post-workshop Spencerian practice

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending Harvest Crittenden’s workshop hosted by the Big Sky Scribes in Helena. The subject: Spencerian script. I had never studied this hand before. Harvest is very organized and clear, and we learned a lot in a short time. Now all we have to do is … practice, of course.

Spencerian script practice with pencil and 0.3-mm ball-point pen, on B&R layout paper and Crane stationery.

I haven’t been as regular about it as I could wish, but yesterday I sat down to practice in earnest again. I began with 2 pages of warm-up exercises designed to build kinetic memory. After the page of cross drills, I decided to simply trace, in pencil, a letter written in the 19th century in Spencerian. It helped to teach myself the rhythm of the script, and I was surprised to discover by that method a few things I had been glossing over. Then I wrote a letter in Spencerian using a ball-point pen. I have this lovely ball-point pen with a 0.3 mm point, and I didn’t want to get out ink.

Spencerian practice using a pencil and ball-point pen on B&R layout paper and Crane stationery.

A little work/play in the studio

Deadlines are looming and inspiration is elusive. I tidy my studio, clear out some old practice sheets .. and make some more. It’s a never ending cycle.

To entice the muse, I sit down to play a little. I’m thinking of another little book (and just now remembering I’ve never posted the last little book), so I experiment with a number inks/paints and a #6 Mitchell nib. The lettering is 1.5 mm x-height.Experiments with small lettering

In anticipation of the upcoming conference, and the class that will be taught by Carl Rohrs, I get out a brush and do … something. It’s not much, but it reminds me what a pointed brush feels like in the hand. I feel some of the kinetic learning of a recent Spencerian workshop creeping in. That’s good.

Seattletters – envelope contest

Made for John Neal Books envelope contest — gouache+sumi mixture and gouache mixture; Speedball “B” nib and a flexible pointed nib clipped to a tiny broad edge; envelope made from 80# Strathmore 400 Drawing paper.


Here’s my submission to the envelope contest that John Neal Books hosted in association with Seattletters.  The deadline was April 20. The gray lettering is a post I read in a calligraphy group on social media. I surrounded it with text from an 1888 article by A. J. Scarborough which had been posted in 2000 to the Cyberscribes discussion list.  I like the contrast in approaches 🙂

I penciled baseline guidelines 2mm apart for the small lettering, making the x-height about 1mm. I clipped a pointed nib (a blue Esterbrook of some sort, I think) to make a tiny broad-edge nib. Seattleletters address is #5 Mitchell nib, I think.

After all that work, I couldn’t bear to send it through the US Mail unprotected, so I made another envelope, just ¼” larger in each direction, to house the submission.

Homegrown Trajans with Yves Leterme

I’m taking my very first online calligraphy course. “Homegrown Trajans” is taught by the wonderfully clear and thorough master Yves Leterme via Harvest Crittendon’s site, Acorn Arts. It’s as rigorous as anyone could wish for, and I’m already just a tiny bit behind. Week 3 posted today, but these are my worksheets from week 1 (complete) and week 2 (not quite complete). I think some of these students have no other demands on their time! Or perhaps I’m just incredibly slow. Either way, I’m buckling down tonight and catching up.

Those gestural brush alphabets

I do like to return to the gestural brush alphabet from time to time, especially when I pair with a contrasting element. This particular one was made to put in the solo exhibit in Missoula last fall. 

Having embarked today on Yves Leterme’s online course, “Homegrown Trajans”, I can predict that I won’t be doing anything like the above in the near future. Unless … it’s as relief from those demanding Trajan Romans.

Pointed-pen flourishing for thank-you notes

I’ve been preparing for our next pointed-pen class, when we will be experimenting with using the pressure and release of the pen to make decorative oval borders around some lettering. Here a few examples of what that could look like.

Pointed pen practice/play

I’m having the best time teaching a great group of students this winter. Although I’ve taught calligraphy classes for [checks résumé] 30 years (!), this is the first time I’ve taught pointed pen scripts in a classroom setting. To teach others is always to educate myself. Determining how to explain a concept often spotlights previously ignored fuzzy areas in my own thinking.

We’ve begun with a business hand and no pressure, gotten an intro to pointed pen nib and offset holder and ink, and then moved on to a working copperplate hand that is not too fussy (think Buddy Blackwell). 

Here is a bit of silliness that broke out during a practice session focusing on whole-arm movement exercises. Contrary to what this image may suggest, I do not plan to cover “modern calligraphy” in any depth. I was just having fun. Click on the image for a closer look.


Stumbling in the new year

This year I made a greeting card to celebrate the new year. I’ve almost got them all mailed (hey, it’s still January, isn’t it?). Here’s an image of it. IRL it’s 8.5″ wide and 16.5″ tall, folded vertically into thirds. Happy New Year to you!


Italic practice, after a break

Time passes, I travel, I do other things, and suddenly I realize it’s been awhile since I practiced any lettering. Sure, I’ve done an edition of 1-5/8″ x 3″ books with tiny capitals lettering in it, and finished a baby quilt, and done some lettering on mirrors. None of that “counts” towards lettering practice — as is proved by the uncertainty and inconsistency of today’s practice lettering. I’m preparing for a long piece, and this must improve!