On sale now! How to Be in the World: An Abecedarian Commonplace for Living

If you've been reading this blog, you'll know something about How to Be in the World: An Abecedarian Commonplace for Living. This is a portfolio of 26 sheets that each contain an illuminated letter, a verb, and a favorite quotation relating to that verb. Written and drawn all in pencil, these pages were developed over a number years. It was featured in Letter Arts Review earlier this year, and I also made a clamshell box to hold the stack of original sheets.

I'm pleased to announce that a print version of this portfolio is now available for sale! Twenty-nine pages enclosed in an embossed, printed folder. $25 each, postage paid to US and Canada.

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Serifed Roman capitals in John Stevens’ Uncials to Capitals Class

Drawn Roman capitals done at 3/4-inch height with pencil on Strathmore Drawing 300.
Serifed Roman capitals done with a 3.8mm Pilot Parallel Pen on white butcher paper at 1-inch height. I don't think I was that back-sloped at the bottom right; rather, I think I tried to fix the perspective of a not-straight-on camera shot. The stiffness of the strokes and serifs are all mine though, sadly.

These are two homework pages from session four of John Stevens' excellent five-session course, Capitals to Uncials. Session five was held this weekend, and I'm looking forward to doing the homework from that session.

It's been such a good class, and John presented about 10 times the material shown by my posted homework. I've got enough to work on for a year without stopping, and I'm sure that that year's work would lead to another year, and so on.

John Stevens’ class on uncials and Roman capitals is a welcome challenge

Judging from the disappointed post of fellow calligraphers worldwide, I was awfully lucky to make it into this 5-week class on Uncials and Roman capitals taught by John Stevens. This is week 2. Here are the 2 pages of homework I was willing to share with the class.

I could easily work on this class full time! I'm quite sure that some of my fellow students have been doing so, and even working overtime. I've been drawn into spending much more time on it than I realized. So now I'm scrambling to get to all of the work piling up in my studio. Today and tomorrow will see me caught up (she says, optimistically).

Learning Fraktur blackletter style with Luca Barcellona

  • Fraktur blackletter practice sheets
  • Fraktur blackletter practice sheet
  • Fraktur blackletter practice sheet
  • Fraktur blackletter practice sheet

I'm taking Luca Barcellona's Advanced Fraktur blackletter class through the Society of Scribes, New York City's calligraphy guild. The last of the three session will take place at the end of next week. Meanwhile, the floor of my studio is simply littered with sheets of blackletter practice. After a similarly structured class with Elmo van Slingerland, I've become a little more accustomed to working large. Most of the sheets pictured above are 18 in x 24 in. I've done these with a 6mm Pilot Parallel Pen on sheets cut from a roll of white butcher paper. Creamier-toned sheets are Strathmore Drawing 400 paper.

I haven't taken blackletter from a teacher before, at least not in the past 25 years, and this has been a valuable experience. I missed the previous intermediate class, but I think I've been able to catch up. (Having taking two classes through Society of Scribes now, I've got to say that Phan Nguyen is the best facilitator ever. He makes the online experience a real pleasure.)

The memory of Christmas presents past

As I work on cards and presents for the holiday season, I think fondly of presents past. One of my very favorite pieces I ever made was for my mother. The text is the lyrics to "Here I Am, Lord," one of her favorite hymns. The verses are ranged around the circle, surrounding the chorus in the center. It is hard to believe that I made this 24 years ago.

Gouache, ink, colored pencil, pastel on watercolor paper, 16 inches square

More in Elizabeth McKee’s pointed brush lettering class

Have I mentioned how much I'm enjoying Elizabeth McKee's brush lettering class? Well, it bears repeating. Here are just a few pages of the homework I did in November, the 3rd month of classes.

I've mostly been writing with Pentel Color Brushes (all four tips), Winsor & Newton Series 7 pointed brushes (1, 2, 2 mini), and the Pentel Pocket Brush. I've mostly been using fountain pen ink, Schmincke gouaches, Winsor & Newton watercolors, Dr. Martin's Pro White, and FineTec metallic watercolors.

I'm happily balancing this kind of work with the formal, slower work of study in Elmo van Slingerland's Roman minuscules class through the Society of Scribes ... and the geometry and paper handling of folding portfolio folders and fulfilling orders for my ABC portfolios. I'll post some of my work in the Roman minuscules class next time.

Pentel Color Brushes and weathergrams (again)

First pass at the broad tip Pentel Color Brush, written between 5/8" guidelines on Strathmore Charcoal paper.

It has been a real joy to explore brush calligraphy with new confidence. I had known about the standard and extra-fine sizes of Pentel Color Brushes, and that the black barrels carry dye-based ink while the gray barrels carry pigmented ink. Through JetPens (do not click the link before you've hidden your credit card from yourself), I discovered that there are several more brush tips in the Pentel Color Brush collection. I really like the green-cap, "broad tip", brush, although the amount of ink output was something to get used to

Experiments with various brushes and Bister inks.

I also tried out the PCB that I filled with Bister ink in this post. I think it's working fairly well, although, as you can read, that one long hair is driving me crazy.

The Pentel Color Brush and weathergrams go together well, and I wanted to check up on my weathergrams. But last weekend it snowed about 10" and the resulting piles of snow and slippery surfaces temporarily dampened my enthusiasm for walking. By Wednesday, the dry atmosphere had evaporated much of that snow, and we went out to see how the weathergrams are faring. Most of them are gone, but here are a couple that have survived. And the other photo? Well, there is a lunatic fringe of weather/fashion sense in Bozeman. Yes, it had been below zero for a couple of days, and yes, was up in the 40s when I took this shot, but really? Shorts and tennis shoes? As you can see, even Zeke was somewhat taken aback by this guys' clothing choices.

What??
another weathergram

weathergram on the trail

Pentel Color Brushes + Bister inks

Pentel Color Brushes are the bomb! And so are Bister inks. It was only a matter of time before I would combine them.

I'm continuing to enjoy Elizabeth McKee's brush lettering class, so much so that my current book edition (going out the door tomorrow) is brush lettered. I've fiddled around with the Pentel Color Brush (PCB) a lot — emptying them, dipping them in watercolors and other inks, even using them as-is. The other day I emptied a nearly spent extra-fine PCB and refilled it with Bister inks. I have also been experimenting with making videos. So … here's a video of me refilling a PCB with Bister inks. It turns out that Pentel Color Brushes and Bister inks go together well. I strained my ink through cheesecloth to keep out the undissolved Bister crystals.

Filling a Pentel Color Brush with Bister Inks

I show the PCB already taken apart. Taking apart a PCB is a simple operation. Grasp that black ring at the top of the black barrel with a needle-nose pliers and pull. The central tube will come out pretty easily. Then rinse out (or wash) both the barrel and the central tube. That's it!

My favorite store for Pentel Color Brushes is JetPens. I've used them a lot over the years, especially when I was doing daily alphabets.

Pandemic life in the studio

How are you doing, 7 months in? I'm sometimes finding it difficult to focus. Read on for an example of my pandemic life in the studio.

Today, Thursday, which I know because Ed and I had a discussion last night about whether it was Tuesday or Wednesday, and were gratified to be able to determine that it was Wednesday without the aid of a phone or other digital device—um, what was I saying? Oh, yes. Today I came into the studio to continue work on a book edition whose deadline is rapidly approaching. (Do you remember last year's book edition?)

But first, I decided, I should tidy up. The library table was especially cluttered.

A couple of days ago, I had lost the smaller half of the two-piece tip to my 0.2mm mechanical pencil when I was reaming a clogged lead. It had rolled off my drafting table to somewhere on the floor. I decide that this will be my starting point. Pulling away the chair, the portfolios, the rolling cart, stools, I find the tiny bit of metal almost immediately. Wow! It's going to be a productive day, I think. So I ream the tip and put the pencil back together, and it works! Better and better. On a roll, I pull the other 0.2mm mechanical pencil out of the mug and fix the clog on it.

Things are going swimmingly. But I've pulled all this stuff away, so I take the opportunity to vacuum and mop the floor before replacing everything. On my hands and knees to scrub up a spot of pink paint, I see a dried trickle of ink on the wall. As I'm scrubbing that off as best I can, I ruminate on how long ago I might have spilled this Quink. (I can tell it's Quink by the bluish color it turns as my scrubbing dilutes the ink.) Now sitting on the floor, I see other spots and flotsam that simply require action — the push pin, the dusty floorboard … the absolutely filthy floor protector! What happened here? Did I crush a pencil lead between the floor protector and the floor? Cue the vacuum, the mop, the scrubbing sponge.

Zeke on the studio futon
Zeke in the studio.

I turn around to see our dog on the futon chair. He looks so adorable, I snap a picture of him and send it to my son. Logan is always happy to have another photo of Zeke. He messages back, do I have any "press(ing) needs" he can build me for Christmas. As if this is a question. Happy to take break, I look at bookbinding equipment for awhile. And learn a couple of tips about backing that I hadn't known before, and yes, there are couple of things I would like. Of course.

But back to what I was doing: At this point, my studio is so far from being a suitable place for work on a book edition, that my courage almost fails. I clean and replace everything I took apart — to find the tiny pencil piece, remember. I do this, resisting the temptation to open the new issue of Alphabet that arrived in yesterday's mail and sits invitingly on the surface of my drafting table. Instead, I clean under Alphabet.

Focus!

drafting table tray, organized
The tray of the drafting table

I take everything out of the divided tray attached to the drafting table, and proceed to clean, organize and replace nearly everything, labeling envelopes for stamps, tabs, labels, abrasive papers, translucent sheets, etc.— all the small flat paper-like things I use so often in my work. As I organize, I briefly wonder at how I managed to acquire 25 different black pointed markers and somehow decide that I needed every single one of them immediately at hand. I discover three—count 'em, three—beeswax holders, seven random business cards, and three triangles. I decide that all three triangles must stay. When I finally finish, it is beautiful, at least to me.

New direction

I never do get to the library table. But somehow this cleaning and rearranging also rearranges my work on the book edition. When I settle down to work, I am heading in a new direction with renewed enthusiasm.

library table, untouched by tidying

Workshop with Mike Gold

I enjoyed this past weekend's workshop hosted by Chicago Calligraphy Collective. Taught by Mike Gold, the workshop was entitled "Over and Over". All weekend we focused on taking one text and lettering it over and over, using different approaches.

My quotation for the workshop was this: "Stare, pray, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long." - Walker Evans. (But if an exercise didn't lend itself to the quotation, I chose something else.)

In this workshop with Mike Gold, it was instructive to see the work of my fellow workshop students, a gathering of accomplished calligraphers. The work was so widely varied! You can see some of this work on instagram here. The Chicago Calligraphy Collective has really got it going on, especially as an online presence for those of us members who are not local.

Mike Gold is teaching this class to other guilds via Zoom. For instance, the Columbus guild is hosting this workshop October 24 & 25. If you're interested, sign up!