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Can calligraphy be self-taught?

Updated: Apr 12, 2022

Introduction

Wondering whether you can teach yourself calligraphy?


The short answer is yes, but read on if you want to learn the benefits and challenges of doing so, as well as how to teach yourself.


What does self-taught mean?

Self-taught means that you've not recieved formal training. In relation to calligraphy, formal training means attending a calligraphy class or course. Whereas those that self-teach themselves will often pull together information from different places.


It's possible, but not easy

You can definitely learn calligraphy by yourself - I speak from experience. I learnt from calligraphy books and watching YouTube videos.


I would say it took around 9 months for my calligraphy to become consistent. Those that receive formal training or know how to properly learn by themselves will learn in a much quicker time frame than I did (closer to 2 months than 9).


One limitation of teaching yourself is that you may piece together information haphazardly rather than learning in a systematic way which will slow down your progress. An example of this is watching random YouTube videos about calligraphy; they may be helpful but might not match your current skill level if you need to learn the basics first.


Another limitation is that you may not appreciate advice given because you don't understand the why. For example, when I taught myself calligraphy I kept hearing the same piece of information - "learn the basic strokes" - but no-one was really explaining the reasoning behind doing so, so I skipped this step. This led to my calligraphy being inconsistent and my progress being slower.


Following on from this point, if you attended a workshop, it can take 30 seconds or less for the teacher to correct an error that could slow your progress. When you learn by yourself you don't have this perspective and could be making simple mistakes that could cause you to become frustrated.


I wasn't aware that calligraphy classes were a thing back when I first started to learn. Looking back I wish I'd have known as it would have significantly sped up my progress.


Basically, you can teach yourself calligraphy but progress will be slower than if you learn in a structured way.


Benefits of teaching yourself

There are some benefits of teaching yourself though. The first is that it can be more convenient. You can learn in your own time whereas workshops require you to show up at a set time in a set place which may not be convenient, particularly if they're based in person and not being run locally.


Another benefit is that it's potentially less expensive. For example, my workshops are £45 whereas if you taught yourself, you only need to invest in a brush pen (around £3-4). It's not always that cleancut though as you may be tempted to purchase additional supplies which may end up costing more than a workshop.


Finally, making mistakes gives you an extra appreciation of why things are done in a certain way and you make more mistakes when teaching yourself.


How to teach yourself calligraphy:

1. Read my post on how to get started following the steps

2. Get the modern calligraphy workbook which covers how to hold your brush pen, basic strokes, the alphabet, connecting letters and practice words. This is the workbook used at my workshops and covers everything that you need to get started.


Conclusion

Yes it's possible to teach yourself which is helpful if you're on a budget but I'd recommend joining a local class if possible. If you want to teach yourself read this blog and buy this workbook.


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Wondering how to get started with modern calligraphy? Download the free guide by popping your name and email address below.


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