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Article: Words of wisdom from my fellow calligraphers

Words of wisdom from my fellow calligraphers

Dear Readers,

You've heard me talk so much about my entrepreneurial journey in the pages of this blog. You've heard me harp on about my quest for continual learning and growth. As part of that quest, I've asked some of my fellow, inspirational calligraphers to share some advice.

You can tell by their work that each of these calligraphers has a sense of confidence in what they do. What fascinates me is how their practices and mindset have contributed to their level current of excellence. What can their habits teach us? What role does struggle play? I asked each one of them the same question:

'What has been the biggest challenge that you've had to overcome to get to where you are in your calligraphy/ lettering journey?'

I am honoured to have their words grace the pages of my site. Their nuggets of wisdom, which often come from years of experience, are presented to you today, below. I've linked their Instagram feeds for your further viewing pleasure and for you to follow their journeys.

Joyce Chiang (@joycechiang_)


"Self-confidence. This is my biggest challenge to date in my calligraphy journey and it is still something I have to constantly work on. When I got my first inquiry, I was very excited but nervous because I wasn't sure I had the skills to deliver what I envisioned my client wanted. My view on it is that you are never fully ready, and every job you get is a learning opportunity. If someone can come to you with an inquiry, it means that they have already seen the work you have put out and know what they are expecting, so as long as you can ensure that you will deliver the work to the best of your ability, then don't be afraid to take it on. Believe in yourself, because if you don't, that will reflect in your work and your communication and it will hinder you. Calligraphy is an ever-learning journey, and I believe everyone has something to offer. The calligraphy community is so vast and supportive, lean on it, learn from it and contribute to it. I have learned so much from both new and seasoned calligraphers by asking questions and doing market research. I learned to value my time, and my craft through each inquiry, and in turn my self-confidence grew with it."

Jen Ma (@itslikepudding)

"My biggest challenge is to get started, something I have to overcome on a regular basis.

Sometimes starting means getting out there to look for inspirations to break my creative rut. Sometimes I force myself to start sketching some of my ideas, even though I know they won't turn out exactly how I imagine them to be. Other times I hesitate to ink my sketches in fear of screwing them up. 

But once I get over that first big hurdle, I don't want to stop. Being inspired, seeing my ideas evolve and materialize, learning new skills through mistakes... it's all just so cool and reminds me why I love lettering!

And all it takes to get myself into the flow is to pick up a pen/brush/marker and start making some marks. 

Starting may be scary, but just remember that it only lasts one second! If you truly love it, your passion will make everything easier from that second on. And don't be shy to let the incredibly supportive lettering community help you gain the confidence and energy you need. You will be amazed by how far you go after taking that first step :)"

Jessie Wang (@_jwlettering)

"One of the biggest challenges I've had to overcome is commitment. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to learn calligraphy well and make it something of my own, so I decided to commit myself to a 100 day challenge. For 100 days straight, I would practice and post something of my calligraphy on Instagram every day, whether it looked amazing or not. This was a great way for me to visually keep track of my progress, and see how much I've improved over time.

Dedicating myself to practicing and building good habits from the very start has helped me achieve tremendous goals throughout my calligraphy journey so far, and I am so happy to have learned such a beautiful art form from which I can share with the people around me for years to come."

May (@minortismay)

"To me, the biggest challenge of all is persistence. We are all busy everyday and lettering/ calligraphy might just be a hobby. Turn this into passion; insist on what you do and do what you love, squeeze time to practice everyday, carry a pen/ paper with me on the go, lettering something even when I'm sick."

Charlotte (@charlartscript)

"My biggest challenge since starting this calligraphy journey, along with running it as a business has been finding the right balance between doing business and focusing on elevating my skills. One of my goals in calligraphy was to fully study the two traditional scripts Engrossers Script and Spencerian Script and maintain consistent practice. However, sometimes I just want to say yes to every enquiry because of the fear of missing any opportunities. While I do think it’s okay to provide a variety of services, I think it’s important to focus on finding my style and really strive to excel in that."

Shelly Kim (@lettersbyshells)

"This is honestly a tough question, but I love having the chance to reflect on my own lettering journey and seeing how I was able to learn from my past experiences. The biggest challenge for me is to remember that I need to focus on me and remind myself to have a good work & life balance. Basically, making sure I schedule my time efficiently when working on custom orders, emails, and collaborating with other wonderful creative artists and companies. I absolutely love working on custom orders, but I need to also make sure that I am reminding myself to do what I love which is lettering. I have learned overtime that my time is valuable, it means everything! So I try to also fill my time with a mixture of working on custom orders, emails, but most importantly experimenting with new mediums and cherishing the moment I have to create new things. Always remember, with everything you do, make sure to do what you love, but also have a good work + life balance."

Kristine Y (@travelling.calligrapher)

Travelling calligrapher
Travelling calligrapher
Travelling calligrapher

"The biggest challenge for me in my calligraphy journey and pretty much my whole life is that I constantly compare myself to others. While this can be a driving force to strive for improvement for a competitive person like me, it’s also super draining and causes unnecessary stress. 

It’s easy to feel like I’m not good enough seeing amazing work from so many talented calligraphers. To get rid of this, I reminded myself that I’m not being fair by comparing myself to the hundreds of great calligraphers around the world. There’s a reason why I follow them, and it’s because they are awesome and they inspire me. I gradually learnt to channel that stress into focusing on what I can learn from other great artists instead.

Second and the most important key to overcoming this is self awareness. Comparing yourself to someone limits how far you can go because all you are focusing on would be to outshine that person, while you may actually be running a different course. Imagine you’re training for marathon while someone else is practising sprinting for 100 meters. Know who you are, stay true to yourself and find your niche. Calligraphy can be expressed in so many ways and be applied in so many areas. Hence it is extremely important to figure out what you’re most naturally passionate about and to focus on those areas. For me it’s teaching, producing videos, applying calligraphy to different surfaces and writing at events. Most of these involve an element of performing and that’s what excites me. I have tried writing for a pre-wedding shoot and I struggled so much. Not because it’s difficult but becasue it’s not what my heart desires.

Note that I said naturally passionate about something because it can be easy to confuse what you want versus what you think you want. While we may be tempted to jump on what is currently popular on Instagram, producing work consistently that truly reflects who you are wins in the long run."

Karen J Salvador (@karenscribbles)

"With last night's thinking, I realized that the biggest hurdles, and there's two of them, in my calligraphy journey are committing to learning to do the actual calligraphy and second when to actually stop.

To be able to explain myself well and for you to understand me, let me lay down first how I got started with calligraphy.

People always ask me how I got started with it and I always tell them the story about my friend who inspired me to do what I do today. They had a coffee shop and she was writing the coffee menu on a black board with silver ink. She was writing it so beautifully that I asked her if she could write my name (I mean, like every other person who is fascinated by calligraphy, right?). She gladly obliged, wrote my name, and sent me a photo of the writing. Then on, I knew I had to learn calligraphy. I was stalking various IG calligrapher accounts for a year or so but I couldn't just find myself committing into learning it. It was difficult and I remember myself saying it several times to a friend. I think the reason I started it was that there was not much photography work during the winter. So last January 24, 2017, I woke up that winter morning, got ready and went out to buy the materials without knowing anything, what to buy, what nibs, inks, etc.

That day on (until now), I resolved to practice as much as I can, even staying up for hours till late because I couldn't perfect squaring off, because I was too engrossed in learning new stuff, and because the neighbors were quieter at night.

It was such a quick inflexion point from lacking commitment to how to stop myself from doing calligraphy all day (okay, I admit, and also all night). I'd say I've become so addicted to the refuge that calligraphy provided me that it's so hard to balance between other things. Up until now, I still am learning how to balance my calligraphy time with actually doing real life stuff like my photography editing jobs. Eeek! It's a hard time but I'm trying hard to overcome it.

Aye, remember guys! balance is so important! haha I'm working on mine slowly but surely. I will get there sooner than later. 💕"

1 comment

What a wonderful post! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to these artists and sharing their insights with us. It’s nice to hear that such successful calligraphers experienced the same doubts as those of us who are just learning.


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