Big Sky Journal, Tom Morgan Rodsmiths, and fly rods

I’m in a recent issue of Big Sky Journal! Well, my hand is. That clenched grip is *surely* an anomaly, right? but writing on the curved surface of a 4-weight (or 3-weight!) fly rod with fast-drying gold paint is a challenge. This is a fly rod in progress at Tom Morgan Rodsmiths in Bozeman, Montana.

I’ve been writing on these fly rods since at least 2015. I’ve written about the process earlier on this blog.

A small peek at a recent commission

Commission work. Poem lettered for accordion book. Covers: bookcloth over boards. Text: Stonehenge, sumi ink, gouaches, watercolor. About 5 in x 9 in.

Last month I had the honor of lettering and binding a poem written for a wedding anniversary. I was quite pleased with the result, and so were they. (Lettering blurred for privacy considerations.)

A good day in the studio with Karlgeorg Hoefer

On the right, stepping it down to 4.1mm x-height (never mind the pencil, which was wrong) and a 3/4mm Brause nib with walnut ink on Strathmore Drawing 400 heavyweight paper.

I am still studying, still enjoying the hand Karlgeorg Hoefer used in his “Appel an die Völker der Erde”. David Sedaris wrote, “Whenever I read a passage that moves me, I transcribe it in my diary, hoping my fingers might learn what excellence feels like.” As a calligrapher, I really connect with that sentiment. The more I get into this hand, the more I admire Hoefer’s sensitivity and understanding of Roman bookhand. I begin to see that this seemingly idiosyncratic hand actually adheres strictly to the classical Roman Trajan forms. His pen angle matches that of Trajan Romans. The finials are a nod to Trajan serifs. He honors the structure that underlies Trajan Romans, the circle in a square with vertical lines at the intersections of the diagonals. The weight is similar to Trajans.

Structure upon which classical Roman capitals and bookhand letters are based.

As I copy out the letters, I begin get into his PacMan ‘e’ — to admire his vision of the classical ‘e’ shape based on the Roman structure, the swing of the foot lengthened to accommodate the next letter. (Because, Trajans or no, this is a minuscule bookhand.) I feel his understanding of the classical arch of the ‘h’ and ‘n’, executed so beautifully in the ‘n’ and ‘m’ forms. I kinetically get his understanding of the way the bowl of an e leads into the vertical stroke of the next letter, and how the entrance stroke of that next letter is adjusted. I struggle not to turn that connection into a caricature of itself. I delight in the subtle shape of the folded-over endings of his ‘f’ and ‘a’ and ‘J’. I mull over his two-story ‘g’ with the upper-story rounded rectangle (called a “stadium”?). Has he widened and flattened this circle to keep it as open and airy as the rest of the letters? I get into the rhythm of flattening my pen angle for the serifs, and slightly steepening it for the next letter, flattening again, steepening again.

I spent an uninterrupted six hours in the studio today. I discovered a good many things that didn’t work, spilled more than one container of liquid — e..g. acrylic ink, gesso — and I scraped out and smoothed over more than one lettering error. At the end of the day it looked as though I had pulled out every tool, jar, paper, and storage box.

But … I now have a solution for a difficult problem — which I will implement tomorrow. I didn’t tramp in too much muddy snow on my newly mopped studio floor. The studio was tidied up quickly. And I have another page of daily lettering.

A good day all around.

Daily lettering: freely written capitals with leftover gouaches

Freely written capitals using that same palette of leftover gouaches and a 1.5mm Brause nib.

I’m thinking that the little meander book (2.5 x 3.5 in or so) in the corner may be how I got this leftover palette of gouache in the first place. The colors match. If so, then I began with three primaries (warm yellow and blue, cool red), and that’s it.

At this rate, I’ll be binding another journal of daily lettering soon.

February calligraphy exhibit in Butte

During the month of February, there’s a great exhibit of calligraphy at The Main Stope in Butte. You can see calligraphy and book arts by artists from all over Montana. I have several pieces there:

  • Fragment“, which recently came back safe and sound from the Guild of BookWorkers traveling show.
  • Prairie Spring“, using the text of Willa Cather’s poem of that name.
  • The broadside, “Scintillate, Scintillate“, which was in the Inktober show in Helena last fall.
  • One of the series of artist books entitled Scintillate, Scintillate. (My lack of imagination for the title reminds of the three brothers on The Bob Newhart Show: Larry, Darryl, and “my other brother” Darryl).

Scintillate, Scintillate – a variable edition of 12 manuscript books

Scintillate, Scintillate – a variable edition of 12 manuscript books

I learned this sesquipedalian version of the old children’s poem,
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, as a child, and it has always been a
favorite. This is a simplified version of an in-progress edition of artist
books. 4 in x 7.25 in.

Dr. Martin’s metallic and white inks on Arches Cover Black text,
folded to make the panorama book presented in Hedi Kyle’s book, The
Art of the Fold. Black cloth covered hard covers, with endpapers from
a dwindling hoard of Black Ink metallic marbled papers from 1990s.
The spacer bar is covered, laminated book board, added to square up
the thickness of the book.

Editions book 9, 10, 11, and 12 will be available for sale soon.

Edition of books in progress

In-progress edition of manuscript books

I’m so excited about the edition of books I’m working on now. This makes … uh … three different variable editions of manuscript books I’m working on at the moment. Ain’t it great!

The first seven of this 12-book edition are going to my book exchange group so I won’t show the whole thing just yet. But they’ll be going in the mail in about 10 days, so stay tuned for more after that.

Oh, all right. I’m too enthusiastic about it to be totally discreet. Here’s a sneak peek at the text block.

A pair of testimonials

I recently had the pleasure of making two testimonials for a pair of sister schools. As usual, they took much longer than I anticipated. But it was fun.

detail of an illuminated testimonial
detail of an illuminated testimonial
slanted view of part of one of the testimonials
slanted view detail