In a previous post, I discussed how having a hobby can be a great outlet to help reduce stress. While I was looking for a new job, I decided to pick up a hobby that I had always wanted to do but didn’t have the time to focus on: calligraphy.
Originally, I wanted to take an in person calligraphy class in Toronto. I found sites such as the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto and Calligraphy by Diane that had offered courses in the past or only taught traditional calligraphy. However, neither provided the style of calligraphy that I was hoping to learn at a time/price that I could afford.
The closest business that offered a comprehensive modern copperplate calligraphy course in Toronto was the Shop. For $130, anyone can sign up for a two-day course (3 hours each day) to learn the basics of calligraphy. However, I had to wait a few months before the next class was available and I was too eager to wait.
I searched online and there were a variety of free lessons online such as those offered on Julie Blanner’s website. However, I found that there wasn’t enough detail for me to understand what I needed to do to master calligraphy techniques. It’s a great introduction to calligraphy overall though.
After a bit more research, I came upon Melissa Esplin’s site, I Still Love Calligraphy. On this site, she offers a 30 day online program with instructional videos, lessons, assignments, practice guides and personal feedback to help take your basic ABC’s to fully decorated words. I went from this:
If you order the supplies from them, they will give you additional time as you wait for your supplies to come. Shipping to Toronto is unfortunately slow so it took me almost two weeks to get the supplies. In the mean time, I was able to start watching the videos, reading the lessons and practicing on my own.
I liked the selection of products that were provided by I Still Love Calligraphy. However, if you want, you can buy your supplies from Paper and Ink Arts (the go to supplier in the industry) at the same time that you are purchasing the online course. From my experience, the products from Paper and Ink Arts will likely arrive at the same time or before your package from I Still Love Calligraphy would.
I was super eager and went to Above Ground Art Supplies and Curry’s in Toronto to pick up some of the basic supplies such as nibs, ink and an oblique pen holder. Both companies offer a variety of products overall, however, have a limited selection of calligraphy supplies. This is perfect for beginners, however, those looking for more variety should stick with Paper and Ink Arts. A great find at Above Ground Art Supplies was a pad of lined paper specifically made for calligraphy practice so you don’t have to draw them in.
In the past, I’ve taken a variety of online courses and I’ve generally been disappointed by the quality of courses and lack of feedback provided. Melissa’s lessons are concise with tons of clear and useful pictures that help you to understand the content. Her lessons have enough detail that you understand what you need to do and most of your questions are answered in the content. There are also supporting instructional videos where you can repeatedly watch her technique. Unlike in a classroom setting, you can watch the instructor a few times, you can continue to watch the lesson until you get a grasp of the technique. I found the videos to be particularly valuable as it gave me an opportunity to compare minor details such as how I was holding the pen to how much pressure I was putting on the nib.
After 30 days, you no longer have access to the course work. However, you will still have access to the feedback that Melissa and her associate Erika have provided you in the past. Alternatively, you can purchase the course again and have the class extended for an additional 30 days.
Personally, I enjoy this online class because you can take the lessons whenever you want. You don’t have to wait for other people to be ready or wait for a specific time to go to class. Unfortunately, when it comes to motivation and keeping up with the classwork, it really does depend on the person. However, if you’re willing to invest in the class, I really hope you’re going to follow through with it.
Additionally, I enjoy having ample time to practice my technique before moving on to the next step. In some of the classroom settings, I find you are either rushed to learn all of the lessons within the time frame given or you run out of time and miss out on the advanced lessons. Neither are beneficial in mastering calligraphy. I value being able to learn at your own pace without missing out on all of the lessons.
The assignments that Melissa provides are not overly difficult and should not take long to complete. Though it can take longer depending on how much time and effort you want to spend getting the technique right. Personally, I spent hours doing the assignments repeatedly until I felt that I had mastered the technique I had learned. I then submitted my assignments to get feedback. Anything I needed to fix, I was able to then correct immediately before it became a habit.
Melissa and Erika provide feedback twice a week which gives you just enough time to incorporate your feedback into your practice and begin working on the next assignment. I especially enjoy the feedback that is provided because both Melissa and Erika are very positive and encouraging. Their feedback is constructive and their keen eye will help to point out any mistakes you may be making. Their feedback sometimes includes pictures if it’s needed. I find the mixture of visual and written instruction to be beneficial as you can see strategies to help you fix your mistakes. I found I was able to adjust my technique very quickly with the diagrams.
SUGGESTIONS FOR CHANGES
1. While limiting the course to 30 days helps from a workload perspective and keeps people motivated to complete the course, I think it would be great to have the option of paying for additional feedback time at a reduced rate. Alternatively, for those who have completed the course, if they want to repurchase it, they should have the option of doing so at a reduced rate. For the most part, by the time people get to the end of the 30 days, they should have mastered the basic techniques. It’s really about refining the details which the coursework will not provide customers. If they haven’t learned by that point, they should repurchase the entire course so they have the lessons available again.
Customers can consider joining forums such as The Curious Calligrapher or the Fountain Pen Network. However, from a branding perspective, it would be beneficial for the company to be the ‘expert’ in Calligraphy and continue to garner that respect.
2. While I know that everyone has to develop their own style of calligraphy, it would be great to have practice sheets of other styles/fonts to get ideas from. It’s also a great way to practice different elements that you may want to incorporate into your own style. The Postman’s Knock has a variety of templates that you can pay for and download to learn and practice new styles. This would be a great additional revenue stream for the company.
3. Develop an advanced class that focuses on flourishes and personal style. Once a person has learned the basics and they may want to be challenged to continue developing the art, so it would be great to have more lessons. For advanced students, Melissa already offers more difficult assignments. It would likely not require as much work as starting from scratch.
4. I would love to see the selection of courses expanded to the folded pen or to chalk calligraphy as well. Each are beautiful applications and can help people to develop their skill as a versatile calligrapher.
Overall, I would highly recommend this course to anyone. By far, the best and most comprehensive online course I have taken (and not just for calligraphy). Other bloggers or calligraphy experts would do well to learn how to provide as much value to customers as I Still Love Calligraphy does.