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.