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.

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!

An online italic calligraphy class with John Stevens

I recently finished a wonderful five-week online class with John Stevens. Take a look at his work and you'll see why anyone would be lucky to study with him. The class was entitled "The Italic Letter". I had not studied italic calligraphy, per se, for quite some time.

We began with a look at "basic" italic (ha!) and a close look at the basic shape of the strokes. Here's one of my earlier study pages.

a page of basic italic text with a particular form of finials
A page of basic italic calligraphy with a particular style of ascenders and descenders

We considered the placement of lettering on the page, and .... well, so much more. Here are two study sheets, one a block of text and the other a study in two weights.

The third sheet is a block of text, considering ledding and layout.

a page of italic in two weights
A study of italics in two weights
a page of italic as a block of text
A block of italic text
Then we began looking at going smaller. Here is one sheet of diminishing sizes, and another at the smallest size I could manage.
a page italics from fairly large to tiny
Using various pens, I worked my way down from about 4mm to a pointed pen modified to a very small broad edge.
Just about the smallest italics I could manage, with a penny to give you an idea of size.
Just about the smallest italics I could manage, with a penny to give you an idea of size.

John will be repeating the class soon. I highly recommend it! Sign up for his newsletter to be notified of new classes.

More work in the Built Up Capitals online class

classwork for week 4 of Built Up Capitals class
18 in x 12 in. Three gouache colors, #4 and #5 Mitchell nibs, on Arches MBM. Text from "Unmarked Boxes" by Rumi.

These versal variations are simply addictive. Slowly, slowly, I internalize how to waist the strokes (but not too much), how to finish the finials squarely, how to add a hairline serif. Then my concentration drifts and so does the width of the stroke, the slant of the letter, the shape of the bowl.

I was really focusing on the letter forms, and the layout was planned only line by line. As I imagine happens with a writer of a serial novel, I wrote myself into a couple of dead ends. And added the squares at the end to break up a hole that had formed.

Built Up Caps – week 2…a

Built Up Caps - practice for the first part of week 2. Pencil for 4 lines and 005 ZIG Millennium marker for 4 lines. Strathmore Drawing 400 heavyweight, 18 in x 12 in.

What a engrossing time I'm having with these built-up caps. What an eloquent, careful, and kind teacher Yves is! I am enjoying reading his oh-so-encouraging yet exacting critiques of all the work that has been posted for his "red arrows".

As I wrote in my Instagram post,

It's a slo-mo party in my studio. This page took me three days to do, and it was mesmerizing. A fellow student has called it something like "a festival of emotions". That's right. The satisfaction of a well made curve, the horror as one's seemingly disembodied hand strays irrevocably out of the carefully planned width of a stroke, the shock when one realizes that 2 lines of sub-par lettering have eaten up 2 hours of the day. I can't wait to do more.

I realize this was a fairly negative view of the experience in its detail, so I'll add this here: Besides the satisfaction of a well-made curve, there is also the pleasurable process of building up these elegant arboriform waisted strokes, the absorbing interest in sculpting the interior spaces, and so much more.

Stay tuned for week 2b, when we add the broad-edge nib and gouache to the mix.

Built Up Caps course taught by Yves Leterme

Built Up Caps began last week. I'm enjoying this intensive 6-week online course taught by Yves Leterme. This is the second course I've taken with him online at He is a wonderful teacher and Harvest has created a really good online learning venue, hosting excellent calligraphers and artists teaching interesting subjects.

At the end of this first week, I've got a lot of practice sheets to show (but not to show!). Here were my first attempts, which are rather hard to because it's pencil.

And here's the homework assignment I submitted:

Yves uses a digital red pen to mark up our submissions. He was fairly easy on me, noting the rogue K join, a strangely curved N, and — and this one has been so hard for me to fix! — the fact that I often pressurize two stroke-ends that join, creating a dark spot. I thought this would be a breeze to change, but it's a habit that has been hard to break. This page also doesn't show a lot of pressure-and-release, as he noted. I have a light touch, so it's been difficult to get that with a pencil. In a later post, I may show a page done on watercolor paper with a Blackwing pencil. It's a plan, anyway.

Many of my fellow classmates are posting their work on Instagram, as am I. Just look for the #builtupcapsonline tag. We are all working so hard and having a great time.