Calligraphy Tips: Warming up for Calligraphy

Before beginning any calligraphy session, I always take 15-20 minutes to properly warmup.  The concept of warming up for calligraphy is similar to warming up to play a sport.  If your body is not properly warmed up you will likely not perform as well or even hurt yourself.  Calligraphy is no different.  Warming up properly with drills and strokes gives your hands and arms the opportunity to get used to the motions of writing in calligraphy.  It also gives you a few moments of zen and prepares you mentally for your calligraphy practice.  During the warmup you also have the chance to test out your ink consistency as well as your nib and paper.   In this post, I will outline some of the different drills I use to warmup and show you my warmup page.  You will notice my strokes are skaky and not perfect.  That is the point of the warmup – to get over the shakiness so when you start working on a project your strokes are more confident!

I always start with dip pen drills.  The main intent for these drills is to increase my confidence in using the dip pen.  I find these exercises quite fun and meditative.  Take a look at the first half of my warmup page at the end of the post.  I start with drills where I work on my thin to thick transitions in various ways. The beauty of pointed pen calligraphy comes from the variation in strokes.  Working on the thin to thick transition with these drills has drastically improved the transitions in my letter.  After working on those for a while, I also like to do various S shape, oval shape, and circle shaped drills.  These are just another way for me to practice getting comfortable with the dip pen. 

Afterwards, I focus on basic strokes.  Each script, such as Spencerian, Copperplate, etc. has its own set of basic strokes that makes up the letters.   I continue my warmup by reviewing the basic strokes of the lower case and the upper case letters of the script style I am planning on writing.  You will also notice that on my warmup page I have a few check marks and x’s. I like to pause after each set of strokes to review my writing and look for improvement.  Sometimes I notice something I am struggling with such as staying on the slant line and I think about ways to improve.   

You can also use the warmup as a chance to work on something you are struggling with.  For example, if you find that your writing is inconsistent in the slant, you can work on drills where you draw various shapes and lines on the slant line.  Another idea can be to work on specific letters. For example, I have a lot of trouble writing the letter capital M.  I use my warmup time to practice the basic strokes that form the letter M several times so that I am not confident with the letter by the time I start working on an envelope. 

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I hope this post convinced you to give warming up a try before working on a calligraphy project.  I would love to hear how you like to warmup for calligraphy.  Tell me in the comments.