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My Old Work - Reviewing, Reflecting & Recreating

Updated: Feb 14, 2022

One reason to love calligraphy is that you can visually see your progress. I highly recommend keeping your work as it's really rewarding (and insightful) to reflect back on your work to see how much you've grown.

In today's blog I'm analysing some of my previous work to highlight mistakes I realise I was making, looking back with more experience.


Reviewing (what happened):

The first piece of work is my VERY FIRST piece of work. I'd just received a dip pen set with 10 different nibs and I used some very thin computer paper to test them out on. I remember being surprised that I wasn't instantly great, I mean I had neat handwriting and it's the same right?? It's really not and I learnt this very quickly. The ink was bleeding into the paper and I didn't realise at the time that paper was the cause.

Dip pen calligraphy is hard
Before - Early work with a dip pen

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. Nibs can make or break your experience - I didn't realise at the time that the nibs and dip pen I was using were partly to blame for my frustration. It was only after coming back to pointed pen calligraphy after a long break from it that I decided to try out a different tool and it made the world of difference. I would recommend the Moblique pen holder and the Nikko G nib.

  2. Paper makes a difference! When I first started, I didn't realise that paper can make a real difference to the quality of your work. Because the paper I was using was porous the ink was feathering (i.e. spreading) when I created calligraphy on it. Now, you don't need the fanciest paper, but upgrading to just slightly better paper can make a difference, I personally like HP Premium Computer Paper.

Recreating (applying my learnings):

Dip pen calligraphy alphabet
After - Dip pen calligraphy


Onto the next pieces! I remember when I created these; I'd ordered some watercolour brush pens based on a friends recommendation but I was impatient waiting for them to arrive so I decided to practise with felt tips. As you can see, I didn't really know what I was doing...

first attempt at faux calligraphy
Before - "Brush pen"

first attempt at faux calligraphy
Before - Names

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. What faux calligraphy is - I didn't realise there was an official term for what I was attempting to create - faux calligraphy. This basically means "fake" calligraphy and it's when you create your writing at one consistent thickness and add in the thick downstrokes afterwards to achieve the calligraphy look.

  2. Not to add loops to C's - Adding a loop to a C makes it tricky to distinguish between lowercase L and E. Because of this, I no longer add loops to C's and I believe this has made my calligraphy more readable.

Recreating (applying my learnings):


The first experience I had with brush pens were watercolour brush pens with an extremely flexible tip. I thought they were standard brush pens and that my experience with them was the standard brush pen experience. I also kept hearing the term water based about other brush pens and thought that meant the same thing as watercolour... needless to say my experience with these pens wasn't so good.

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. Watercolour brush pens are advanced/niche brush pens - watercolour brush pens have an actual brush tip so the experience is similar to creating calligraphy with an actual paint brush. The brush tip is very flexible meaning which is challenging anyway, let alone for beginners!

  2. Watercolour IS NOT THE SAME as water-based - This was perhaps one of the most silly mistakes I've made! I thought that watercolour meant the same as waterbased so I didn't use any water when using them and just assumed that the pens were faulty/bad quality. Now however, I know that watercolour means you have to add water. I know it's common sense to most, but maybe there's someone else out there making the same mistake that I made.

Recreating (applying my learnings):

I've misplaced the original work but I've recreated it to showcase my experience. On the left is how these pens look without water and then on the right is with water.

watercolour calligraphy practice
Before and after


I loved the look of modern calligraphy and I realised that one of the reasons I was so drawn to it was the bouncy style. It felt fun and free as a style and I was excited to try it out.

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. Get the basics down first before moving onto style - Looking back at my old pieces made me realise that it was probably too early for me to be moving onto creating bounce calligraphy. There were certain fundamentals that I hadn't yet built, for example in my oval strokes I had a little gap in places because I was applying pressure in the wrong place. I also was stopping my strokes in the wrong place so I would have a thick line suddenly become a thin line and I wasn't thinking ahead. I didn't really know back then what the basic strokes were and why they were important but these examples showcase that you should learn them before proceeding.

  2. Larger brush pens are less forgiving - Whether you are new to calligraphy or a more experienced calligrapher, larger brush pens are trickier to control than smaller brush pens. I'd therefore recommend practising with smaller brush pens first and work up to the larger pens such as Tombow Dual Brush Pens.

  3. If you're adding bounce it needs to be consistent - In some of these examples, I was creating the word normally and then add a randomly long stroke. I now know that consistency is key and you need to add bounce consistently throughout. As I observed the bouncy calligraphy style, I also realised that the style was more than just literally bouncing your letters and having a long stroke here and there. I actually broke down keys to bounce lettering in one of my YouTube videos.

Recreating (applying my learnings):

Want to learn bounce calligraphy for yourself? I have a free 10 page bounce calligraphy guide. Pop your name and email below to receive your free copy.


I kept seeing watercolour backgrounds and attempted to make them myself on pieces of standard card. I used brush pens and attempted to blend them, adding some water in an attempt to create the watercolour background. As I blended, the card couldn't handle the amount of water and started to tear in places. I then created my calligraphy on top fairly quickly after which resulted in feathering.

watercolour background for calligraphy
Before - watercolour background

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. Use watercolour paper - It's designed for this purpose!

  2. Waiting until it fully dries before creating calligraphy on top - If you don't wait for the background to full dry your ink will feather.

Recreating (applying my learnings):


Shadows are a popular way to add some details to your calligraphy and they are something that implemented into my calligraphy early on.

Learnings since making this piece:

  1. The pen you use impacts consistency - certain pens are better for creating shadows than others. I've found brush pens to be better than fineliners for example as you have more control over them.

  2. Where to actually put the shadows - when I first started I placed my shadows both at the top and the bottom of the letters but have since learnt it should be one or the other. I now tend to always create shadows to the right and underneath the letters. Placing the shadows in the same place each time makes things easier.

  3. Keep letter formations simple - the more flourishes you add the trickier it is to add shadows. I recommend that you keep the letter formations simples.

Recreating (applying my learnings):

Despite creating shadows on calligraphy regularly, it's still challenging! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't and I have to admit I winced a little when I seen the wobbles and the gaps because the recreations are meant to be a big improvement, right? I didn't want to keep recreating though until I got it 100% right because that's not the reality. I've still made an improvement and I'll continue to practice.

calligraphy shadows
After - shadows


These are just a snippet of the mistakes I've made; I've made more mistakes than I can count and although frustrating at the time, I persisted in my learning until I eventually gained the experience to understand where I was going wrong.

Early on, I wasn't particularly active in the calligraphy community so I tried to battle through the struggles myself. Things are SO much easier now that I'm active in the community and other calligraphers have likely gone through the same experiences. If you would like to join the community, join my calligraphy Facebook group. Hope to see you join!


Get started with modern calligraphy with brush pens and my workbook collection. If you're in the early stages of learning modern calligraphy, you may also want to join one of my upcoming calligraphy workshops.

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