Paper Piles: The Calligrapher's Dilemma

Jun 21, 2023
calligraphy practice papers

What do we do with all our calligraphy practice pages?! I don't know about you but I cannot stand clutter. I like clear counters and empty spaces. Stuff in view gives me visual overload and makes me feel a bit claustrophobic (this is a bit of a problem when you are married to a packrat.) Now, behind cabinet doors or inside of drawers is totally fair game because I can apply the "out of sight, out of mind" theory to those areas. We all have our rules that make sense to us, right?

I have three main ways I deal with all the paper in my calligraphy life:

1) PASS IT ON (aka Make It Someone Else's Clutter): One of my favorite ways to do this is to use envelopes as practice paper. I have a cabinet of leftover envelopes from various client projects. If I use them for practicing instead of plain paper, I can then send it off to someone as Happy Mail. It's a win, win, win, win! I make use of some of the envelopes I have stored. I get my practice in. I make someone happy. I get rid of the practice without throwing it away.

Yesterday, I was hosting Jerome Jonathan's watercolor florals class and decided to use some cream envelopes instead of watercolor paper to follow along. This did make painting a bit trickier as it wasn't the best paper choice but it meant my practice had a purpose which was motivating to me.

After class finished, I then put the envelopes up for grabs on Instagram and mailed them to the first people who sent me their name/address. The addressing step gave me yet another practice opportunity as I decided to use a different style and different tools for each one.

I did one in Madarasz Script using pointed pen, one in Gothicized Italic using the Pilot Parallel pen with block lettering in fountain pen and one in Open Shaded Script and Cursive using a micron. All things I need to practice more!

2) SCAN AND DITCH THE ORIGINAL: I bought a high resolution scanner and it's amazing! I scan my work at 1200 dpi, probably more detail that needed but I like to be on the safe side. The great part about scanning our papers is that it creates a completely flat image that is not skewed or distorted and does not have shadows. Not so easy to do with a camera!

I have been scanning commissioned pieces before handing them over to the client. This lets me keep a high quality digital representation of my work. Sometimes it's so hard to part with our babies, I mean, our art. Goodbye, cute birth certificate, I'll keep you on my computer forever.

I also scan projects in progress to give me more reproduction opportunities in the future. For example, if I scan the line art before it's colored in, that will give me the option to vectorize the work or to print another copy and color it differently. 

I turned this one piece into a bunch of versions and mailed them in an envelope exchange. I would not have been able to do that if I had forgotten to scan the original when it was at the black outline stage.

And, because I know you will ask, I have the Epson Perfection V39*. It's fabulous. My only regret is that I wish I'd gotten a bigger one. When I do large pieces, I have to scan in sections and stitch it together in Photoshop. 

2) KEEP SELECT ORIGINALS: I used to throw things in this drawer. Now, it's full and out of control and I can't find anything without rummaging. I really should clean it out but, "out of sight, out of mind," so it will wait for another day. In the name of sharing the ugly with the good, here you go. My messy drawer of who-knows-what.

For select better pieces that I am proud of or that show a range of skills I've acquired, I have been sticking them in this art portfolio*. 

When I bought it, I had this grand notion that I would proudly show my work to people. They would ooh and ahh, ask for my card, and hire me... The reality is that I barely leave my house and when I do go places, I'm too shy to show anyone because it just seems weird to randomly say, "Want to see my portfolio?" So, I continue putting things in it and rearranging the pages but I don't really know why. I'm trying to get the courage up to take it with me to IAMPETH next month. Yet to be determined.

If you have any great ideas for me or if you want to come over and clean that drawer out for me, I'd love to hear from you!



Ideas from Jean:
Fold papers into origami shapes or boxes
Cut the papers into strips for weaving baskets
Layer over the top with paints or inks to make subtle design and use for wrapping paper
Use it for book binding
Cut it up to make a collage or cards


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