First the Basics, then the Rest
To get to the point where you think of developing your own style, you first need to master the basic steps of calligraphy. This is absolutely essential, and it will take a certain time. Depending on your practice, this will likely take months, if not years. I still encourage you to experiment early on, and your own writing characteristics will shine through your writing anyway. If you come from a place of very bad handwriting, this may be your chance to discover what your handwriting looks like when you work at it for a while.
Experimenting is Key
The first part of finding a new style is research.
Look at different styles, notice what makes them unique, try mimicking certain letters. Fill a page with letters that feel strange to write – because they are written in a way you’d never approach them. Try out what makes a certain script look like it does and find the „visual framework“ of the writing style. It doesn’t matter at this point if you can’t copy every little quirk of this style – it’s not about copying something, but about noticing consciously, and then letting it sit in your unconscious for a while, and seeing later on if you want to incorporate certain elements into your own calligraphy or not.
Discover What Makes Your Writing Unique
Now have a look at your own calligraphy. You can take your practice sheets for this, for example your results from practicing with my templates. I provide four different styles you can use for your practice.
You might notice that no matter what, the letter shapes you practice with the templates won’t look exactly the same as the original. That’s fine, and you can try to pick up hints where your calligraphic style looks different from mine.
Very likely your own style will already be an amalgam of different characteristics picked up here and there, and certain idiosyncrasies that are inherent to your way of writing, that can’t be found somewhere else in this combination. Notice this. This is you shining through.
Often, other people can describe this a lot better than you yourself can. Try it anyway.
Working Out Different Styles With the Help of Adjectives
In order to work out your own basic style, or develop another style and go systematically through different approaches, try the following:
Pick five or six adjectives that aren’t too close together. These can be whatever you want, like elegant, bouncy, quick, classic, futuristic, weird, etc.
Pick a short sentence and write it out in a few different ways. You don’t have to do this with nib and ink, a pencil or a simple pen will be enough. At this point, it’s about getting your associations down on to the paper. You’re going to write down this sentence in a few different ways without thinking too much about it. Notice how different your writing looks depending on the word you associated with it, and the different moods and emotions you thought of.
Once you’re done, step back and take a look at what you wrote. Find out what choices you made and why you thought they would be a good fit. Think about what you can communicate through the way you shape your letters.
This exercise is the first step to becoming a better observer, and to develop your own unique style. Think of words that describe the feel you want to get across when writing out your words. Think about how you can apply this to each letterform. This way, you’ll develop different styles with ease.
Switching Between Styles
Once you have developed a few calligraphic styles, you might find that it’s not so easy switching between these styles ad hoc. This is normal. Writing calligraphy is very much based on muscle memory and remembering (half consciously) how to write the letter shapes.
A lot of calligraphers take some practice hours to refamiliarize themselves with a certain style before they start a piece of work.
Try to think of what makes this style unique, and incorporate those characteristics into your writing. Look at other texts you wrote in this style and copy them. This kind of warming up can help you getting familiar again with a certain style.
Also, you might find you don’t like to switch too often between styles if this help writing consistently.
P.S. I also have some exciting news: I’m going to produce an online calligraphy course which will be available sometime later this year. This first course is aimed at beginners and will teach the basic techniques in an easy, accessible way with lessons and worksheets. The special feature of this course is that I’ll provide feedback for you while you’re learning. I’m really excited about this, and while it’s still some months away, I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to teach some of you in a more direct way! Please sign up here to see more details and get notified about the launch.