New Adventures: Beginner Modern Calligraphy

A little adventure this time: a Beginner Modern Calligraphy workshop with Holly Anna Calligraphy.

Handwriting has been my nemesis. It is too slow for the speed of my thoughts. So I typed. I have relied on typing since 5th grade.

My hand-writing languished. Penmanship was taught but not enforced. Second grade, we competed to see who could write the smallest. Cursive was punishment. In the end, only I could read my scribbles. Now, some days, if I am actually writing my thoughts, it seems I cannot do that.


My thinking penmanship
Day to day penmanship
When things are looking good


A couple weeks ago, in a memorable bout of good mothering, my daughter and I transcribed a poem onto a piece of paper and painted the rest of the paper with images we imagined from the poem. I wished for some way to elevate my penmanship. Fortunately, this workshop was just around the corner. The kindness of the teacher, Holly, made me feel comfortable to such a commitment. It seems I often have to cancel last minute because of some Peter-related issue.

Workshop day arrived! I left the kiddos with my parents and drove off apprehensively to Modesto. Would I feel comfortable? Would it be too difficult to be away from Peter? I already spent the morning away from him. My thoughts swirled with worries about Peter, the heat, and my parents’ energy levels. I thought of Celeste how long it was since I visited the cemetery.

I found the location easily, next door to Vito’s, once Oceania, where Kyle and I spend a couple dates gazing lovingly into each other eyes. Down a narrow, paved walkway with branches of bright pink bougainvillea dropping dried petals like a flower girl there stood the chalk board sign which read, “Calligraphy Workshop.” I seemed to arrive with the early crowd.

Opening the antique glass-paned door, a burst of cold air welcomed me inside from the 104-degree outside, afternoon temperature. A handful of women sat around plastic folding tables ornamented with white paper bags, cream colored tags tied with ivory ribbon. Each tag was decorated with a name, our names in gold ink calligraphy. I thought of my wedding place cards and how we printed them on the computer using Apple Chancery. I thought how pretty they would have been like this. I thought of how long that would take. I thought, better not to regret, and instead, I observed the room.

To one side were products, beautifully created prints with watercolor flowers and words of wisdom scrolled across their centers. A gray couch, a punch of distinctive lighting overhead, and the easy manner of Holly meeting and greeting participants as they entered made everyone new to her feel as though this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“We’ll start on time!” she said, to honor those who came early. Everyone was there by the starting gun and off we went, peacefully thumbing through the workbook she created. I laughed out loud at the collective gasp of joy when Holly announced the paper in the Rhodes book provided was see through. We could trace the workbook letters, no need to soil it with our attempts to learn.

We started by learning about our tools and drawing lines, then strokes.


Every letter is a combination of strokes. It becomes manageable when you see it that way, even the “m’s.”

After tracing and repeating, building our muscle memory, I began to experiment with names.


I wrote Celeste’s name over and over again. I made me feel close to her as if I were creating something for her. Like a junior high girl doodling her name with her crush’s last name. I tried to flourish a heart around Miriam’s name and draw a train around James’ name. I think of the term “fail forward.”

Never did I think my handwriting could be beautiful. Never did I think I could write that lovely handwritten note Mrs. Post is always talking about. But I did. And I can.

This is the benefit of learning from another person, and along side people. While I could have looked online and studied some strokes, signing up for a workshop means someone who has tried the field of materials gives me her most-recommended pieces. I need not hunt around for the best price. She refilled my ink pot before I left. I asked for help on the flourishes. She gave me her perspective. She gave her alphabet.

In modern calligraphy, there are no strict rules. You are presented with the information and you make it your own. It is a project that looks much better to every other eye than yours. It is forgiving. I need that in life. This is something I can do.

I already have my first card reading to put in the mail.

(This is not a sponsored post).

What is Art?

If my hobby is painting, but my day-job is a postal worker, can I call myself an artist? If I screw together basic shapes of wood and make a table, am I an artist? If I crochet blankets for my grandchildren, am I an artist? Some would say not. Some would hesitate to say so about themselves. I propose that art is something anyone can make. Anyone can be an artist. And anything has the potential to be an art.

Art is a way of making something that builds on a skill. In applying the skill, art requires the intuitive judgment of the maker on how to apply it just so. While making art, we engage with the spiritual side of ourselves. We give it a transcendent quality. To make art is to take that which does exist, and transform it into something that goes beyond its original state.


Some feel to say “this is art” or “this is my art” or “I am an artist” is too lofty or grandiose because we attach the artistic quality of the work to a special quality the maker naturally possesses. “He has a gift,” we say. But what he has is a way of taking this skill to the next level, applying more than just a science to it. To consider oneself an artist is to see a vocation, or calling, of oneself to this particular art form. It implies a commitment to seek opportunities and produce this particular art.

Craft is to make a thing that can be used. The art one makes may or may not be useable. It may be visual or performance. Art is a quality superimposed on the craft. We do not need terms like crafters, creatives, or makers. For those who put their heart in the things they make, let them call themselves artists.

Start with a skill, and allow time to ponder its production, to get lost in the effort or plans of making it. Continue with the skill. Learn the rules in order to break them. Do not set out merely to break them.

Make beautiful art.


What type of art can you make? Emily Freeman in A Million Little Ways encourages us to find the things that give us joy, that we desire, that make us feel the thrill of being alive in a healthy way and then do those things. One’s art could be painting furniture, pencil sketching, making music, dancing, computer programming, gardening, or practicing medicine. As there is no limit to the tasks we may encounter, so there is no limit to the types of projects that can be considered art when approached with a fullness of intention and freedom of spirit.

How can I make great art? Renowned artist, Robert Florczak, describes great art as demanding the highest standards of excellence, improving upon the work of previous masters, and aspiring to the highest quality attainable. We can bring this down to a beginner level with the intention to give every work our best. It is not worth it to merely turn out quantity, we must aim for quality, even if it means we produce little, but what we do produce is magnificent. For most of her lifetime, Harper Lee published only one novel; and it is one of the most beloved American novels in existence, To Kill A Mockingbird.

Next, educate yourself on what others have done and what others are doing, start by copying in order to develop your techniques. You learn the skills and techniques in order to later make them your own and find what works best for you. Lastly, continue to learn and seek to grow with every endeavor. There is always more to learn. You may only paint one tree, but if you love that tree, there is nothing wrong in painting it over and over again.