Lessons Learned from 1,000 Pieces of Calligraphy

Various Inks & Pens on Fabriano Watercolor Paper

Hooray! Here is my one thousandth piece of calligraphy. I set an initial goal of doing a piece of art everyday for one year to post in this blog. That goal grew to a second year, and after having created seven hundred thirty pieces, why not go for one thousand? So I did. Today I have reached my goal.

I pondered over what to present, what to create, what to share. I earmarked many, many quotes and created several versions of things…nothing seemed quite right. So I asked myself, what might you want to know about my journey? I created a list of my lessons learned and below are the topics where I learned the most, they are in no particular order.

Experiment – Do something that makes you afraid and pushes you to a point where you are not confident in what you are doing. That sounds crazy, and yet it is the only way to learn new things, master new skills, and stretch ourselves beyond where we think we can travel. If we only do what we know, then how do we know how far we can go? I experimented a great deal, some were very successful, others were a disaster and ended up in a scrap drawer. No matter what happens be willing to experiment as you will be pleasantly surprised how much you grow.

Emotions – Our emotions are not always our friends. They often take us on roller coaster rides with exciting highs and deep, dark lows. Acknowledge how you feel, process through your emotions. Let the tears fall, the anger pour out, and embrace your triumphs with joy. Then calm down and think…is how I’m feeling REALLY how I want to proceed, or do I need a reality check? I often found myself doubting if I had it in me to create this much work. What words would I utilize and what would I have to say about that work? Many times I felt like quitting, I thought who cares? After my pity party I went into the studio and created something, anything to get over the emotional hump.

Acceptance – As calligraphers we are perfectionists. We spend months, even years, learning how to write the correct letter “E”. Outside of our lettering skills we spell check, grammar check, copyright check and proof read all our work. It is exhausting! There comes a time when you have to reach acceptance and set aside perfection. Nothing is ever perfect, sometimes it is good enough so move on. I struggled with this early on, then realized if I wanted each piece to be perfect I would never get past day one. Acceptance of our work, ourselves, our talents and skills gives us the freedom to learn and grow beyond our nit picky tendencies. Being able to accept is a gift, not a cop out.

Tools – Give yourself the gift of enjoying your tools. Be it paper, ink, cardboard, scrap paper bags, or even bleach. Embrace it all. Use technology, don’t us technology, either way just make a choice and go for it. Buy new tools, revive old ones, dig into your scrap pile and just use any old piece of paper. Utilize what you have on hand or buy new tools using cash. No one wants to be a broke, in debt artist. Use your tools wisely. As the saying goes, a poor workman blames his tools…so get the tools you need to do the work you want, and stop worrying about it. Or find a way to do what you want with what you already have on hand. Trust in your tools, they are an investment. I give many thanks for my tools, tables, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, paper cutters, scissors and glue. Good light, storage space, boxes and bins, and time to create. We are nothing without our tools.

Action – No matter what your emotions, thoughts or what people are telling you, action cures fear…no matter if the fear is real or only between our ears. Scared, get out there and do something. Anything. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just get going. Put that pen to paper, type that first word, take the first step, put down or pick up that thing you are terrified of facing. The more you sit the bigger your fear becomes. I had lots of fear about my work not being good enough…lots of mind games, dodge ball and guerrilla warfare in my head between my ego and my self confidence. I could quit working or just do something. So I did something and it got me past whatever it was. I never said I would create one thousand perfect works of art, just that I would create them…I had to put what other people thought aside as I could never live up to what everyone else thinks I should be creating. Action cures fear…so act.

Process – I had to figure out when and how I did my best work. I am a night owl who prefers to write at night, I create my best art extemporaneously and often in batches. I created calligraphy everyday, which does not mean that every day I finished a piece of art. There were many pieces or pages in process, drying, marinating, percolating, in a drawer waiting for me to finish the idea. Sometimes I worked quickly, sometimes I had to do it slowly. I rearranged my studio to create space for all the in process stuff and wrote about each piece at night. If I was traveling, and unable to take supplies with me, I made sure to have enough work in the pipeline to be able to write everyday. I have notebooks, sketch pads, half filled bins and miscellaneous other receptacles filled with work, some of it still in process, some of it just mistakes or out takes, even first drafts. Breaking down each item – the art then the words for the blog – made each day part of the goal. This has become my habit. Want to reach a goal? Break it into smaller pieces, figure out what works for you, then turn it into your ‘process’. How do you eat an elephant, one bite at a time…eventually you forget the big goal and just do your thing each day and the goal arrives.

Plan – Obviously I created art and wrote for a very long period of time. I often planned ahead and listened. Life gets in the way – births, deaths, jobs, travel, even sickness or maybe a global pandemic? If you want to reach a goal, plan ahead. Trust your instincts and listen to that voice telling you to backup your ipad…it is telling you that for a reason. It may be telling you to empty your trash can, not now! That voice is warning you…don’t listen, you may have an emergency visit to the Vet to give your pet an enema to work out what they just ate out of that trash can you were too busy to empty. Or that pet may keep you wake trying to throw up that art supply remnant that made them sick. LISTEN and plan. Life will throw you curves, so plan ahead. Buy that extra pen, carry an extra charger, buy that cheap book of quotes. Trust yourself, plan, then when that curve ball arrives you have options. And both our dogs – Biscuit and Gravy – love the trash can under my table in the studio…darn those dogs!

No – Learn to say it. To yourself, your family, friends, people who want to tell you what to do, what you ought to do, how you need to do this or that, or even how you should be doing what it is you are doing. Opinions are like belly buttons, everyone has one…it doesn’t mean you need to see theirs to reach your goal. We also need to be able to handle the “No’s” we hear and accept them. I had to learn to stick to my boundaries and disappointing people may be the end result. I had to not do things I wanted in order to do this work, and I had to simplify my life in order to make room for all the things this goal required. Which may mean hearing or saying “No”. Not everyone needs to know about your goal, as they may not all be supporters. I never mixed this goal with client work, gallery work or any other area where I would compromise my values. No means no, even to ourselves. Respect the No!

I took my first calligraphy class in 1989. My work was bad…really bad. If you had told me that I would eventually create one thousand pieces of calligraphy, (even more since then) I would have laughed. Now I can say been there, done that…got the folders filled with art to prove it.

Thank you for your support, for reading, for your comments and inquiries. Thank you for laughing, crying and sharing how my work and words have touched your lives. This is not the end (as many people have asked!) I will be taking a break – posting new work starting June 1, 2023 – which is when I will announce my next adventure. In the mean time I will share random posts from my archives to give you food for thought through the onset of Summer.

Let me encourage you to go big! HUGE! Set that honking, huge, impossible goal for yourself and then take that first step. The only real thing that can stop you is death, and none of us know when that will come our way, so dare to believe that you can do it. A little bit everyday is better than daring nothing. You will make mistakes, they will bring wisdom and humility. You will want to quit, which builds stamina and commitment. And you will be surprised when one day you look up and the finish line is just within sight. So go big…and keep going!


  1. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouragement with us. Ending with what you learned along the way was so fitting.

    Congratulations on meeting your huge goal!

    Liked by 1 person

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