World Literary Day

Some quotations in honor of World Literary Day. All done at 4 pen-widths high with a worn-out metal #3 Mitchell nib. (I have no idea why I hang onto these corroded, disgusting pens. Is it a sort of self-flagellation for the sin of neglecting to clean my pens properly? Scottish parsimony? I don’t know.) All in gouache, except that the black is Moon Palace sumi ink.

The green drove me crazy, glopping off the pen — you can see the unevenness in the close-up view. Since it was only the green that was a problem, I think it was the lemon yellow that was causing it, because the ultramarine and the touch of vermilion were fine in the other mixtures. Or perhaps it was the combination of the lemon yellow and ultramarine — mixing them seems to me something like mixing low-fat milk and Kool-Aid.

I’m not recommending the color scheme! I’m still cleaning out old palettes — more parsimony, perhaps, and the pleasure of exploring color in a serendipitous manner.

I can’t remember what this paper is. It’s something to do with printmaking — very, very smooth and more of an eggshell color than it looks here. Superfine Letterpress, perhaps?

First Day of School

It’s another new beginning today: the first day of school.

I had thought to make naive letter forms, and partially succeeded. I failed mostly in that I could not bring myself to abandon the Roman capital proportions, and thoughtlessly (without thought) kept the verticals more heavily weighted than the horizontals.

But I was more interested in making letters that were difficult, awkward to make, required thought, were not automatic. In this I succeeded: I worked to keep the pen angle at 90 degrees to the stroke, which required a constant change of pen angle to the writing line. Very awkward to do.


A quotation from Milton about epiphanies, on this day of Epiphany.

The red blob at the bottom of the page was the first mark on the paper, made when I leaned over to look past the board and my brush, held at the ready, connected with the paper in a most untimely manner. This is a signature of my journal, though, and so I continued on from that inauspicious first mark.

The illustration came from who-knows-where. I don’t know who the woman might be, or what the broom-like appendage signifies. That’s creativity for ya, eh?

Journal – January 5

I’m reading The War of Art, by Steven Pressberg. It’s an empowering book, although I sometimes wonder at the pugilistic tone. The left side of the journal spread is a quotation from that book, about Somerset Maugham. The right side uses up the gouache that remained in a mysterious color palette that I don’t remember at all.

The Alphabet, Improvised

Doodling on a grid. Done with Moon Palace sumi ink and a #4 Mitchell dip pen, except that the bottom two rows were done with an 01 Zig Millennium marker.

Black Tie Exchange

Finally … something calligraphic!!

Here are the 4 envelopes I mailed yesterday for the Black Tie Exchange over at the Yahoo group, Calligraphy Exchange. The rules: Use a black envelope and either white or gold “ink” address in calligraphy.

I made my envelopes out of Strathmore Artagain black paper — comes in a 9″ x 12″ pad. The two insert square are on Arches cover black, I think. I used my favorite gold ink — Dr. Martin’s Copper Plate Gold.

Names and addresses blurred to protect the innocent.

As usual, click on the image for a closer look.

Client work

This business of catching up after a trip is the pits. I’m close to being caught up. Here’s a broadside and book for a client — same quote for each. The inset in the 2nd photo shows the book closed.

I’ve been addressing invitations, and using hot glue and cardboard, but it seems like I haven’t dealt with paint lately — although that’s not true, now that I think about it (I may post my Gandhi drawing later). Anyway, for whatever reason, I’ve been making beginner mistakes with paint — getting it on my hands, in my hair, without realizing it … generally being covered in paint for no good reason. Makes me feel kind of like a kid, though. That’s not bad.

As usual, click on the thumbnails for a closer look.

Pointed Pen Sample

For K.,

A quick, cold, unretouched (except that I Photoshopped out the smudges made when I slapped it down on the scanner glass before it was dry) fake address in my current pointed pen script. My website is so out of date, even this quick one is a better sample.

Broad-edge script

I’ve been away on an of-my-gosh-school’s-about-to-start-and- we’ve-got-one-more-opportunity-for-a family trip. Now I’m working on addressing wedding invitations. Here’s a bit from the invitation itself:

Although I first thought I’d use a pointed-pen script for the addresses, after struggling through a few envelopes I quickly bowed to the necessities of the materials. The paper proved to be way too toothy and not at all sized enough to allow the use of a pointed pen.

I could include a rant here about wedding stationers and their high-priced unwritable stock — even Crane has been known to make their envelopes inside-out at times, so that the sizing is on the useless inside of the envelope. Oh, the torture of having the beautiful side of the paper so close and yet so far away. It’s like a tying up a horse within 5 inches’ reach of water. All right, all right, I’ve just deleted the rest of this rant. Calligraphers know exactly whereof I speak, and the rest of you can only imagine our pain.

Anyway. On with my saga.

After I concluded that pointed pen was impossible for these envelopes, I started experimenting with a #5 Mitchell Roundhand nib — a narrow broad-edge nib — and tailored a script that I think complements the script above. Here it is (as always, click on the thumbnail for a closer view):

I began with a standard italic, and then made changes so that it more closely resembles a pointed-pen script such as Copperplate. I used the same lining guide I had set up for the original pointed-pen script, and this had the effect of a) making very small lower-case letters, b) enlarging the capitals in proportion to the lower-case letters, and c) slanting the lettering from the usual italic 5-15 degrees to about 40 degrees.

Then I modified the capitals to follow Copperplate forms a little more closely. See the B, the T’s and the F’s. This modification worked because the capitals are so tall: 11 pen-widths.

The x-height is 3 pen-widths tall, which necessitated a widening of the script.

And, voila! I like this script. I think I’ll add it to my standard style offerings.

The Lone, Wild Bird

I’ve been trying to draw some more. (“More” is not a difficult accomplishment when it follows a period of “none”!) Since I’m primarily a calligrapher, the drawing inevitably leads to the question of how to combine letters and drawings on the page.

The integration of image and text in Oriental calligraphy is not the same problem it is in Western calligraphy. While Chinese characters, for instance, were once pictures, our Western letters are symbols of sounds. So there’s a jump from image to sound in Western language that doesn’t happen in languages whose characters began as pictograms.

The “windows” solution is illustrated (haha) throughout countless medieval manuscripts, in which rectangular frames and the counters of decorated capitals often act as a two-dimensional frame for a three-dimensional scene which exists on the page in another visual plane.

Over a hundred years ago, William Morris concerned himself with the integration of text and image through his work at his Kelmscott Press, designing type, decorative initials and woodcut borders to work together. So did others in the Arts & Crafts Movement.

The current fad for combining words and images is to simply layer them willy-nilly over and amongst and between one another. I believe this is both a reaction to, and a symptom of, our information-crowded lives. It’s not efficacious for me, except perhaps as a means of letting off steam. I’ve over-simplified the situation: I have seen layered work that is stunning and meaningful. But I’ve seen more that can be described as a chaotic mess.

I’ve started a black-and-white (so far) art journal recently. I’ve been working in it every day (so far). Here’s the 3rd page of it, which is mostly an attempt to integrate image and text by using the same tool for both. Another goal of this page was to work on a wider, flowing-but-not-too-sweet italic variation.