Tracing as a Practice Method
Calligraphy can be hard when you first start.
You look at a letter, try to copy it, but your body doesn’t quite know how to get the same shape, the same elegant letterform.
It’s often a struggle to train your mind and hand to create what you want, and in these situations, tracing can be your best friend.
Yep, I’ve talked to people who don’t like the idea of tracing, and you might think the same way: Why trace? Doesn’t it just teach you how to write the same way someone else writes? What if you don’t want to be copying someone else’s work? What good is it?
The idea is not about copying. It’s about training yourself to really understand the letterforms and teaching yourself the physical movements and pen manipulations necessary to form the strokes of each letter. Tracing also lets you focus on what the forms are supposed to look like, and is really a method of studying the shapes and committing them to your mind and “muscle memory”. Your letters aren’t going to look right if you don’t intimately know the shapes you are creating with your pen!
So, if you find you’re struggling, that there’s just some disconnect between your eye and your hand, grab some tracing (or somewhat see-through) paper and go over an exemplar with a pencil or your nib and ink. Trace those ideal forms to the point that your hand knows what it’s supposed to do to re-create it. Then go back to forming them entirely from scratch. It’ll make a big difference, I promise!
What are your thoughts on tracing? Do you find it helpful for your learning process or do you find it pretty useless?
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I'm always learning myself, and I'm always sharing insights as I go along.