Sunday, October 13, 2013

Mistakes in your calligraphy project, and how to handle them. Part Three of three.

So far we have talked about two of the three kinds of calligraphy mistakes--fundamental design errors, typos, and pen slips--and looked at design techniques that reduce such errors.  
Today we will look at tactics for preventing and fixing pen slips.  (Pens are like puppies; you occasionally have to clean up after their accidents.) 
There are many ways to mess up your calligraphy.  
  • Overfilling the pen, which then drips onto the paper.
  • Dropping your pen, making a splash of ink.
  • Smearing some of the written ink with your hand.
  • Putting your hand down on the ink and then transferring it elsewhere. 
  • Erasing too soon, smearing the not-quite-dry ink.   
Almost the most important advice I can give you is Don't panic.  And Don't overreact.   

Put down your pen.  Take a deep breath.

I.  Size up the situation.  This is not "stupid," nor is it God's judgment on you.  Mistakes do not come from deep personal flaws!  Be objective.  
  • How much have you written, vs how much more remains to be written?  
  • Does it make sense to try a fix instead of starting over? 
  • Do you have another sheet of paper to start over with?  
  • How serious is the misplaced ink?  
  • How thick is the paper and what kind of surface does it offer?  For instance, robust animal parchment is easy to correct, while soft Japanese calligraphy paper is near impossible.  
II.  If you have determined that the mistake can be corrected, make a duplicate of the mistake on a small piece of the same, or similar, paper.  This will be a great help. Meanwhile, keep working on the piece of calligraphy.  On a long piece, you may make another pen slip.  Wait till all the ink is completely dry.  

III.  Remove the ink.  If it is off away from the text, your job is simple; remove the ink.  If it coincides with the text, you have two options:

  1. Write the letter you want over the unwanted ink before you remove it.* 
  2. Remove the unwanted ink first, leaving the surface as workable as you can.  Then write the correction.   

*How to remove the ink.  

  1. Roll the paper up to make a slight curve.  Holding an x-acto knife almost parallel with the paper, shave off the ink.  
  2. If you are just removing a small area, such as the "eye" of a small e that has filled in, hold the blade at an angle to pry out a little divot.  
  3. If you are trying to trim up a ragged line, make two cuts about 60° from each other that basically carve a new edge for the line.  

Now I want to ask my readers how they deal with errors?   


  1. Thank you for sharing. The stop-breathe-think routine is probably useful outside of calligraphy as well :) I get the point of rolling up the surface - good tip.

  2. You can't be happy as a calligrapher until you acknowledge that mistakes are built into the craft. Don't take them personally. Learning to prevent and fix them is CRUCIAL.