Tools Indulgence: A Word of Warning


Every kind of nib every produced, every pen holder. A life-time supply of walnut ink, a drawing board, and all kinds of paper and colouring in the world. I want them all. So I’m not one to talk, really. But.

Especially when you’re starting out, I’m asking you to try considering to refrain from indulging on your tools, and adopt a ‘Buy less, choose well’ kind of mantra. I know – I can see you’re protectively hugging your bag of supplies there and giving me a look, but hear me out. I’m going to put a couple of reasons out there, just off the top of my head here.

One. Somewhere along your calligraphy journey, you might feel that you want to get better real fast, like, right now. Or maybe you feel very uninspired in the middle of practice. If you have spent loads of money into your tools, you might find yourself demanding impossible things from them, such as: to inspire you – or to make you a master this instant. After all, they cost a lot. But that’s not how it works. Remember that there’s absolutely no need to rush building your dream workspace. Besides, if you get your nibs and tools a little at a time, you’ll be more likely to spend time experimenting and getting to know each one, instead of taking them for granted as part of your supplies.

Two. If you use more affordable supplies, you won’t hesitate to go crazy in practising. I don’t know about you, but whenever I am faced with a fancy, pricey (even sketchbook) material, I freeze up. It’s like my unworthy doodles do not deserve to taint that pristine paper. This won’t happen if you use whatever material available. Plus, if you lean on the side of function (a Speedball holder) rather than aesthetics (one-of-a-kind, custom-made or vintage holder), you can have many more with the same amount that you expense. Which do you prefer: the convenience of having some cheap holders for different nibs, or having to replace them from one fancy holder all the time?

I’m not against you treating yourself to an exquisite colour palette, and I will not deny that quality supplies can produce quality artwork, but they cannot ensure it. It’s like a cooking masterclass. You won’t be half as good as the master by buying the exact same knife she uses, or the same brand of stove. The same goes for ingredients. One can give you the most exotic produce, and you might not even know how to prepare it.

What I’m suggesting is for us to try to focus at least as strong, or twice more on improving your skills rather than collecting tools. If you must indulge, consider spending on well-chosen books or classes instead. And never forget to practise.



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