  Pangram practice is one of the most efficient and quick ways to do good calligraphy practices in my experience.

So that is how I squeeze practice in my busy schedule.

6 responses to “How do you practice?

  1. My practice occurs in preparation for an assignment/project. Often I’m trying to copy the hand from a specific period example. If so, I’ll duplicate a couple lines of the original to get a feel, then make a reference alphabet.

    Once I’m comfortable with the hand, I’ll pen a few lines of the text for the project to get a sense for how much space they are taking up. Then it’s back and forth between adjusting nib width, line height, etc. until I’m happy with the size and appearance and confident I can fit it in the space allocated for the final project.

    I setup a word processor document with the text, and adjust the margins and font based on this practice so that the computer text gives a rough approximation of how much space it will take up.

    By the time I’m done with all that, I’m usually ready to start on the finished piece.


  2. I don’t practice. Every time I sit down to paint or calligraph, it is because I have a scroll or other commission to complete. They are my “practice”, in that I do them regularly enough to keep my skills up. But I have always had a hard time with doing repetitive actions with no discernible output. So I just use every scroll I do as practice.

  3. Good advice, Ian. Also, if you’ve done calligraphy for over 35 years, practicing for at least one-half hour before starting a job loosens up the muscles and helps one to relax to perform at one’s best!

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