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Spacing flaws in a finished piece of work

I still see spacing flaws in a “finished piece”

"Even after many years of practice, I still look at a finished piece and see flaws in spacing between letters. Do you have any tips for correcting this?"

There are two issues here.

The first is that I don’t believe you’ll ever get away from seeing the flaws…

It seems to be a fact that we view our own work as a collection of all the things we’re displeased with, whereas when we look at others’ work, we see the “whole”, and even if we see something that’s not quite right, we very often don’t mind, because we’re enjoying the whole piece.  Think about how you view the calligraphy of someone whose work you admire – do you really start by looking at individual letters and spacing…?

It’s not just calligraphy – I imagine it’s true in all arts, and even something as mundane as decorating a room – you’ll know where the painted edge isn’t quite straight, or the wallpaper doesn’t quite match, and that’s all you can see!

Of course it’s excellent that we’re able to see things we’d like to improve, otherwise we’d never get better, but it’s OK to give yourself a break too – especially if it’s a finished piece on which you’ve lavished care and attention.   Try showing it to 10 people – if they all say it looks fabulous then perhaps you should consider that they’re right and it DOES look fabulous!

But let’s see if I can offer some “make it better” advice too.

With spacing, try taking a piece of good practice work.  Now, really focus on the spacing by comparing the space between 3 adjacent letters.  For example, let’s take the word HINDLEGS.

Firstly, cover up everything except the first three letters HIN.

spacing flaws in calligraphy HIN example

Does the I feel like it is closer to the H or the N?  The perfect answer is that it should feel equally distant from both, but if it’s not, make a note of which space you think should be adjusted.

Now cover everything exempt the letters IND and ask yourself the same questions about the letter N.

spacing flaws in calligraphy IND example

Now NDL, DLE and so on.

Using what you noted about the spacing, try writing the word (or sentence depending on how much you analysed) and write it again – do you think it is better?

You might want to have a look at other people’s work – maybe their spacing isn’t as perfect as you thought, and yet the piece is still beautiful.

This is really good for getting familiar with your own foibles for spacing (you might learn for example that you typically leave too much space after a capital T) but definitely not to be done as you are writing – it would kill off any flow and vitality you were bringing to the lettering.

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