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Tutorials => Kind Critique => Topic started by: Erica McPhee on December 31, 2013, 10:33:56 PM

Title: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on December 31, 2013, 10:33:56 PM
Oh, we are so good at seeing our flaws! But sometimes, it's not so easy when we are producing a work of art or calligraphy. After all, the work created is a reflection of ourselves in many ways. While it is often easy for us to be critical of our work, it is not as easy to critique it in order to make improvements.

It is easy, however, to be defensive. When I was developing my photography business, I belonged to a great forum where you could post your work for critique. I found when people posted their work, they really didn't want to hear the bad news. They only wanted to hear the positive feedback. If anyone gave constructive criticism, it was typically met with lots of excuses or a "well, I like it that way" response. This is a really NATURAL and altogether normal reaction! While it does help us feel better, it doesn't do anything to help us improve.

As any designer knows, you really have to develop a thick skin to design artwork for other people. It is one thing to design/letter something and then offer it "as is" in its completed form, and a completely different thing to create a calligraphy piece for someone else. You are now working under his/her expectations, not your own.

I developed a pretty thick skin after a couple years of designing custom logos. Clients have no problem telling you what they don't like! I then began lettering for Sunrise Greetings (now a division of Hallmark) and Papyrus for a number of years. If I thought logo clients were tough, they weren't even close to the feedback art directors can give. They usually have a very specific look they are trying to achieve and will help you achieve it with amazingly accurate description and critique.

So when I took my first lettering job for American Greetings, I was thrilled. I thought, yes, this will be great! Mike Gold was the art director. Anyone familiar with calligraphy knows Mike is one of the best. He has years of experience working with top lettering artists.

My first card was strictly lettering - no design. I worked diligently on the lettering and sent it in. Mike called me. I was really unprepared for the extensive and equally spot-on feedback he gave! My notes from our call are attached.
But, instead of being upset when I hung up, it was like I had new eyes! Mike had given me the opportunity to see my work in an entirely different light. Even then, I did not recognize it but I really was not ready to be designing contemporary greeting cards! I look back at some of my early cards and cringe. But that is the beauty of time and calligraphy! Hopefully, with time and practice, you continually improve. There is no finish line.

And in order to improve, you have to be able to see what you are doing wrong. So here are some suggestions which I hope will help you to improve your work.

1. After finishing, put your calligraphy away for a day or more. When you go back to it, you may be surprised either at how much better it really is than you thought, or at the flaws you didn't initially see.

2. Tape your work to a blank wall and step back at least 3 feet. Look at the overall shape. Look at the "big picture." Does it flow well? Is the arrangement pleasing? Does anything jump out at you? Are there gaps or congested areas? Is it easily readable?

3. Ask someone else to look at it and give honest feedback. Ideally, at least two people.

4. After the initial bristling and feeling like those people have no idea what they are talking about, consider they might actually have a point.  :D Try some of the suggestions based on their critique and see if it improves your letters. It might, it might not. But I guarantee you will learn something from it.

5. Take your red pencil and mark your work. Draw lines with a ruler. If you are doing traditional calligraphy, do your letters all reach the midline? Do they stay within the baseline. Is the size and shape consistent? Are your letterforms good? Inspect individual letters. Does your "a" look like the exemplar "a?" Does the bowl form an oval? Does the second descender line bump into it or gently touch it? Does your t have a squared off top? Take your exemplar and compare letter for letter.

6. Check legibility. Read your piece backwards. Can you read each letter/word without hesitation? Is there any chance for confusion?

7. Pretend your calligraphy is someone else's. Look at your work as if a friend had just handed it to you and asked you to give him or her feedback. How would you respond? Hopefully with compassion and kindness - looking for both the successful components and the areas that need improvement.

8. Accept other factors. There are many factors which are going to contribute to good or bad letters. Recognize when you are tired, the lighting is bad, you're in a grumpy mood, the nib/paper/ink won't cooperate, it's too humid, etc. Sometimes it is good to push through those times and then lettering makes you feel better. Other times, it is better to put it away for another time.

9. Critique other calligraphers. One of the best ways to learn good letterforms is to study other calligraphers' work. We all know it when we see it - that piece that just takes your breath away. Critique it. Really study it. Ask yourself, why does this appeal to me so much? What does this artist do? What about it do I like? And the converse is true. If you see a piece that doesn't resonate with you, try to determine why. Is it illegible? Are there bad letterforms? Is the style unpleasing. If so, why.

10. Judge your letters - do not judge yourself! Being hard on yourself does not make you better - it makes you feel bad. It is easy to feel deflated and like we'll never get it. Calligraphy is hard. Except in rare circumstances, it is going to take months, if not years to develop a good hand. But don't let that time be discouraging. Encourage yourself! Enjoy forming the letters. Enjoy learning. There is no finish line so don't rush through it. Show yourself the same compassion you would show a friend. Every time you sit down to letter, it can contribute to your improvement. Don't just look at the bad letters, look at and circle the good ones. Feel happy in that perfect s or a! Yes, it feels pretty awesome to complete a piece you are proud of - but much of the joy is in creating it!  :)
 
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: eddysarah on January 01, 2014, 02:26:34 AM
Great article. Do you have a copy of the finished product?
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Floralovely on January 01, 2014, 06:49:04 AM
Really enjoyed this article, thank you! X
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Lynda on January 01, 2014, 09:47:33 AM
Thank you for this positive article to start the new year with!  I have printed out these 10 questions to refer to as I complete projects.  I think it will help me feel I've covered all bases and did my best.
Happy 2014!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: ewigginton on January 01, 2014, 10:36:14 AM
Wow, this is astounding to me. Really. When there is so much out there in professional venues that looks like it has been done very loose and fast to my untrained eye, to know they had to go through a rigorous process to get that far is amazing. I recently saw some work by a well-known modern calligraphy teacher in a very prestigious publication that made me wonder. I'm sure the publisher got the look they were going for which makes me think all art directors can't be as particular as yours was. It looked, based on your notes, that maybe what your art director really needed, Erica, was type rather than calligraphy? Your work always looks beautiful and to pick it apart so much must have shaken your confidence. It certainly would have knocked me for a loop!

For me, who never, ever has aspirations of earning a living with calligraphy and is happy to always be an amateur, I'm pleased to look upon it as another skill I found as a challenge and conquered to my own satisfaction. I **used** to think I was a perfectionist but now I know I'll never achieve that level in calligraphy so why beat myself up? I am at the point in my life when I get to do what I want every single day! Something we only dream of when we have kids and/or a career foremost in our daily thoughts.

Thanks for sharing this, Erica! Makes me so happy I don't have to work for "The Man (or woman)!"
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on January 01, 2014, 06:55:07 PM
I wish I did have a copy of the final. My final artwork is on a dead harddrive (lesson to always keep multiple backups). And American Greetings does not give you the finished cards like the other companies do. I was able to find one of mine in a local Walmart once but not this one.

Ellen, yes, it does change things when you start doing something you love as a means of income. I struggled for many years with the anxiety this created. In the long run, however, it made me a better calligrapher. I am very happy now though that I no longer have to take clients if I don't want to and I can letter whatever I want to my heart's content!

Also, I wanted to add - taking workshops is probably the single best way to improve your lettering. There is no replacement for taking a class in person with a good, experienced teacher. The more - the better!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Lindamirth on January 01, 2014, 07:28:58 PM
I really enjoyed reading this, all of us need a critique from someone that we respect.
Your website is a fountain of information, thanks for sharing with us.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on January 01, 2014, 08:15:01 PM
Thank you Linda! I appreciate your kind words!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: katianaval on January 02, 2014, 04:40:09 AM
Wow. When I saw the calligraphy I thought it looked perfect. I admire the expertise that some people have, and how they can point out these details that amateurs don't notice. I have no problem with anyone making suggestions and feel like I'm my own worst critic at times...

But I do agree that sometimes it takes a day or two to appreciate your own work. I actually find my calligraphy better when it's already a photo! (thank you smartphone) Haha!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Nice Plume on January 02, 2014, 05:29:16 AM
Very useful and so true ! Thanks a lot for sharing  :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: dailyletterings on January 02, 2014, 07:40:09 PM
this is an awesome, in-depth list of tips that looks like it would actually be effective in teaching us something LONG TERM!  i find that to be rare for a set of "10 tips" type articles!! thank you so much!!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on January 02, 2014, 09:21:24 PM
Thanks Katia, Nora, and Torrie!

Torrie - I really appreciate your comment! I actually hesitated to title it that because I agree with you! So I'm glad you let me know they seem useful!  :D
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Sharon on January 02, 2014, 11:19:30 PM

Also, I wanted to add - taking workshops is probably the single best way to improve your lettering. There is no replacement for taking a class in person with a good, experienced teacher. The more - the better!

Erica, you are so right. Feedback from the teacher and learning from/with other students is invaluable. That being said, practice is still the most important thing a person can do, but classes are fun and it's great to be with other people who are just as passionate about learning it.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Maurelle on January 04, 2014, 01:33:38 PM
Thank you Erica! This is superb!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: tintenfuchs on January 17, 2014, 04:14:37 AM
Oh my, I wouldn't have found any flaws in your writing. Shows how much I have to learn. Thank you for sharing your tips & tricks!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Perfectsettings on January 30, 2014, 10:18:31 AM
Shows how much I know.  I thought it was perfect. 
Thanks... I printed your tips.  They're a huge help.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Ken Fraser on August 14, 2014, 10:13:26 AM
And in order to improve, you have to be able to see what you are doing wrong. So here are some suggestions which I hope will help you to improve your work.

Ten excellent points of advice to boost self-confidence and belief in your work.  :D

However, some of us reach a point where we believe our own publicity and consider our writing to be perfect, often when we still have a way to go. In that situation, this quote from Hermann Zapf can help bring one down to earth. I don't mean this as a depressant but as a gentle counter-balance to the ten points of reassurance.

(https://theflourishforum.com/forum/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi226.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fdd289%2Fcaliken_2007%2FZapfquote400-1.jpg&hash=87851f3c12579481505bf21f96fedf18)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: AnasaziWrites on August 19, 2014, 05:44:23 PM
However, some of us reach a point where we believe our own publicity and consider our writing to be perfect, often when we still have a way to go. In that situation, this quote from Hermann Zapf can help bring one down to earth. I don't mean this as a depressant but as a gentle counter-balance to the ten points of reassurance.

(https://theflourishforum.com/forum/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi226.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fdd289%2Fcaliken_2007%2FZapfquote400-1.jpg&hash=87851f3c12579481505bf21f96fedf18)
I really like this quote.
Good or excellent are such relative terms. During the first 6 months or so of my attempt to learn Spencerian were the only moments I thought I was starting to really get the hang of it--not excellent, not even good, but bordering on pretty good. That feeling was fostered constantly by people to whom I sent letters or cards who had never seen good handwriting. I sent a card to a local business owner on the first anniversary of her business and she liked it so much, she put it in a little stand on the counter by the cash register for all her customers to see, and every time I went in there, she said how much her customers liked it, it was so pretty, nicest writing they'd ever seen, and so on. That made me feel good, at least initially, and those comments were supporting a view of my work that I no longer agree with myself. Now, I go in and see that card and cringe. It's really not even pretty good. Dare I say it is pretty bad? Not quite awful, at least.
 This change in perspective has come about in part by studying exemplars of the masters and in part by studying the work of those better than me on this forum. The more I study truly good work, the wider I perceive the gulf between my work and good/excellent work to be, which might be disheartening. But also the gulf grows between my first attempts and my current ones, so encouraging. Sort of like increasing knowledge is an expanding universe. As long as I'm going in a positive direction, it's good. My 2 cents for the day.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on August 19, 2014, 10:25:56 PM
I LOVE this, Mike! I started writing something very similar on the perfect/balance thread today but then deleted it. I feel the same way about my wedding invitations (my first work in Spencerian). When I did them, I was so happy with how they came out. Now I see them and I'm completely embarrassed! For me, it is the difference between what we think we see when we are starting out and what we now know we see since we have studied and learned good letter form.

You articulated this very well! Thanks for sharing!  :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Ken Fraser on August 21, 2014, 10:52:43 AM
....This change in perspective has come about in part by studying exemplars of the masters and in part by studying the work of those better than me on this forum. The more I study truly good work, the wider I perceive the gulf between my work and good/excellent work to be, which might be disheartening. But also the gulf grows between my first attempts and my current ones, so encouraging. Sort of like increasing knowledge is an expanding universe. As long as I'm going in a positive direction, it's good. My 2 cents for the day.

This is absolutely normal and shows that you're on the right track! This gradual awareness/perception is a necessary part of development, and you're well on your way. I always advise keeping some early work, because referring back can be very encouraging when you see just how far you've come.

Ken
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: AnasaziWrites on August 21, 2014, 11:17:21 AM

This is absolutely normal and shows that you're on the right track! This gradual awareness/perception is a necessary part of development, and you're well on your way. I always advise keeping some early work, because referring back can be very encouraging when you see just how far you've come.

Ken
Thanks, Ken

Your fine work I'm keeping a sharp eye on--always a pleasure and inspiring to see.

I have saved some of my early attempts, and there is clear improvement.

On the IAMPETH site, there are posts showing improvement by Behrensmeyer, Lupfer, and Vitolo. I'd say dramatic improvement. Just goes to show, everyone starts somewhere.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: AnasaziWrites on August 23, 2014, 11:16:18 AM
I always advise keeping some early work, because referring back can be very encouraging when you see just how far you've come.

Ken
Check out the Before and After thread in Open Flourishing if you'd like to see my (and others) early work. Painful to look at but gives hope for improvement in the future. I think many people keep samples of their early attempts.

Mike
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: syed sha abulhassan Quadr on October 07, 2014, 04:33:22 PM
This is the first time I read the full article...  Nice job   full of advices I loved it
😍😍😍😍😍😍😍
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: josh on December 28, 2014, 08:37:18 PM
I'm new here so I've just read this and it seems I'm at the right place for constructive criticism. I'm looking forward to having my samples undergo some honest and straightforward comments. I regard this as a training routine and as such I welcome the challenge of getting it right. "Kind words are a comfort to a fool" so I'm here for the long haul.   BTW Italic script is done with ..... pen, I put, flat, and a whole load of different guesses...:)...help

Josh
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: jaimelynne on December 28, 2014, 10:55:28 PM
Hi josh,

You have such a great attitude! You are absolutely going to grow exponentially as you continue with such humility! I must learn from you and post my work more :).  Thank you!

Ps - I had trouble with that question too as I haven't studied italic calligraphy, but my husband got me a book about it that is wonderful. Italic script is written with a broad edged pen.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Mosh on January 19, 2015, 02:33:14 AM
I'm printing and pasting the JPG in this thread on my wall! : )
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Brad franklin on January 19, 2015, 10:24:57 AM
My favorite on that card: script - not copperplate needs to work for contemporary card.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Judy G on January 19, 2015, 12:04:43 PM
I am truly humbled by your post, Erica. I'm the type of person who gets easily frustrated because I aim for perfection and I want results fast. Thank you for your tips, that will help me keep grounded with my calligraphy journey. I know I have a loooong way to go :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: LaceyMcB on January 19, 2015, 04:14:32 PM
All fantastic tips Erica!

However, being a total newbie it makes me laugh because I look at the piece and go "omg that is amazing! How could there possibly be anything wrong with it!"
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Chandra on February 06, 2015, 09:09:42 PM
All fantastic tips Erica!

However, being a total newbie it makes me laugh because I look at the piece and go "omg that is amazing! How could there possibly be anything wrong with it!"

I second what Lacey said , as a total beginner looking at the letters, i was like " Oh my, how do i write like that ? So beautiful " and then i saw the notes that asked for changes of the words and was like " whhaa whhaat ? what is wrong ? this that those these ? How ? It's perfect in my eyes already " , and then i realize , you can never stop learning even at certain level.

Regards,
Chandra
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: theailahkathrina on March 10, 2015, 10:40:24 AM
Wow. I am so overwhelmed at the post. As a newbie, I also like how you did the lettering. But the notes itself made me confused. But then, after reading the whole post, it made me realize that everyone started with somewhere.

Now I am doing practice on my practice pad (a day per page), and stick quotes and words I have written somewhere I always see it, so that I can study and criticize my work more. Thank you so much, ate Erica! :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Meriyou on July 08, 2015, 05:50:01 AM
So helpful, Erica! As a newbie, it's very important for me this kind of articles in order to improve my calligraphy. I think it's important the practice but the feedback of an expert too... So sad because there are classes but far away from where I live... Still working on and studying on the internet!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Estrella on July 08, 2015, 01:43:52 PM
Great thread! I learned a lot just by reading this... now to apply it all!!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Saron on August 15, 2015, 05:11:07 AM
Dear Erica,
As a newbie I am forever questioning if I am going about this in the right way.
I will continue to practice try and take a few courses which are very limited where I live and can be very costly when you find a good one.

Regards

Saron
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on September 21, 2015, 08:13:42 PM
Your script looks lovely Saron. You can always post in the Kind Critique section for feedback.  :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: ash0kgiri on June 14, 2016, 10:45:09 PM
Hi Erica,

This is such a wonderful post. So detailed and insightful.

Ashok
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Thary on March 27, 2017, 07:26:46 PM
This hit the right marks for me today. I was just sitting at home yesterday working on a piece and wondering how I would tell if it was good or not. I love feedback and always appreciate it when I get it, so working alone can be hard sometimes. This list is a great way of stepping back from your work and really looking at it with a critical eye if you don't happen to have someone around to help you.

Thank you for sharing, Erica! :D
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Tales from the Nib on March 28, 2017, 04:47:47 AM
Great thread, I was just discussing this with a friend.
I think that critique can be given in two ways, when it's friendly and useful it's great, and think that encouragement along with advice goes a long way.
What grinds my gears is when a person you have no contact with, smoothes their ego, by crushing someone else's enthusiasm, I don't care for that behaviour.
I have to say that I dislike my calligraphy most of the time, I criticise the death out of it, on the surface I look calm, I'm like a swan, composed, but underneath my legs paddling like fury, trying to fight against the current of criticism and arghhhhh, why can't I get this right. Typical newbie I guess  :)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: [email protected] on May 08, 2017, 11:00:52 AM
@Erica McPhee though this thread is a few years old, this forum is new to me. I'm thoroughly enjoying digging through threads, discovering everything the forum has to offer.  Particularly this post; it's right at the top of my list and I know I haven't even scratched the surface.  You set an excellent example on how to take a critique.  I love that you showed an actual example.  Very encouraging. Though I love instragm for making connections, it's all hearts and smilies...  I need more.  I'm excited to be here.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: cejohnson on May 08, 2017, 11:19:43 AM
Erica,

I have printed out these 'Pearls of Wisdom' and placed them in my practice folder.

When I was raising my son I told him when you ask people for their opinion about something you've done, some people will be kind (either constructively trying to help or do not want to hurt your feelings), others may be harsh (either honestly trying to help you or maybe they have some other motive).

Regardless I told him do not ask if you are not prepared for the answer. If you're asking a question with a desired answer in mind, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. Keep the response in the proper context.

Thanks again Erica for providing us with these tips!
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: renaissancewoman on May 08, 2017, 11:21:36 AM
Though I love instragm for making connections, it's all hearts and smilies...  I need more.

@Jennifer M I couldn't agree more about Instagram. I have specifically asked for critique on there before, but all you get are "it looks great!" or heart eyes and smiley faces. That's not always helpful even though it's nice to hear.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on May 08, 2017, 11:53:22 AM
Thanks Ladies!

Criticism is one of the hardest parts of "doing" art. Both giving it and receiving it. We are so attached to our work, it is really difficult to hear feedback which is not what we were hoping for. There were times I would get upset but then quite some time later go back to the piece and realize the person critiquing had been spot on. I just wasn't ready to hear it yet.

Some folks have not learned how to give constructive critique either. I had one class in college in which a really large percentage of our grade was based on the feedback we gave other students in the class and every class consisted of people standing at the front of the room with their work while others commented on it. It was BRUTAL in every way - sitting there watching, trying to come up with something constructive to say, being the recipient, etc.! But - it did help me develop a thicker skin and be able to critically look at others' work in search of both praise and constructive feedback for them.

Lastly, the majority of people will have an explanation for every critiqued point given. It's human nature. It's a defense mechanism. And many times, people get upset and take it personally (well - because our art is personal). It is really difficult to hear we are flawed. But listening openly to critique is one of the best ways to improve our work.  ;)
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: ash0kgiri on May 08, 2017, 11:28:36 PM
It is really difficult to hear we are flawed. But listening openly to critique is one of the best ways to improve our work.  ;)

Can't agree enough Erica. So well said. :D
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: AnasaziWrites on August 12, 2019, 01:53:41 PM
However, some of us reach a point where we believe our own publicity and consider our writing to be perfect, often when we still have a way to go. In that situation, this quote from Hermann Zapf can help bring one down to earth. I don't mean this as a depressant but as a gentle counter-balance to the ten points of reassurance.

(https://theflourishforum.com/forum/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fi226.photobucket.com%2Falbums%2Fdd289%2Fcaliken_2007%2FZapfquote400-1.jpg&hash=87851f3c12579481505bf21f96fedf18)
I really like this quote.
Good or excellent are such relative terms. During the first 6 months or so of my attempt to learn Spencerian were the only moments I thought I was starting to really get the hang of it--not excellent, not even good, but bordering on pretty good. That feeling was fostered constantly by people to whom I sent letters or cards who had never seen good handwriting. I sent a card to a local business owner on the first anniversary of her business and she liked it so much, she put it in a little stand on the counter by the cash register for all her customers to see, and every time I went in there, she said how much her customers liked it, it was so pretty, nicest writing they'd ever seen, and so on. That made me feel good, at least initially, and those comments were supporting a view of my work that I no longer agree with myself. Now, I go in and see that card and cringe. It's really not even pretty good. Dare I say it is pretty bad? Not quite awful, at least.
 This change in perspective has come about in part by studying exemplars of the masters and in part by studying the work of those better than me on this forum. The more I study truly good work, the wider I perceive the gulf between my work and good/excellent work to be, which might be disheartening. But also the gulf grows between my first attempts and my current ones, so encouraging. Sort of like increasing knowledge is an expanding universe. As long as I'm going in a positive direction, it's good. My 2 cents for the day.
@Erica McPhee  @Ken Fraser
And so, here we are, five years later (at least, a few of us).
I still send an anniversary card each year to the business owner mentioned above, having celebrated the eight year anniversary this May. She has all eight cards in a little stand for her customers to see, and recently said she, her staff, and some of the customers wait with eager anticipation the arrival of the card each May. Such a small thing to do to add a little joy to someone's life.
I'll share a couple of things with you I've learned over these years. Five years ago, I judged it (and thus, myself) too harshly. It was not created by a master penman (or even a good one) to a master penman to be judged--It was sent by a beginner using beginning skills to an average person with the hope it would provide a little smile, as a token of gratitude. In this it was, and still is, quite successful. I no longer cringe when I see it.
Was each card better than the last? No, at least in the technical sense. Learning is not linear. There are setbacks along the way. But each was successful in achieving the desired end--to bring a little joy to someone else, and hopefully, to you as the creator as well.
As no one has responded to this thread in two years, let me assure you if you are reading it now for the first time, Erica's points are still valid now as they were five years ago, as is Ken's quote. And as you learn to critique yourself, be also kind to yourself.

Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Lyric on July 22, 2020, 05:58:12 PM
Oh, we are so good at seeing our flaws! But sometimes, it's not so easy when we are producing a work of art or calligraphy. After all, the work created is a reflection of ourselves in many ways. While it is often easy for us to be critical of our work, it is not as easy to critique it in order to make improvements.

It is easy, however, to be defensive.

THIS is a godsend, Ms. Erica.  I have printed this out for myself.  Recently I have been advised to learn to do just this versus signing up for this one's and that one's "online calligraphy class" on my part-time salary.  It is NOT working.

Thank you.
Title: Re: Ten Tips to Self-Critique and Improve your Calligraphy
Post by: Erica McPhee on July 22, 2020, 11:46:54 PM
Iím so glad you find it helpful @lyric ! I saw the link to the image had been corrupted so I attached the image as a jpg. As always, let us know if you have questions as you go.  :)