Editor’s Note: When the New Year passed, we sent out an email to our newsletter subscribers asking, “What did you learn in 2016?” Here’s a response from one of our readers (slightly edited):
Happy New Year!
Been following your Monday Musings for a couple of months now, and I’ve found it to be the “calm before the storm” of the work week.
To answer the question you posed, I learned to focus. Here’s what I mean (and a couple of other things I learned from 2016):
- Determine what you want and devote hours to it. Last year, brought the boom of the calligraphy scene in Cebu, evidenced by multiple workshops offering brush calligraphy, parallel pen calligraphy, pointed pen calligraphy, etc. Note also the opening of shops that cater to that market (Scribe here in Cebu and Craft Central in Manila) and National Bookstore in Ayala suddenly having a small shelf dedicated to Kuretake ZIG, a Japanese brand that’s a go-to for calligraphy supplies.
I rode the pointed pen calligraphy wagon mid last year thinking it might be a simple endeavor that would only take two to three hours of weekly commitment. When I dove in, I remembered that vast horizon of just one form of art! Think of your MS Word fonts. There are different fonts that one can study/practice and still not have a good grasp, even after months of practice! This brings me to the second thing I learned:
- Find a master, and learn from her.Or a book that master wrote. Or a piece of artwork that master executed. This could be “The Thrill Is Gone” by B.B. King. This could be “The Sojourner’s Rose” by Jake Weidmann. Once you know exactly what you want and what you want to spend your time mastering, this will help you learn how to visualize it in your mind. Engrave it into the backs of your eyelids so that you know what you want to see or hear once you start practicing.
Learning from a master helps you know if you’re doing something right. At the onset, it only seems like copying someone else’s piece, but, in the long run, it becomes a sort of pseudo master/apprentice relationship where you start learning the why’s of that master after you start learning the how’s. Mine was the Engrosser’s/Engraver’s Script style of Willis A. Baird.
- Zoom in, one at a time.Once you develop an appreciation for an art form, you may become entranced in the whole shebang. You’ll want to learn a little bit of everything. Maybe even a lot about everything. This makes you lose focus on that one master.
After diving in to the pool of art, stick to swimming in one portion of the pool, or swimming with one kind of stroke before learning other types. I learned this the hard way when I started on a new and beautiful script called Spencerian Script. I got into it while I still didn’t have a good foundation of the script I was currently working on (Engraver’s/Engrosser’s). This set me back a LOT for both scripts because one style would now spill over to another. This not only messed up my improvement, but my motivation to practice as well.
- Zoom out. Breathe. We all have limits. I learned to give myself a break from practicing and look (and listen!) to other things. I found that this provided a good rest from all the practicing, a good time to “miss” my new art, and, best of all, get an appreciation for other art forms that was growing in Cebu. When I’m not practicing the strokes with my nib and Walnut Ink, I’m listening to the artists of 22 Tango Records. Listening to this group of artists working their way into the local music scene pulls on a lot of different heart strings, ones that ring from one songwriter to another. But that’s a journey for another day.
That’s all I’ve got to share! I hope you and your family enjoyed the holidays!
Happy New Year!