5 Ways to Optimize Your Copperplate Practice

Copperplate script is not something to be learned in few days day or a few weeks.  It’s an ongoing learning experience.  Mastering copperplate could take months, years, or decades.

How you choose to practice copperplate (or really anything in general) depends mainly on two things: how important it is to you and your willingness to make time for it.  The amount of time you spend practicing is not as important as the quality of time you spend practicing.

Today I’ll be sharing 5 tips to help you optimize your practice  sessions — especially if you’re strapped for time.

How to Optimize YOUR PRACTICE TIME

1. DESIGNATE A SPACE FOR YOUR SUPPLIES

If you don’t have a studio or an office, you may be working from the dining table like I do.  Claim a section of a bookshelf or a drawer by your workspace and keep all of your supplies in one place and keep it organized.  You want to spend as little time as possible looking for your supplies and setting up for practice.  Set up and clean up shouldn’t take more than a few minutes.

For practicing, you don’t need a whole lot.  I like to keep all of my daily practice materials inside a little plastic bin, which I can easily transfer from my shelf to my table.

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Inside my portable calligraphy bin: 1) oblique penholders; 2) metal container for my frequently-used nibs; 3) Dinky Dip ink containers; 4) Bleed Proof White Ink; 5) Kuretake Sumi Ink; and 6) Norton’s Walnut Ink.  I purchased this bin from Daiso.

Here’s a list of a few other items that I keep in the shelf by my workspace:

OttLite lamp
Paper pads
Roll of paper towels
Calligraphy books

2. SCHEDULE A TIME FOR PRACTICE AND LET EVERYONE KNOW

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Schedule your practice and stick with it.

I study and practice copperplate everyday for 30 minutes to 1 hour – except on weekends.  I’ve designated a time slot for my practice right before bedtime.  Everyone in my household knows this and is on board with my schedule.  During this time, I am not to be disturbed. 

Oh, and I also put my phone on airplane mode.

3. PRACTICE WITH INTENTION

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One evening, I spent 45 minutes studying and practicing this compound curve loop — which is an entrance stroke to several majuscules.

During this segment of my day, I’m fully immersed in practice. I’m fully focused at the task at hand.  I’m not doing or thinking about anything but Copperplate.

When I practice, I usually pick one or two things that I want to learn or improve on. For instance, maybe today I want to work on the consistency of my oval forms and/or my hairline-to-shade transitions on the overturn strokes.  The key to learning copperplate is to take it slow. Learn the fundamental concepts, start with the basic strokes, and be mindful of them with each practice.

Ask yourself: what are my goals for today’s practice?  What am I trying to achieve?

4. AIM FOR PROGRESS NOT PERFECTION

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A comparison of drills exercises.

The early stages of our copperplate study can be a frustrating one. If you practice regularly and with intention, you will see great improvement in a matter of days or weeks.

We can easily feel discouraged or inadequate when we see the work of others.  The best advice I’ve heard is: only compare your work to your own — unless you’re learning and copying from an exemplar, of course.

Critique your work and make notes of where you can improve.  Remind yourself of the goals you’ve set and what you’re trying to accomplish.

5. KEEP LEARNING

Studying is just as important as practicing.  Studying the fundamental concepts and how each letterform is constructed will make the practice of drawing them a lot easier.

Study the work of past masters and fellow copperplate calligraphers.  What advice do they give? How do they practice? What materials are they using?  How do they hold their pen?  Take notes and learn from them.

You can find the work and lessons of the past masters at zanerian.com and IAMPETH.com.  If you’re looking for a community of calligraphers, you’ve got to check out the one on Instagram.

 

There’s so much to learning copperplate script.  Implementing these 5 habits have helped me to make the most of the limited amount of time that I dedicate to practice.  If I’m only able to practice for 10 minutes, then I’m going to make every minute count.

Brace yourself.  Pace yourself.  Take it slow.  Take it one stroke at a time — literally.

Happy writing!

 

Your Copperplate Companion,

Nina

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