Calligraphy Essentials: A 10-Day Challenge | Bryn Chernoff | Skillshare

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Calligraphy Essentials: A 10-Day Challenge

teacher avatar Bryn Chernoff, Paperfinger Calligraphy and Hand-Lettering

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Setting Up Your Daily Practice


    • 3.

      Day 1: Essential Stroke Fitness


    • 4.

      Day 2: Traditional Exercises


    • 5.

      Day 3: Slants and Spacing


    • 6.

      Day 4: Creative Break


    • 7.

      Day 5: Tackling Capital Letters


    • 8.

      Day 6: Mood Meets Tool


    • 9.

      Day 7: Flourishing


    • 10.

      Day 8: Alphabet Collage Project


    • 11.

      Day 9: Playing With Style


    • 12.

      Day 10: Breaking Habits


    • 13.

      Final Thoughts


    • 14.

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About This Class

Cultivate your daily calligraphy practice with this inviting class from calligrapher and Paperfinger founder Bryn Chernoff.

Through 10 days of warm-ups and exercises, Bryn shares a meditative, thoughtful approach that will give you the tools to transform your work in just 10 minutes each day. Every lesson is packed with insider tips, from types of nibs to affect your slant to how your breathing can influence your writing. You’ll learn how to:

  • Improve your slants, strokes, and spacing technique
  • Elevate your capital letters and flourishes
  • Cultivate your personal calligraphy style

Whether you’re a seasoned calligrapher or just getting started, you'll be able to create a personalized daily routine that will improve your calligraphy day-by-day, jumpstart your personal writing style, and take your craft to the next level.


This class is recommended for those with basic calligraphy familiarity. If you're brand-new to calligraphy, be sure to check out all of Bryn's classes on Skillshare, including Introduction to Modern Script Calligraphy and Calligraphy II: Finding Your Personal Script Style!

Meet Your Teacher

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Bryn Chernoff

Paperfinger Calligraphy and Hand-Lettering


Bryn Chernoff started her calligraphy studio Paperfinger out of a true love for writing by hand. Paperfinger provides modern, hand-drawn calligraphy and illustration for everything from weddings and events to graphic design projects, keepsakes, commercial and custom work.

Her work has been featured in Town & Country, Real Simple, The New York Times, Refinery29, Cool Hunting, Martha Stewart Weddings, The Knot, Swiss Miss, 100 Layer Cake, and countless others.

Sharing her love for calligraphy, Bryn also leads a number of workshops and offers private instruction. To follow her work, explore her portfolio, online shop, and blog.

See full profile

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1. Introduction: I'm Bryn Chernoff from Paperfinger Calligraphy. I started my studio in 2007. And I do a range of contemporary styles, I do illustration and design work, and I've been an instructor in workshops and on Skillshare for several years now. One of the true facts of calligraphy and writing by hands is that you just get better the more you do it. The idea here is that you make a reasonable commitment to yourself by spending 10 minutes for 10 days on 10 different units that I think will really help you improve your practice and also create opportunities to play, be creative and have a good time without worrying about a particular deadline or a particular final project. So I made this calendar for you, to help affirm your commitment over these next 10 days, and I think you should put it somewhere in a front-and-center in your daily life, to help remind you of why you chose to take the class, why it's important to you. If you can reduce the distractions around you and give yourself the time each day, I think you'll really enjoy it. I'm so excited to be here presenting this curriculum and also to have benefited from it myself. So, let's do it. 2. Setting Up Your Daily Practice: I want to get you prepared for what's ahead and how you can set yourself up for your daily practice, because I know your time is limited as well. So we want to prep as much as we can and think about how you can ensure that you can get the most out of your practice every day. So, to start, I want to tell you just what you'll need and how you can approach each unit. You'll find that, most of the time, you can just watch the video and then spend your 10 minutes. The videos won't be too long, so hopefully, in total, you're not spending a large chunk of time on this if you don't have it. Ideally, you can get your calligraphy setup, so you have a spot to go to every day. You won't need many supplies. I want to make this as simple and straightforward as possible. There's worksheets for most of the units and those are clearly identified for you to print out and reference as we go. You'll want some writing paper, and that might be your personal preference or you can look at the ones that I've recommended. I do think it could be fun if you used one book for the whole course because that could be fun to have as a collection, but really whatever is going to work for you and it's easy and accessible. You'll obviously need ink. I'm working with Sumi ink, which is my favorite. I'm working with my favorite Nikko G nib for all of this. But whatever is your preferred set of tools and supplies is what you should do, because you want to be comfortable. I also find it's helpful to have rulers in case you do need to make your own guide sheets. There's guide sheets to print if you want those. The other thing to think about really is what does this time mean for you, when are you making it happen every day, and how can you set yourself up to allow maximum focus? I truly feel like there's meditative benefits. It kind of cuts out all the chatter in my head and lets me focus on the page, and these exercises are designed to really allow you that opportunity to hone in and feel the calm that can come with this work. The other thing I want you to consider is that maybe you improve in those 10 minutes alone, but I feel very sure that you'll see an improvement from the start of the 10 days to the end. It's not like, ''Ooh, like this isn't some crazy 10-day scam." It's just like one of the true facts of calligraphy and writing by hand, is that you just get better the more you do it. So, I think I'll get better with you on camera here as we progress through the 10 units, but I also think that you'll see an improvement from day 1 to day 10. One way I've identified for you to look and mark that progress is pick one sentence that you feel like writing every day, whatever the sentences is, like, "I love calligraphy" or it could be a line of a poem, it can be anything you want, just something that you're going to write every day, and I want you to watch every day as you write it at the end of each session and see how it's changing, see how it's improving. Maybe it's steadier, maybe it's more ornate, whatever evolves for you over the 10 days will be exciting to see and awesome to share as well. So, I made this calendar for you to help firm your commitment over these next 10 days, and I think you should put it somewhere in the front and center in your daily life to help remind you of why you chose to take the class, why it's important to you. I'm going to go over a really quick refresher on how to get your nib setup with ink, but if you want a really in-depth instruction on how to use your nibs, the detailed process and a lot of guidance, you should definitely check out my first Skillshare class, which spends a lot of time on getting beginners started with calligraphy. Okay. So here's the quick overview. I've added my Sumi ink to my holder right here, I've got my nib, and I've placed it in my pen holder, want to make sure it's been cleaned or held over a flame if it's a brand new nib to get that oil residue off. I'll start by dipping, want to make sure it's in there firmly and securely. I'm dipping just far enough to go past the reservoir but not too far so that I'm getting close to the handle which could get really messy. Then, I'm just going to make sure it's working properly, I'll draw some lines, get the ink flowing. The fundamental beauty of the pointed nib is that with the downstroke pressure, you get that thick stroke and going sideways or any other direction, other than down, you get your fine hair lines. We'll be going into real detailed warm up exercises in the next video. 3. Day 1: Essential Stroke Fitness: So this is day one and it's a workout, but a happy peaceful workout. It's essential stroke fitness, so it's really the building blocks of writing and the building blocks of letterforms broken down into strokes. It's a really straightforward, and relaxing way to warm up your hand. So I want you to think of it not just as a chance to get your muscles warmed up, but also a chance to practice form, shape, and movement on the page and to get more and more comfortable with manipulating the nip. We'll be using worksheet number one for this lesson, and you can download it, print it out, or have it up on your screen, and it will walk you through the steps for today's exercise. As you'll see in the worksheet, I've listed a bunch of different strokes that I want you to practice today. You may get to all of them, you can pick and choose, but they are all based on the movements and strokes that I find I'm using all the time in my work plus from my research into the instructional stroke breakdowns of some of the traditional calligraphy scripts like spencerian and copperplate. One thing to think about on all of these different exercises each day is that there's something to the beauty of a practice page. I was struck by learning that the word text and texture comes from the Latin root of to weave, and that whether you're doing a true written calligraphy piece, or you're just practicing, that there's something to be said for paying attention to the texture that you're creating overall. So, perhaps it's that you're going to keep an eye on the spacing as you write, that you want to fill your page in a beautiful way, and that you want to bring that attentive focus to your writing. Just because it's practice it doesn't mean it needs to look like crazy scrap paper. So, as you go keep that in mind. So, you're ready to get started, you've got the worksheet in front of you, and you can take each stroke and write a line of that same stroke repeatedly, keeping an eye on your spacing, your pace, and a bunch of other features that I'll be talking through with you. You could use a guide, you could use lined sheets, I'm using a dot grid paper right now, because I like the intrusiveness of it. But either way, don't worry about it too much, I think having a baseline guide is probably the most essential thing because you don't need to worry about your lines straightness for this exercise. You really just want to give yourself the chance to focus on the strokes, and strokes alone. As you're writing, we talked about texture and overall beauty of the page. We want to think about your line's steadiness. So as you draw out your hairline strokes, are they wavering, or are they wobbly, or are they smooth and gliding? That might have something to do with speed, and might have something to do with how much coffee you had today, but just keep that in mind. Ideally, you don't want to see any wobbles, especially in those hairlines unless it's highly intentional. You want to keep a consistent space between each of the strokes, because that's going to give you a nice consistent look to the line. Speed, I mentioned has to do with line steadiness, but it also may have something to do with what you're comfortable with. So, you don't want to rush your work. Sometimes, I find a slightly faster pace helps me, but at the same time you want to give enough presence of mind, enough focus and slow yourself down enough that you can really add attention and care to the strokes that you're making so that they come out as beautifully as possible. So I'm doing the same stroke, but I'm practicing applying pressure on that downstroke and that's going to highlight my slant. We see it more clearly than we will on the previous line, so I'm really going to try to maintain a parallel downstroke on that curve. It's up to you how big or small you're writing, and each of us has a comfortable range, or a comfortable height of the stroke or x height that you feel like you can write your forms and shapes most easily and most naturally, so pick whatever works for you and for each stroke on this exercise, it might be a different height that makes sense, or if you are inclined towards practicing slightly larger gestures, by all means, go for it. Some people even incorporate music to help guide them towards rhythm, so there's a pacing that you might find really serves the quality of your work, perhaps if you're doing a downstroke on a consistent time, or a consistent beat, it might help you stay steadier, or it might help you stay more parallel in your slant. Some people might use music to guide them, it could just be something you're keeping in mind in the back of your head. Now, to continue that gesture we've got the s-scar, but I'm going to continue with the downstroke. This exercise not only helps with all the forums, but it's a practice for picking up and putting down your nib. So, where can you effectively pick up and put down as needed. Ideally, it's at the start or the end of a downstroke so that it can be hidden and disguised. As I mentioned earlier in the course, I want you to stay present, don't worry about the rest of the things on your to-do-list for the day, or the projects you're trying to get done, just be with this, because this is all you have to do right now. I want you to even try experimenting with how your breath impacts the way that you're writing. So, even simply if you're thinking on a curving line and you're going up and down, that you're upstroke is like an in-breath and that the downstroke is an out-breath, and that allowing a bit of rhythm and pacing to both your breath, as well as, you're writing is a win win for everybody. Some ways, my eyes start to glaze over so that I'm getting a general look at the space that my loop is taking up, as well as, the spacing between. I'm trying to trust my pen to follow. Here's an example where we can do a taller form. Maintain a bigger exhale, or perhaps this is now, but either way, what do you notice when you go taller? Is it harder to maintain a steady line to change the speed? Lastly, I just want you to keep in mind always, your physical positioning and the way you're holding your pen. So, are you giving yourself enough vertical space on the desk? Are you letting your forearm have plenty of room to move? You want to avoid keeping your elbow locked in towards your ribs? Because that's just going to inhibit your movement, make you less comfortable, and hurt the quality of your work. So, that's one thing to keep in mind if you need to push your page up as you go to allow yourself to be writing in this section of the table. That's great, you should absolutely keep that in mind and adjust as you go. So, you want to think about how you're holding your pen and for sustainability. It's just going to produce better work, but am I going to have pain or discomfort as a result? Great thing about it, is it's not going to require tons of intense scrimping. So, you can have a nice loose feel. I've read some people like to repeatedly tap their pen just to remind themselves that they can keep a loose feel on it, and you can experiment with how you're holding your wrist, as well as, your finger muscles. So, whether you're using more of your forearm to guide your movement versus your wrist, versus your fingers. That's just something to start adding more awareness to in your practice, whether you're starting out, or more advanced because maybe it will help unlock for you some more free movement, as well as, help prevent you from having any pain or discomfort as you go. So, take a minute now and just write your daily sentence. Whatever it is that you selected, just write it once, don't worry about it. It doesn't need to be a finished piece for presentation, but it will be great to see as we go forward through the courses. 4. Day 2: Traditional Exercises: Spencerian is an American born script, it came after copper plate, which copper plate was more in the age of engraving and really a very flourished and ornamented style. Spencerian is a slightly simpler script developed in the 1830's that became popular for a long time until traditional cursive came out as people needed to write quicker and more cleanly. One of the things that comes up whether you're just starting with calligraphy or it's something you'll stay aware of always, is the picking up and putting down of your name because you're not writing with an ordinary pen. You're writing with a special tool that allows you to lift and start back and still creating one continuous look. Thinking about how and when to do that is important part of your calligraphy practice. Some of these penmanship exercises will help you just focus on that and pay attention to how to do that in the best way. So, you have a worksheet for this lesson, and it's going to give you the instructions to follow for your 10-minute session. I want you to just write in the way that you like to write in the calligraphy style that you're most comfortable with and the style that you prefer. You can write in the size that you prefer. It's really about just focusing purely on a couple of things. One is the picking up and the putting down. The other is the way that you're connecting your letters. I want to focus on those two through these exercises, and I'll explain some of the pointers to look out for. Okay, we'll start just to get warmed up in with the alphabet of connected letters. I want you to start thinking about picking up and putting down as well as the quality of your connections. This writing style uses the basic principles of metallic writing which is mean, you use a gentle upstroke after each letter to connect to the next one. One key thing is your downstroke, that's my opportunity to pick up and put down. I'm either starting with my pen down for a new downstroke at either the beginning or the end of it. I might be picking up on either end. Also, the downstroke is your heaviest flow of ink, so it's going to be wet on the page. So, crossing over a downstroke can be tricky if you have a pool of fresh ink right there. So, you'll see often sometimes, if I've got a really heavy downstroke and I'm coming back to cross it with the hairline, I might lift from where I reached the edge of the downstroke and then starting again on the other side so that you don't drag the ink across the page. That's one thing that I tend to do without even thinking sometimes if I want to make sure I don't have a messier cross. That's something you can experiment with. You obviously want it to look like it was one continuous line. But that's the fun and the benefit of using a nib, is you can pick up and put down and no one has to know when that happened. But I'm going to demonstrate this italic principle by just writing the alphabet without connecting. You'll see those connectors in place ready to meet up with the next word. Like we talked about, are they straight or are they curved, and where do they join the next letter? If they're coming up at a good angle, they're going to meet the next letter more towards the midpoint rather at the bottom. You want to keep them straight for a better looking word. Next in your practice, you'll work through the pairs identified in the worksheet, and they're designed to help you practice the different types of connections we have between different letters. I want you to write each one three times just to get a good flow going. Overall, today's exercise should feel similar to what yesterday's lesson gave you which is a warm up, a physical set of movements, like a fitness program. But now we get to actually use letters and think about a few new features as we go. I want to demonstrate here the difference between straight and rounded connectors. So, if we just write the word ant, and I keep my connector straight, I'll do that a little bit smoother, you can see that this line itself is a straight line. There may be curves. This one's a little curved here. But here's this very straight connector. Let's try to illustrate the contrast if those were curved. What you start to see is the more curvy your connectors are, it almost takes you back to elementary school cursive if you even have that. It starts to have this primary vibe. I feel like if you want elegance in your writing, even if you're just writing your grocery list, having that straight connection is going to be one of the simplest ways to achieve it. Here's a curved connection. You can see it has this sort of the worst aspect of a handwritten feel. Whereas if you straighten them out, it looks so much better. So, that's one key thing that you can practice. I want you to try out even whether it's with your pairs of letters or if you want to write some different words, just show yourself that contrast, see how it feels, and see why it comes out so much better. Let's lastly demonstrate, we can use the same word, where your connection joins to the next letter. So, in this ideal example- I just wrote can't. So, let's do that. You can see that the connection is meeting at the midpoint of the A, midpoint of the N, close to the midpoint of the T. Let's try and see what it would look like if they joined much lower. It's almost difficult to try to purposely do something you don't like, but it's worth it just for the demo. You can see that this lower joins here really change the flow of your writing. A, it's a little bit harder for me to actually write that but the look, flow, the elegance, the consistency, all of those things are so much more improved by joining at the midpoint of your next letter. I hope you found that to be relaxing and beneficial to your practice. Before you close out for the day, make sure to write your daily sentence which we'll build on every day for the rest of the course. For tomorrow's lesson, we'll be focusing on slants and spacing which is something you've probably had in mind today, but we'll really get to focus on completely. 5. Day 3: Slants and Spacing: All right. So, this continues. These first three units are really about kind of the fitness aspects and the kind of the muscular habits that you want to build in the muscle memory, and the ease and confidence of writing. We'll get more creative and playful as we move forward. But this one today is about consistent slant and healthy spacing, because the two are kind of inseparable. Okay. So, in today's worksheet, you'll see that I have identified your steps. What you're going to be doing is picking two slants, whatever you choose. You can pick from the guidelines and the guide sheets that I've identified and saved for you in your resources or you can print your own that you find online. You can use a rolling ruler and draw your own guide sheets, whatever you prefer. We'll be doing some work with guides and some without, in order to practice the muscular habits. Okay. So, set your timer, five minutes for the first one and I'm starting with my blank page, and one of the guide sheets. You might not be able to see this through the camera but the guide sheet, I can see it through my page. So, I can see my slant lines and I'll be using those as I practice. Then, we'll do a version without it. So, you can do this at home, if you have share enough paper. You could use a light box or if you need to you can always draw your lines onto the page. So, we're just starting really simply with down stroke. So, I've picked the slant, I'm going to just draw right here on the page. So, it's very clear. This is my slant that I've got to stick with. I'm just going to practice some short down strokes, matching that parallel slant. Even now, I want to be thinking about spacing. In one sense, you can look back at your writing and just look at your down strokes, and you'll identify both slant and spacing. We'll see some examples of that. You can try it as a hairline. But the thing to think about, is that the slant relates most directly to your down strokes and that the slant of connecting lines or other curves, they might not actually be on the same exact slant. Certain traditions of calligraphy even specify which degree, the connecting line is versus the down stroke. So, for example you might have a line curving up like this, but the down stroke is maintained on this slant. Whereas, this might be a different angle. This is such a nice way to warm up your hand and familiarize it. With the gesture, you're going to be doing as you write. So, I've got these rows going, I'm going to do some just fully connected. Looking back, glancing regularly at my slant. Looking through the guide to see, am I truly keeping it parallel? You'll see, I have to position my page in my hand to make that work. It's not like you can put your page in any direction and achieve that, because it's all about the position of the nib on the page. I'm writing with a straight nib. A lot of people like those oblique nibs that have a bend in the nib itself or in the holder, because it makes things more comfortable for them, in terms of maintaining your slant. But because this is what I know and I'm comfortable with, this is what I'll be using as I work. But I'll be curious to hear from you guys, if you're finding that the oblique nib is really a great saver for you in your comfort and ease with creating a slant. So, just keeping that eye on. Even if you extend them, it's sometimes easier to see, are these as perfectly parallel as possible. Now, I've drawn these dotted lines which I hope you can see. You can look, is the space between these the same over and over? Certainly your down strokes are going to be different based on what the letter is. But this spacing is still going to be revealed through them. So, let's see some examples of that. As we move forward, we're going to write the alphabet. Maintaining the same slant. So, ideally I'm looking back at this and I want that same test to come out with a good result. Are these lines, these down strokes, are they parallel and are they spaced evenly? I see flaws, but overall I feel really good about the kind of slant I've maintained. So, I've written the alphabet, perhaps you have another minute or so, a couple minutes, hopefully. We're going to try this without guides. So, I'm taking a blank sheet. You may just want your straight baseline guide, because we're really only trying to think about slant and spacing. I don't want to have you worrying about the baseline at the same time and you could repeat the same drill doing your down strokes. Then, connected down stroke. Now, onto the alphabet. So, I'm thinking about my down stroke, I'm thinking about the spacing between the letters occupying the same space, as the letter itself and feeling that rhythm and pace of the down stroke, and how it matches the slant that I'm trying to maintain. So, you've spent five minutes on one. Then, we'll do a contrasting one for another five minutes and see how that feels. Maybe, you'll find that you've got a sweet spot in there that you really enjoy. Okay. For a contrasting slant, I'm just going to do something way more dramatic, just as a fun experiment. So, this is a really strong slant, got to find it. So, I feel like they're doing the down stroke, you cannot find your groove of that slant. I don't have it yet. It's way over. Okay. What does that even mean for the alphabet that would result. First of all, I have a very different position on the page and the alphabet. So, you can see it, it achieves a different look and form the shape of my letters. Don't forget maybe your slant just upright. You could have a completely upright slant, that's totally legit and a common one. In which case, my down strokes are really straight up and down, and that's nice. It's comfortable, especially with a straight pointed nib. There's a lot of ways you can form your style on a slant like that as well. So, you've finished this unit, that's so great. I'm glad you made the time. So, take one more second to write your daily sentence and see how it's coming along throughout this week. For next class, we get to have kind of a playful break. Because you've spent these three first units really drilling, working out, kind of like this fitness program that I have you on. The next one will really allow ourselves 10 minutes, to just like use all this good warmed up energy towards whatever you want to do and I'll have a bunch of ideas to suggest. So, see you there. 6. Day 4: Creative Break: Okay. So, today is a creative break and I designed this lesson because it's something I would love for myself. So, I'm guessing that is something you would enjoy. You get to spend these 10 minutes a day just creating and using your calligraphy in a playful fun way whatever you want to do. I think this is worthwhile because I want you to stay in touch with why you love doing calligraphy to begin with, and then it's not just about like executing and monitoring for perfection, but that is also just about doing something you love and enjoy, and sort of let yourself have 10 minutes to kind of throw yourself in is so worthwhile. You don't need anything in particular for today's lesson. If you have your regular writing paper, and your ink, and your nib, you're fine. Even if you want to do this with a pencil like you can write with whatever you want. None of this has to be presented or gifted or displayed like if you happen to make something, you want to give and share with someone else later or post to our community forums like Awesome, but don't keep that in mind. Keep your creative space and your freedom in mind because that's the point of the exercise. I want you to spend the full 10 minutes on that, not on gathering just the right thing or is this the right paper. Just forget that and get into the work. I thought of a few ideas for you that might be good prompt, if you can't think of something quickly that you want to do on your own. One is just write a letter to someone you love. Write a letter to a friend. Take out a piece of paper and write it with your calligraphy nib. Awesome. Done. Wonderful thing to do. Another thing is you could try drawing letters. So, we do a lot of writing when we're writing the strokes. But if you took out your pencil and actually just started drawing letters as shapes, the kind of drawing that type designers and font designers work on, that's a fun exercise just for getting to know your letter forms. Another similar exercise is to draw the counters only, so you might be just shading and like in this picture, shading in the areas that fill out the space around the letter. So, those are the counters. It's just a fun artistic way to explore the forms as well. If you're going to want like a concise project idea, some of the things that I've done and then I've seen other people talk about wanting to do is like writing a mini family tree for your little nuclear unit or whatever you want. You could do a map using letters to create the shapes of the space. It could be a stream of consciousness, exercise your words could fill the page. They could be an orderly less like anything that just gets you writing without editing yourself. That's our idea here, is like what can you just throw down on the page without stopping, checking, pausing. It's only 10 minutes. So, you want to use it for writing the whole way through. Okay. Hope you enjoy that exercise and remember to take one more minute to write your daily sentence. So, we'll have that collection over the 10 day period. Tomorrow's lesson will be all about tackling capital letters. 7. Day 5: Tackling Capital Letters: All right. So, this lesson is all about capital letters. I don't think I need to explain too much about why that's important or why it needs our time and attention, because everyone I know that's a calligrapher, whether they're just getting started or been doing it for years, struggles around capitals or has a few on their list that just give them trouble every time. So, it's really worth just spending a little time focusing purely on those. They are trickier in nature; A, because we practice them less because we're not writing them as frequently, but also they exist on their own. Sometimes they don't necessarily connect or tie into the rest of the word in the same way, and they have the opportunity to stand out, which is a fun part about them. All right, so what's needed today is pretty simple. It's just the worksheet, which is going to walk us through the lesson. You're writing paper, your nib, your ink, et cetera. All right. I'm going to do this with you and I feel equally anxious about some in my capital letters so I'm going to vulnerably tackle them with you. But, we're just going to start by giving yourself one-minute, write the alphabet, and write it in the style that you write in the most often. If you're still trying to figure that out, that's fine, you can mimic what I'm doing here. But it's worth practicing the hand that you tend to prefer and that you're really trying to hone because that's what it's going to inform the choices we make about the capital letters. So, let's start. I'm not going to over think it. I'm just going to write relatively quickly, just going with the defaults. How I often tend to write these letters without thinking it over too much. We'll have a chance to think it over later. All right. So, you bring your alphabet. Now, just put your pen down, give yourself a second, have a good look. Immediately, maybe a couple of them where you're like I just don't like how this comes out, or this one makes me nervous every time I need to write it, or I feel anxious about how it's going to go. Either way, just flag those. For me, it's the capital D. I'd say the G, I have them hover over K, I feel there's got to be a better way. Capital N, kind of lackluster, my Q and my R. You'll see, obviously, some of them are related like the P and the R. I mean, those are very similar sets of stroke so improving one will definitely improve the other. U, is there something I can do here that will make that more interesting? Capital L too I'd like. And capital B. So, I mean, I could keep going, but these are the first ones that stand out to me. I've sought some feedback from some students in the past and I think we all share a few that give us trouble, but then, everybody's a little different. So, just go with your gut instinct on which come up for you first. On the worksheet, I did a little collage of some of the ones I've heard from students the most, about like capital B, or J, or whatever it is. So, those are just to give you a sense of the ones that come up for people often. We only have 10 minutes. So, and I don't want to spread yourselves too thin so just pick two of them. Put two that are different enough, and I think they'll help inform the other ones as well. I'm going to pick D and K, because those are my guys, they're the ones I want to work on the most and I'll spend five minutes on each. So, I've been I'm working on this exercise before as I prepared for the lesson, and I have some D's here on this practice sheet that came to me through some of my brainstorming as well as research. One thing that I really encourage is looking for outside inspiration. We're not looking or necessarily copy another artists' work per say, but you can get ideas from million places. Anything from digital typefaces, to old manuscripts, to Google image search, for the capital D calligraphy, you'll find a million examples. I love rifling through my old calligraphy books, some of them just have lots of different scripts and alphabets in them and I might find. Oh, this is an interesting idea. There's one aspect of this that I like and I want to try that out. So, some of that is just really looking for ideas everywhere and around you and just trying them out with your own hand. So, we don't have tons of time, but you can just see how they roll out. Like maybe that feels really good. Maybe you like the look and feel of another one but you can't quite figure out how to execute it. This is your chance to experiment. These are by no means perfect, but they're getting me there. They're getting me to somewhere new. It may just be writing it over and over a few times or making one small adjustment. The other thing to consider is we're not just creating a D in a vacuum; we're creating a capital D that's going to fit with the rest of my writing style. The style that I've chosen to work with today's one of my go-tos of a pretty classic looking script. So, I need to keep it in line. I need to keep the same slant, I need to keep the considerations of the look and feel that I need to stick with. I'm interested in somewhere in between these two. I like the modernist and casual feel of this, but I know it needs to have a little more formality and a different slant. So, something along these lines is appealing to me, it has a bit of a curve on that down-stroke, but then, maybe I can make it a little less formal. So, you're looking around and you're getting inspiration from other calligraphers, maybe its old manuscripts or it's a contemporary work seen by artists you find online, or Pinterest, or magazines, or anything. I just want you to keep in mind that we have the opportunity to be careful about how we gain ideas and inform our work through looking at other calligraphers' styles. In traditional calligraphy, it was like okay, here's how you write it. This is exactly how you do it and this how it's all supposed to look. There is something very simple and straightforward about that. What's exciting about contemporary calligraphy is we're all trying to come up with our own thing. If you look at work that's made by a calligrapher who is working as a calligrapher and offering their service as a professional calligrapher, we do want to honor that might be their own creation and it's the exciting quest for each of us to come up with our own unique distinctive work. So, it is wonderful to get inspired by other people's work, but I challenge you to look at it and then reflect on how you might change it, how you might take that idea to build your own style and your own look and feel, if you're looking to offer this in the professional realm. It's a consideration that feels important in our industry, among my peers, and in calligraphy. I think it'll build a greater body of beautiful diverse work if we all strive for that, rather than just mimicking things that we see. So, my five minutes are coming up and I have a collection of D's. I may might not know it yet, like, oh, I've figured it out and I have the most perfect D ever. But I already feel like I've engaged with some of my habits around it, tried to break out of them. I've researched and gotten some ideas and inspiration from other sources, and I feel a little less overwhelmed now when I try to write it again. So, perhaps you'll find the winning capital letter for you, or you're just on your way, and either while, these five minutes are really worth it. So, I now encourage you to take the next five minutes and tackle your next letter and you'll see me working on my K as I go. You'll see, here, I got excited about this Spencerian K, and I looked through some of the Spencerian instruction to find it. What was different and hadn't occurred to me in the past was that I could have a hairline here and a thicker stroke on this bottom section. So, I've written out a few words, just testing it out too. You don't want to bore yourself into just purely writing the letter over and over. But writing some words, putting it into practice, putting into context will be more interesting, plus it'll help you see if it's fitting with the rest of your alphabet. So, this is the way it was listed in the book. But my version, I decided to take out this little exit stroke here, and just keep that clean, keep that hairline, perhaps add a loop. So, I'm still getting the hang of it. It's not like, oh, this just rolls right off, in any new letter form. We'll give you that unfamiliarity. But, once you've found one that you enjoy, you just get to start practicing it, and then it'll become a familiar movement for your hand. All right, well, I hope you feel like you got somewhere with the two letters you focused on and maybe you're excited to make some more time in your schedule to tackle the rest of them. But either way, take one last second and write your daily sentence. Maybe you write it with a lot of capital letters mixed in, or not, but hopefully, you'll see that there's some interesting progress happening for you throughout this whole class. 8. Day 6: Mood Meets Tool: All right. So, this lesson is Mood Meets Tool, and we're really breaking into a new realm with this lesson in contrast to the ones we've been doing which have really been focused on executing, and this is really about more in the realm of style plus tools. So, how do we create a different mood and feel with the style of writing, and how can we impact that purely just through the tool itself, because there's a million things we can write with. So, to get started, I just need you to gather your 10 tools and I literally grabbed from what was handy in the drawers around me. The idea is really just that they're different from each other, and maybe there are things you haven't tried or you're curious about testing. I got a nib that's very different from the one that I usually use, I have a brush marker. These are really awesome. I've listed them on the site. I've got a watercolor pencil right here, some regular colored pencils, we've got just your regular old pen from the desk. This is a fun version of a calligraphy marker. I've got a brush marker, I have a chopstick, paint brush and just a generic pencil. So, this will give me fun contrast to play with throughout the exercise. All right. So, you want to pick a word or a phrase, a short one, that you can use repeatedly, and perhaps, for your overall style, just pick the one that is your go-to, one that comes really comfortably, because you want to write basically the same way each time, and it's just going to be a matter of changing the tool to see how that impacts the mood. All right. So, your worksheet has a list of adjectives that you could spend a minute on each, or you could come up with your own if you've got even something in mind. Anything works. We just want to experiment with contrast, so I tried to think of adjectives that will challenge you to use different tools in different ways. I'm going to pick one word to write each time the same way. I'll just do calligraphy and my first step is I'm going to write it using elegant as my guide. I'm going to maintain the same style each time, but I've chosen this nib. It was actually like a family member found it in a flea market in Paris, so I already have this elegant association with it. We'll see if it comes through on the page. Okay. So, that was my first experiment. I'm going to move quickly onto the next. So, next word is expressive. I'm going to try this brush pen. Now, one thing immediately is tools is going to inform the size. So, I might be able to maintain the same style, but already I'm going to be working with a larger word, because this tool is big. All right. So, I do want to acknowledge that there's a million ways that we can affect mood, through the way that we write the style, the tool, the size, the scale. There's a lot of features to play with, but today's focus is purely on the tool. So, I want to allow you to just forget about all your other options. You always have those available to you, but today we're just thinking about tool. So, while you may be tempted to make stylistic changes, to create a certain mood to your writing, I want to challenge you by only letting you change your tool and just focusing on that one factor itself. I'll try, antiquate it and one thing is you can manipulate your tool. There's different ways to use each one. So, perhaps, I'll allow myself a little less consistency with my use of pressure on this pen. Even a slight inconsistency of my use of pressure gives me the antiquated feel I was trying to achieve. Okay. Lastly, I'm going to try out this chopstick idea for artistic, because I figure if it looks kind of crazy then we can count it as artistic, and this is just a pure experiment, so we'll just go with the same. It's actually writing really well. But, what if I even write, this is a little bit more interesting. So, I adjusted my positioning of the chopstick because I realize this was looking a little bit too straight up, but then writing on the top point it gave me this interesting. It's not quite a brush stroke, but it has a rough and an even quality that makes it feel a little bit more fitting to the mood. So, maybe you'll come up with some crazy stuff. I hope you will and I hope you'll share it on the board, so we can see what kinds of tools you're using. Before you close out, take whatever tool you want from today and write your daily sentence, and maybe something cool has come out of today's exercise to inform it. 9. Day 7: Flourishing: Today's lesson is on flourishing. We're going to run through a bunch of exercises that build your practice, build your skill set, and essentially, provide you with a tool belt, which will enable you to do more improvisational or creative flourishing later on. The Latin root comes from the word to bloom and I think the way I interpret that is really that like, your flourishing is going to respond to whatever design and whatever piece you're working on. It should never overpower the words or the material you want to present. It's up to you how much and how you use your flourishes and it's really going to depend on the style that you write in and the kind of work you want to create. The most common places you'll see flourishes are on that first capital letter like S in a drop cap, or you might see it on your ascenders and descenders, like on a crossbar of a T, or on the tail of a Y, you might add a flourish there. You might see it on the exit at the end of a word of or a line. You might see it in the blank space that surround the design to help fill out the layout. Or you might see it everywhere if you wanted a extremely ornate style of flourishing where it's added as much as possible. So, your worksheet will walk you through five types of flourishes and five types of gestures. You can really think of them as these distinct elements that can be done on their own, in little moments here or there, or can be added together to make more need or more complicated flourishes, whatever you prefer. Okay. So, just even to warm up. Pay attention to the direction of the arrows on the practice sheets. We want to keep a steady line. We want a nice smooth curve even if it's just as simple as these little art gestures. Feeling comfortable moving in both direction, up and down. You could change the size, whatever feels comfortable. Then, if you're practicing with your nib, the other thing to be thinking about, with a pencil it's easy to move in any direction at any time, but with flourishing you're really encouraged to turn the page however often you want and depending on if you want hairline strokes. Get a little more ink on here. Or if you're looking for some more contrasting thicks and thins, what you want to do is turn the page to give you the downstroke wherever you want a thick line. So, as you build bigger flourishes with multiple strokes or different sections, you may be turning the page several times within the span of writing that flourish. Ditto flourishes are also often really planned out. So, they may be sketched and decided and designed by pencil and then later followed by ink. So, just if you're practicing with your nib, remind yourself of how the downstroke is going to play a role in creating a certain look. So, if I want parallel curves here, I'm going to have to turn my page completely around to do it in both directions. Same will go for your loops. Practicing it in both directions will help build a level of comfort and ease in making those gestures. The smoothness of your line is so important with flourishing. That's where a lot of people struggle. I have a little wobble here and that might just be because I don't feel as 100 percent steady as I possibly could today. But it also has to do with the speed. It has to do with the size of your movements and that's where sometimes just like experimenting, when you're doing any kind of flourish, you can always start by doing it in the air and literally this looks maybe ridiculous. But it's so worth it to even just trace with your finger in the air. Let's say we're doing this loop right here. This four part loop, well, it's three loops. I'm just going to practice the movement without worrying about executing it. I'm just going to practice the gesture. It's almost getting your hand and your arm to feel familiar and comfortable with the movements to understand the order of events, to figure out where am I overlapping, where am I crossing. It's so helpful and it also gives you a chance to try it out before you have to actually execute it on the page. So, I've just done that several times. Holding my pen even and I'm just going to give it a shot. Okay. So, I'll demo what you can be thinking about. One is, everything is on the surface of the table. So, the point of my pen, the surface of my hand, and my entire forearm. So, let's just try that same movement where everything's going to touch the table. I feel a lot more restricted in my movement trying to achieve that. While keeping my hand on the table. So, one subtle change might be, what happens if I lift my forearm? It's getting a lot better already, but already I can move so much more freely with just the surface of my hand and the penpoint touching the page. My forearm was really slowing me down. You need as much help as you can from just confident, free movement in order to get a nice, beautiful curve. Because, if you're hesitant, if you slow down too much, you'll start to get wobbly and you'll lose the pace and momentum that the flourish requires. Spirals is a good way to practice your spacing because spacing can be different depending on the type of flourishing you want to do. But it has to be consistent and relate to the rest of the piece. So, you wouldn't want in extremely tightly coiled spiral followed by much wider spaced lines. You want to have some consistency and that's going to relate to any kind of flourish you do. So, perhaps with the previous loops in mind, you do a really tight design versus a really wide and spacious one. But when you get too contrasty, you run the risk of having an incoherent look. The next exercise has you practicing reversals, which we've done a little bit of. But it's helping you break out of perhaps doing gestures always in the same direction. So, for example, this is one that I do a lot, I go in this direction here. I start from this end and I loop around in that way. But if I try to just train myself to do it in a mirror image, it's going to build my flexibility and enhance my skill flourishing. So, it's literally like, I feel I have to flip a switch in my head and even follow my own advice of like, okay, normally, I go down and across, but now, I'm going to go down and across this way. So, I practice the movement. Even over, hovering over your page. This isn't a perfect mirror image, but it's much better than if I hadn't practice. So, I feel pretty good about those reversals. The last step in your exercise is just to take two of these elements that you've made and see what it's like to put them together, and that can be as simple or as complex as you want. So, if I take my general loop here, what can I add to that perhaps to create something new? Something as simple as that. I'll try it again. Yeah, and that's just two really simple strokes that could be added simply onto a word like my name. Last thing you can do is write your daily sentence and of course, it'd be appropriate to add some flourishes to it today and maybe share that with the rest of us. Tomorrow, we'll be moving into a fun project day. Another creative break. So, I look forward to sharing that with you soon. 10. Day 8: Alphabet Collage Project: So, today's lesson is actually a real creative break for you again and hopefully just a simply structured exercise for you to enjoy writing, try out some of the new ideas you've been generating through the previous lessons, and just create something without editing yourself. It's the concept of an alphabet collage, and that's really up to your own interpretation. I have a couple of examples of ones I've done or I've spent just 10 minutes on them. Maybe you get through the whole alphabet, spreading the letters across the page. Maybe you get through the first six letters, whichever it is, you could do all capitals, you could do a mix of lowercase, you could write words alongside it, so A is for apple etc, maybe you want to do tiny little doodles next to them. We've talked about this texture concept all the way through in your practice sheets, and now is a chance to really think about your layout. So, maybe the letters are different sizes on the page and maybe they're going all over and maybe they're organically laid out, maybe it's a really gridded look. Either way, you want to create a balanced layout where the shapes and forms compliment each other on the page where your white space and hairlines and down strokes that they're all in complement to each other and that you create a nice finished piece, even if it's for your eyes only. So, to get started, you just need your nib pen, your ink, some paper or whatever sheet of paper you want to work with, toss your pencil and eraser aside because this isn't about doing a carefully planned design, it's just literally about putting ink down on the page. Improvising. If you don't like the way some stroke has come out, maybe you can tweak it in some way as you go but just kind of live spontaneous unedited work. Your last step, as usual, is to write your daily sentence and hopefully feel all loosened up to do that. Tomorrow's lesson is going to be a similar format to what we've done on the mood and tool. But this'll be really about mood and style, and talking about all the features that impact style and giving you some structured ways to play with those. 11. Day 9: Playing With Style: All right. So, this lesson is an opportunity for you to play with their style and perhaps make some discoveries that lead you into refining your own unique luck. The warm-up centers around this idea of the essential structure of your O and your N being critical to determining how the rest of the letters in your alphabet will look, and this is something that's practiced in hand-drawn type design, in some of the traditional calligraphy practices. I know Spencerian he developed the script around the idea of the oval O being shaped like a water worn pebble, that was like his inspiration point and everything about the Spencerian script was built on this idea of what the O look like. That's for a reason, I'll show you. Basically, your O and your N could overlap with any of the letters in your alphabet. If I start with an O and an N in complimentary shapes and you want them to have basically the same space that they take up, I could write an entire alphabet just knowing those two letters and informing the whole alphabet based on those two letters. Take that O shape again, it shows you a slant, it shows you the space, it shows you a shape and I could, even if I just draw an A to show you that those two overlap. Every letter that follows even if I wrote in a row of Os, I could write the alphabet using that O as my guideline. So, ABC it's going to get messy with the nib but you'll get the idea. So, perhaps you had a really tall narrow O and really tall narrow N. You're going to want all your following letters in the rest of the alphabet to match with both of those. One exercise that I've seen in some of the calligraphy instruction books is this idea of writing an alternating alphabet to check yourself on style because we want a consistent style, whatever it is. You could write the whole alphabet, but between every letter in the alphabet you write an O or an N. So, if you continue in that way or maybe you do A O B C O D N, you want to see that you're maintaining the same shape, the same size, the same height, the same slant. So, if I had an O like this, I've got a pretty straight up and down slant and a really round shape. So, I'm going to have A O, it's a very different look. It's so hard not to go right into C. So, I don't even really like this style but you can see that that O is informing every other letter that follows. The same with the N, which you can see more directly in something like an H or an M or a U. You can see that they're all related to the form of your N. So, we've just played around with how an O and an N can inform an entire style if we're just thinking about those two components but I also want you to think about some other standard features that will inform your style, and how to play with them. So, if you took your normal classic writing style, whatever is comfortable and automatic for you, and all you focused on were how are the ascenders and descenders for example, going to make this feel distinctive? So, perhaps I write the word calligraphy in just my automatic script, I'm not thinking too much about it. One thing I can see already is that my descenders have a consistent pattern. This is the kind of loop, the kind of tail that I tend towards. So, A, how can they be consistent? So, how can you maintain cohesiveness in your style based on what the ascenders and descenders are doing. Maybe you want them to be more dramatic and that's what's distinctive about your style. Here's a reference back to our flourishing section and just keeping that spacing. Perhaps you have a letter you love writing one certain way. If I always loved writing my lowercase g like that, then I'm going to decide that that's a feature of the style in which I'm writing and I'm going to carry it through wherever I can. Then when I come to writing my capital T, I want to maintain those same gestures throughout. So, I might do something like this for my capital T and that's a direct reference to a decision I made about my descenders. So, those are the things I want you to think about as you work through the features exercise, isolating a feature, picking one way to do it that you like or you're really drawn to or creates a dramatic effect and seeing how that's going to inform the whole alphabet, not just that moment where those features show up. A baseline consistency is one like, are you keeping to the same baseline the whole way through. You can see on these examples, I have a really consistent baseline. But what if it bounced? You can see, the baseline of the C is here but it's up here on A, comes down on these l's bouncing again, and that immediately gives a different stylistic feel as well. So, take these next five minutes to walk through each of these features and play with it. See how you could choose one stylistic decision that connects to your crossbars, or one stylistic decision that says, this is how I'm gonna do a slant or I'm going to do an inconsistent slant. Or I'm going to do very heavy contrasting thicks and thins, or very random thicks and thins like completely inconsistent. You can play with how you do it and how consistently you do it, and that can inform your style throughout the whole alphabet. The last short exercise it's really similar to what we did with our mood meets tool and I want you to take each of these adjectives here and write in a way that captures that mood. So, joyful, just without thinking too hard about it, what might you do that makes a word look joyful? One thing that automatically comes to mind is a bouncing baseline. So, let's try to do, I feel I have to add an exclamation point to make it joyful but otherwise the stylistic decisions were a little bit more open, a little bit more spacious, the bouncing baseline, these kind of loose looping tales that don't feel too tightly wound and just feel free and happy. One thing I want you to do today as well as after every lesson in this course, is to just take a second at the end and look back at what you've done, because you might notice something you've never done before, you might notice something coming through that you're really excited about, a good tiny discovery and it could be as simple as like, I love the way I wrote that Y. Let me revisit that, let me make sure I hold onto this piece of paper. Secondly, take a moment and write your daily sentence and perhaps you will change it in some way through these stylistic ideas that we've talked about in today's lesson. 12. Day 10: Breaking Habits: This is lesson 10 in your 10-day series and I'm glad you've made it this far. Today, I want to close out our course with another fun creative exercise and give you a chance to do something that you may not make time for yourself in your daily practice. These exercises came about through looking at students' work and through looking at my own practice and trying to think of what can I do whether it's muscular movements or creative exercises that break me out of habits that aren't necessarily bad habits but more, how can I find new creative ideas for my calligraphy through trying things that I never do. It's like working backwards, whatever it is that can prompt us towards some new discoveries in our work. So, take your work sheet, print it out or pull it up for reference and it's going to give you a list of prompts that you should spend just a minute on max for each of them. Don't overthink it, really just try stuff out and see how kind of off the coffee you can be and how unedited you can be in your work. This is your chance to just flex and try stuff out and see what happens. I will demonstrate a couple of them that might not be completely obvious just by reading the item on the list, and the rest of them are pretty much self-explanatory. It'll be really fun to hear from you which ones did you find more stimulating or interesting, or are there other ideas that have come to you that might be fun prompts for the rest of the community. Okay. So I'll show you a couple of these in case it's not obvious from my description. The first, reversing your slant. So, if you typically write with a slant like this, what would it be like if you wrote with a slant in the opposite angle? So, I might typically write like this. What's it like to write like trying on the other side of my brain? Feels so strange. Even though I might not use this in my work, it's really fun to try that out and see what comes out of it. Another example is turning your page and the relationship of your nib to the page. We're trained and all modern type is informed by the principle that your down strokes are on the vertical lines. So, when you even look at a typeface, something simple like the A, we all expect the thick line to be on the vertical. But what if we just wrote the letter from this angle? I shaped my A like this. Maybe I did my B. It's going to change the way you draw your letter because you're moving the nib differently on the page. But it's also fun, creative way to play with your styles and perhaps for some projects it would be fun to switch it up and change where you keep your downstroke. Another one that might not be obvious to you is just holding the pen differently and that could be a simple thing like changing your grip. I've written like this since I was a kid, resting on this ring finger here. But, what does it feel like to just rest on my middle finger? I feel so much less steady and wobbly. Or maybe it's like you're going to try with a different pen and what is it like to hold it just like in your fist. Can you do something crazy and weird that you wouldn't do otherwise? You may feel a little ridiculous but I also kind of like, I'm psyched about what just happened. Just because it's different, it's fun, it's going to give me ideas for when I return to my regular pointed nib. I hope you found those prompts to be interesting, stimulating and beneficial and perhaps something cool came out of it even just one little thing. If you want to share with us what that was, it would be really cool to hear. Or maybe you did think of some other ideas of prompts that you want to try out to break the habits that you feel like are a little more ingrained than you'd like. The final step, as always, and this is kind of the more exciting one, is to write your daily sentence. This might be the moment in which you pull out the previous nine days of daily sentences and let's look at day one and today's work and see what's changed. What do you notice? How do you feel? I can't wait to hear what's it like after these ten days. Do you feel like something good came out of it? Do you feel like you have a set of warm ups and tools and exercises that are benefiting your practice already? I'm just really glad that you took the class with me and I appreciate you participating in this series. 13. Final Thoughts: Thank you so much for taking this class with me. It's been a real pleasure and I benefited a lot personally from putting it together. So, I hope you feel like it's helped you with your practice wherever you're at with calligraphy. Ideally, these set of exercises can be a tool for you ongoing. So, perhaps you want to have a daily warm-up routine or you want to continue your 10 minutes a day, you can run through any of these once again, you could pick the ones that really served you the best and maybe it's one line of strokes from day one and a couple of the flourish gestures from that lesson. You could pick and choose and assemble your own ideal set to warm up with. One of the things I appreciate most about teaching on Skillshare is our opportunity to share our work, to give feedback to each other, to talk about how the process went and what the class felt like. So, I really encourage you to post your notes and comments about what the different lessons meant for you or what came out of it, sharing the practice sheets, showing us photos of maybe projects that came out of your creative play. Whatever it is, we'd love to hear from you as a community and to be encouraging to see how we're all finding ways to build this practice into our day to day routines. 14. More Creative Classes on Skillshare: