In calligraphy, practice approaches perfection, right?

This week I had occasion to write out a poem in letters of nearly 1/2″ x-height. It had been a long time since I had written anything of any length with a 3mm-wide nib, so I began with my go-to practice page, the alphabetical list of related terms. The first page was of upright italic, and then I tried something with a good slanted. The final piece had a slant that was somewhere between these two, but these two sheets were a good starting point and a great warm-up.

More Akim lettering for our guild project

Gouache, Zig Cocoiro brush pen, ZIG Mangaka 01 pen on Canson XL watercolor paper. 6 x 9 in.

I’m continuing to enjoy Akim lettering. I made these in preparation for next month’s local guild meeting. Even though I switched to a brush pen for the main lettering, I tried for a fairly monoline effect. I love doing Akim lettering with a brush pen.

Gouache, ZIG Mangaka 01 pen on Canson XL watercolor paper. 6 x 9 in.

Here I used the same palette as for the first one, but mixed neutrals. After I penciled in the box and did the main lettering, I went over the lettering inside the box with Pebeo masking fluid and a bowl-pointed pen (didn’t want to ruin my tiny brushes). Then I painted in the box. When the paint was dry, I removed the masking fluid with a rubber cement eraser. I had done a pretty bad job of tracing the lettering, but that was all right. And where it was just too egregiously out of whack I painted some neutral back in and blended it with the rest of the painting.

Akim – a surprisingly enjoyable script

Studying Akim for our guild’s long-term project with monoline lettering. Here the lines are discrete, but the letter elements are stretched to maximize the graphic impact and slow down reading. Fine-line marker on Clairfontaine paper. About 4 x 6 in, as I recall.

I’ve come across Akim script several times over the years, most usually because I return again and again to Hans-Joachim Burgert’s book The Calligraphic Line. This script is an approach as much as a hand, developed by Burgert. Until now, it has not drawn me in. But now I see it as a relaxation of the confines of lettering in favor of the graphical aspect of the page. And I’m really enjoying it.

These pages were done while sitting at the piano through many hours of choreography and staging and technical rehearsals for a production of “Carousel.” All I needed was a pad of Clairfontaine Triomphe paper and a fine-line marker. (I didn’t even need guidelines, a circumstance that is quite freeing.) Most of these were done with ZIG Millennium markers, sizes 005 to 03.

Here the lines are baselines are allowed to wave, but the lines intrude only sometimes upon one another. Fine-line marker on Clairfontaine paper. About 4 x 6 in, as I recall.
Akim script practice
Here I’m exploring a less linear texture by allowing the lines of text to intrude upon one another. Because of this intrusion, I’ve lessened the contrast between the letters’ wide arcs and the small counters. The text is “After Quiet,” by Hazel Hall. Fine-line marker on Clairfontaine paper, about 8 x 10 in.

A look back at 2022 – the Instagram Top Nine

Top Nine Instagram Posts of 2022
Top Nine Posts of Instagram

Here are my nine most popular posts on Instagram in 2022. The app tells me that I had 2.6K likes in 2022 on a total of 24 posts. Gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling 🙂

Some of these images I’ve posted on this blog. You can get a better look at the bottom right one here (my second blog post of the year). And two weathergram images are the subject of this blog post in March. And this March blog post show the Ben Shahn lettering of the middle left image.

I evidently didn’t look for my top nine in 2021, but you can see my top nine in 2020 here on Instagram. In some ways, it’s a very different look. Oh, I’ll just put them here, so you can see them on the same page.

My top nine posts on Instagram in 2020

More Roman text capitals … and painting

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I posted anything at all! Life has been jammed up with political things (my husband’s re-election campaign, for instance), and I’m finally getting a chance to begin to catch up and take a deep breath. I’ve gotten back to Roman text capitals, which don’t want to let me go.

I’ve also been teaching more. Last month I taught a two-day workshop on Roman text capitals, color, painting and design to a delightful group of calligraphers in Albuquerque. Every time I teach this workshop, it evolves some more. (You may remember this blog post about my study of 6th century square capitals.)

Here is one of the samples I brought along to the workshop this time.

"The Roadside Fire" by Robert Louis Stevenson, done in Roman text capitals with gouache and small metal pen.
“The Roadside Fire #1” – Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem.
Gouache and small metal pen on Arches Text Wove paper. Text area 4″ x 6″.

I can never see this poem without hearing in my head the Ralph Vaughn Williams setting of it. I’ve played the piano accompanied for many a baritone student at the university. You can hear Bryn Terfel sing it here. The entire song cycle is pretty wonderful.

Even more Roman minuscules in my oh-so-exciting practice journal

Roman minuscules practice journal page
Gouache and #5 Mitchell nib on Zerkall Laid (sideways – ack!). X-height is 4mm.

I’m up to page 37 in my Roman minuscules practice journal. It’s strange how you begin to think you’ve run out of what to do next, and then suddenly more possibilities appear, and more, and more … I’ve become absorbed in the process, and I have ideas for another 37 pages, at least.

More Roman minuscules practice

Roman minuscules practice with #6 Mitchell pen, using pressure-and-release
Roman minuscules practice journal, page 36.
Leftover palette of gouache with a #6 Mitchell nib, x-height 2.8mm
(or 9 pen-widths exclusive of pressure-and-release considerations).
12 x 9 in page of Somerset Book paper, I think.

Since mid-July, I’ve been steadily building a journal of Roman minuscules practice. This is today’s work: page 36, towards the end of my 3rd section. I’ll be happy to get off of this paper (Somerset Book?). And I’m looking forward to the Zerkall German Ingres that is the next folio.

At this point I’ve worked my way through the entire copious batch of handouts from Elmo van Slingerland’s 3-week online class. I’ve been branching out in a couple of ways. For a few pages, I followed some experiments to their logical conclusion, changing up size and boldness and shape. I have a lot more to do there. But then I branched out another way, emulating some pages I had long admired by past masters.

I had wandered into built-up pointed-pen Roman minuscules, thanks to a gorgeous page of those by Werner Schneider. (I don’t see it anywhere online, but trust me, it would blow you away.) They were a bear to do, and I actually had a little temper tantrum over them — rather out of character and most immature, but rather satisfying, in a way — before settling down to work on them seriously.

After the difficult work of building up monoline Roman minuscules, I took a break to do this page with a #6 Mitchell and pressure-and-release, curious to see whether I could approximate the general texture of the built-up monoline letters. The answer is: yes, sort of.

I believe I’ll repeat both the built-up pointed-pen and #6 Mitchell pressure-and-release experiments on the next two pages, if only to confirm for myself how much better life is on Zerkall German Ingres.

Elmo van Slingerland to teach Roman minuscules

Elmo van Slingerland (@lettertetter) is coming to teach Roman minuscules in Montana this September, and I’m in! It’s time to get my Roman minuscules groove on. I’ve begun a practice journal of 9.5″ x 12″ Strathmore Drawing 400 sections. Here are some of the first pages.

A year and a half ago I took his Roman minuscules class through the Society of Scribes, and it was a wonderful opportunity to work on these hands.  I’m looking forward to another round.

To anyone who reads my blog, it’s fairly obvious that I like Roman minuscules.

Mark Twain on the Southern watermelon

Mark Twain riffing on the Southern watermelon is one of my favorites. This is from his book Pudd’nhead Wilson. I have saved it since high school, I think, when I first read the book.

Calligraphy: Mark Twain on the Southern watermelon
Watercolors and metal pen on Arches HP 90# watercolor paper. Text/image area: 8.5 in x 9 in.

Pudd’nhead Wilson’s calendar entries are quoted at the top of each chapter, and some are quite harsh. Here’s one that I delighted in when I was young. “He is useless on top of the ground; he ought to be under it, inspiring the cabbages.” The book is a biting commentary on humanity, particularly the socio-racial times in which he lived. You can read it for free thanks to Gutenberg Press.

I haven’t done any watercolor in awhile, and am rather pleased with this simple watermelon. Yes, it’s lopsided, but then so are the best-tasting watermelons, in my experience.