Monday, May 11, 2015

The Haven is Ready

Winter has given up and the outdoor studio is set up and ready for work!
Seasons go by too quickly here for me to stay indoors doing my work in my little studio. I love to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature as I work. This year, study time is with a new Botanical painting book by Muriel Thurstan and Rosie Martin.
The book has beautiful step by step instruction and is worth the price for the colour mixing section alone. I am not a huge fan of the double primary mixing system but I am giving it a try with their recommended colours.
I think the colour that always me threw me off in that system was having Cerulean Blue as my warm blue. The authors have recommeded Prussian Blue as the warm blue and I am enjoying the variations it is capable of. Spring and Summer are my busiest seasons but I am looking foward to the lessons I can continue to learn in my little outdoor haven.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Mini Retreat

I recognize that I am in overdrive work mode seven days a week and sometimes looking for an eight day week! As an artist I am always gratful for the work but recognize the need to take a break.
I spent the afternoon with my daughter at the Butterfly conservatory. What a beautiful time letting the images soak into my soul!! Nature is so healing.
It's not quite warm enough here in St. George to open my outdoor studio for the season and I needed to be surrounded with the flights of birds and butterflies and see the bright flowers. Spring can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Feeling Blessed

Feeling so blessed after a weekend workshop for Capital City Scribes in Austin, Texas. What a delight to come to such a well organized guild!!! They took care of everything that I could possibly need and even had time to show me the Bluebonnets that line the highways and fields! It was such a joy to escape from the brownish muddy landscape of a still thawing Ontario and get into the warmth and full spring temperatures of Austin!!! Pure magic and so restorative to see the greens and the blooming plants. I was happy to share my Enchanted Letter class and look forward to the rest of my workshops this year. I seldom post pictures of myself but my dear friend Trish Taylor captured this picture and I will always cherish this memory.
A few more pictures captured from the weekend of the beautiful blooms on the roadside
. Austin you will be cherished in my heart and memories.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Room of Requirement

The artist's studio is their workspace. Their workroom. Their place of study. That space is sacred. My space is small. It is somewhat shared space. The workhorse computer is in there and is sometimes accessed by others in the family. It is my cat Oscar's favourite space.
He is often beside me as I work. He gets the most comfortable chair in the studio, and has a way of getting me to move off of it if he wants a nap. It is my library. I am surrounded by books that I love and reach for on a daily basis. It contains precious tools. Ones that I reach for every day, care for and depend upon. It is quiet. I can shut out the world here and become engrossed in my work. There are times when it is a battleground as I struggle with messes I have neglected to clean up or a task list that is too big to tackle. It has seen my greatest artistic achievements and my greatest failures. It is where the muse lives and I am grateful for this little space.I never apologize for the condition it might be left in if I am called away from it. For Hogwarts people...this is my room of requirement. Today I was up at 4 AM with an eagerness to tidy the space and get it prepared for the next project. I found the results of this weekend's work still strewn on the desk. Play pages of Vertical Script writing that loosened up my hand before I worked on a commission.
My journal opened to a page of favourite quotes.
A stack of books I looked at this week just for fun...just to draw me to a different place. Walter Crane's The Old Garden,
Irene Wellington's More Than Fine Writing
and Russian Lacquer Legends and Fairy Tales.
"" This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen." Joseph Campbell

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gently Does It

Busy weekend. So thankful for an abundance of work. I spent most of the day working on this small gilded piece. I encountered some obstacles with it. My original design was lettered in a dense black ink. I felt that the lettering was too harsh for the gentle quote. I defaulted to my favourite McCaffery brown and used a split nib to tone down the lettering. This piece is gilded with 23K gold leaf. I used instacoll for the capital T and miniatum ink for the gold throughought the flourish. I was nervous about the instacoll but it worked and shone brilliantly when the gold was burnished. Swarovski crystals are embedded throughout the piece. On its way to its new home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hoping for Spring

The calender is into March but snow abounds!!! I took a little time out to work on this wingless cherub. Experimenting with glues to adhere the Swarovski crystals. Beacon's Gem Tac seems to be working well. This design went from sketch stage to inking with McCaffery brown.
It was then gilded with 23 K Czech gold leaf and embellished with watercolor.
Miniatum ink still proving to be a favorite in my studio. A delight to work on and a breath of Spring for me on a dismal day.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tools We Love

As I was cleaning up my studio this morning I was struck by how ritualistic I have become with my work and my workspace. I have a very small studio. Not much more than a corner to work in. I am surrounded by books that I refer to constantly and very special tools. After each piece is completed in my studio, I clear off the clutter that has encroached my space during the working process and wash down the work surface. It seems to cleanse my mind from the previous project and prepares my little space for the next project. My Valentine card this year was created with some precious tools that I don't think I have shared before. Some small detail brushes and containers have been very helpful in my illumination work. The Size 1 Detail Sable Brush is from Dick Blick. I picked it up on my first trip to Philadelphia to teach Enchanted Letters. I had forgotten my brush box and although I don't mind borrowing tools when I am away, I am very particular about my brushes. Lucky to have a Dick Blick near the workshop it was my first trip into that store. I don't remember the brush being very expensive but it has held a perfect point for a few years now and is the best Sable brush I have ever owned. I realized how attached I was to it and it was only purchased out of desperation. I would normally have chosen a Winsor Newton Series 7 but the store did not have them in stock. It was a lucky purchase! The aqua Princeton Select 18/0 brush was purchased in Nashville this past October. Again, lucky to be teaching a workshop in an artstore and I needed a detail brush. This was a new discovery for me and now all outline work I do is done with this little brush. It too retains its point and is easier for me to manage than other liner or monogram brushes. The Royal & Langnickel 20/0 acrylic brush was recently purchased at Michaels. Another desperation purchase for applying gold size. The brushes used for gold size can deteriorate very quickly but this one is my new studio iron man! It has already survived multiple miniatum ink applications and the perfect point has been retained. I am very impressed with all of these very inexpensive brushes.
I also wanted to show you two of my favorite gilding tools. A little Victorian salt dish complete with mini tongs! I don't use the mini tongs for gilding but I do use the salt dish to capture all my stray bits of gold leaf. So far there has never been enough in there to much with but now and then it is exactly what I reach for if I only need a touch of gold or need to make a correction. It is always by my side! The leakproof widemouth Nalgene jar is my new best friend for the Miniatum ink. No more leaks or painfully sealed jar lids! A dream come true!!! Before I cleaned up my desk I wanted to share these gilding and miniature illumination favourite tools with you. Happy February 15th!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Believe in Angels

First in a special series I am working on that will be printed into note cards.
As I work on Designed Flourishes for my Victorian Pen workshop, I can't help but be guided by Kate Greenaway once again. She remains one of my biggest influences. Her biography is fascinating. She was highly critiqued for her illustrations yet she kept on painting. People thought her little children looked mournful but I found them serene an peaceful. Walter Crane was an outspoken critic of her work. I have often wondered what she thought when she heard Walter Crane's critiques. Yet she kept on. He was a powerful and influential illustrator who did not appreciate her work...yet she forged her own path. As I painted the face on this little angel, visions of Kate's little cherubs were in my head. The book that influences me is the Kate Greenaway Treasury.
I have had it since I was a child. It's not even mine!!! It belongs to my Dad who got it as a part of a book club. But I adopated in and in case he is looking for it....I absconded with it years ago! It teaches me and it instructs my students. Years ago, my dear friend Anne Sheedy gave me a first edition Kate Greenaway book. Engraved by Edmund Evans and very precious to me. This is the page that has influenced my embroidery and my Victorian Line and Wash techniques.
Recently, my dear friend Ann Cobb blessed me with a page from one of the first editions of Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers book.
It should be framed and on my wall but this piece travels with me as I teach my workshops. The brown signature outlines of her watercolours influenced me to choose McCaffery Brown ink. It is always the perfect colour. It is not technically waterproof but it has never failed me in this technique.
The Victorian in me loves her gentle subject matter. I love the subdued tones of her watercolors contrasted by the brown outline. I could sense Kate's influence in this piece but the vinework and the cherub are coming from Baroque studies. My little angel is on his way to his new home. Gilded with 23K Czech gold and painted with soft watercolours, this piece measures 4 1/8" by 2 3/4".

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd.....National Handwriting Day!!!!

The letters are sealed and on their way!!! A joy to write with the pen! I have attached samples from my Palomino Blackwing Journal of my normal everyday handwriting in its pure form and unaltered form.
It has mistakes. It has letters that are not perfect or uniform. Some words are less legible than others. It does not conform to any system of writing. It is written at my natural pace. It captures my thoughts with ease. I do not try to change it to make it conform to Palmer or Spencer. It is uniquely mine. Just like the sound of a voice or your fingerprint, your handwriting is uniquely yours!!! My favourite handwriting surface is a gridded journal. I am partial to the Leuchturrm1917 and the Palomino Blackwing. I am never without pen, pencil and paper. It is always with me. A constant friend. A comfort to return to. My favourite pens are pictured here.
A Viscontil Rembrandt Fountain pen, a slicci pen and a Plaisir Platinum Fountain pen. They all fit my hand well and I love to use them. Capture your thoughts, share your words with a friend, send a letter to someone who is not expecting it and preserve the love of writing. Conform to no one. Let your style be your own. It's handwriting!!! Whether you lean toward cursive or italic styles, block printing, or stick letters, be yourself and enjoy the writing you produce on the page. There is a time and a place for striving for perfect forms, for striving for perfect lettering. I am a firm believer in taking steps to improve legibility in handwriting, but I have never believed in forcing a system of writing on anyone. When I teach handwriting classes, I spend the first class with students showing them how to befriend their current writing. Find the charm in your own writing!! It is there!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oblique VS. Straight Holder

I have been inundated with questions lately about the straight holder vs. the oblique holder. I post quite a few pictures on Instagram and many picturers display a straight holder. I love both types of pen holders and switch between the two quite often.
I encourage students to try both for the lettering and flourishing and see what they prefer. There are unique qualites for each tool and more than anything else, I believe the decision should be based on which is more comfortable in the hand of each student. Based on my own experiences, the look of my work is more slender and refined if a straight holder is used. But if I want more dramatic swells in the shades, I will use an oblique holder. My recommendation for students is to put the same type of nib in a straight and oblique holder and experiment with the shaded strokes. I have a less extreme angle on my paper when I work with a straight holder. See what you prefer and have fun experimenting with both.
In response to questions about the holders that my husband and I make, you can contact us through We make custom oblique and straight holders in exotic or hand dyed woods. I also hand paint floral style and flourished holders as well. Happy writing!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thoughts from my Day

I had an interesting day today. I had an opportunity to see some gorgeous fair trade artwork. I loved seeing hand woven purses,scarves and soapstone carvings. I thought of the artisans in Thailand and Kenya who had produced the work. What was their struggle? How can charging so little for this piece of artwork possibly help the artisan? The work was so intricate and detailed. Far from perfect yet it all had such a charm about it. I felt connected to the artist. I wanted to take it all! I came home to an email from a student who wanted some thoughts about her work. As soon as I saw her work, I felt instantly connected to her process and joy as she produced something she was proud of. I could see the rhythm and the movement of her work. No signs of struggle in the pieces that conveyed so much beauty. I was honoured to look at it and share my thoughts. As a teacher, I feel like I have such a sacred trust with my students. They are so precious to me. They are my peers and my friends. I learn from their process as much as they learn from mine. I am grateful for that opportunity. Beyond anything I do as an artist, I learn and grow from seeing the work of others. If you have crossed my path as a student, I want to thank you for what you have given me.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Snail Mail Sunday

I have caught up on correspondence almost every Sunday for the past several years. It is wonderful to relax and put aside the time to write to dear friends. Lately, I have dedicated a lot of time to edge pen projects. As I completed one project it was such a joy to pick up my beloved pointed pen!! A delight to write with! Although I love my fountain pens and edge pens, there is nothing quite the same for me personally as the beloved pointed pen. Happy Writing!!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Victorian Pen Workshop

Working hard on teaching pieces and notes for The Victorian Pen workshop. With each piece I do, I learn new techniques while refining old. This art form will never cease to amaze me with the lessons it has to teach. I am enjoying this research and design phase as I continue to construct notes.
There is so much to study and learn. The Victorian Pen technique relies on underdrawing and undershading techniques.
I will keep you updated!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Believe for 2015

Welcoming all good things for 2015! This is a designed flourish and part of The Victorian Pen workshop which picks up where the Artful Flourish leaves off! Walnut ink, pastel and coloured pencil on Strathmore 400 series drawing paper. Happy New Year dear friends. May 2015 be full of creative ideas.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Last post of the year

" For last year's words belong to last year's language and next year's words await a new voice." T.S. Eliot. It's been a wonderful year of learning and growing. Lots of changes in store for 2015. A torn rotator cuff is causing me to rest and recover but I have filled that time already with increased study! I have reduced my teaching schedule for 2015 to work on updating workshop notes, studying, expanding skills and reaching long neglected goals. We still have a long list of pen orders to fill over the coming weeks. They are a joy to make and thankfully easy on the shoulder. I will keep the blog updated and you can find me on facebook at Heather Victoria Held and The Victorian Pen and instagram at heathervictoria1. Looking forward to learning and sharing in 2015.
Thank you for all of the support in 2014!!! It's been an amazing year. XO! Heather

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Thank you!!!!

Feeling relieved that for the time being I am caught up on work. The desk and studio need to be set back in order before I begin the next project. I wanted to reflect on the blessings of 2014.
I am so grateful for the support of family and friends as I had what is officially my busiest year to date! Lots of lessons learned and openings of new horizons to explore. I am grateful for every opportunity that came my way and even the frustrating moments. Looking foward to sharing new projects and ideas in 2015. I remain in the mode of perpetual learning, exploration and gratitude. Thank you dear friends. You are such a blessing to me. I hope you all enjoy the blessings and peace of the season.

Monday, December 1, 2014

May You Flourish

Too busy not to Flourish!!!! Enjoy all the sights and sounds of the season!!! Hope you all have time to flourish!

Monday, November 24, 2014

B is for busy!!!!!!

November has been a whirlwind. I wanted to update the blog with a miscellany of work I have been up to. I have interesting commissions to work on. I have had to sign non disclosure and confidentiality agreements with some companies so I can't let you in on something exciting in the works! But I did get a chance to work on a holiday card with a design firm. That was a lot of fun. I am posting just a clip of the corner of the design until the final is released.
Enchanted Letters have been keeping me busy as well!!! Just completed this B design. The images below are from sketch form to the final product.
This past weekend I completed my 2014 teaching engagements!!!! This wraps up a very busy year for me. I celebrated with a day of Medieval Miniature painting at the Ancaster Old Town Hall with Debbie Thompson Wilson. Debbie is a master at finding unique images for us to study and bring to life. This miniature is based on a 13th Century Austrian Manuscript. Meet "The Merry Makers". This is a work in progress but I wanted to share a peek.
Finally...a shot of a painted pen I just completed. The collaborative work with Chris' pens are so much fun. We are catching up on orders this weekend.
Although B is for is also for Breathe! While the festive season comes upon us, I will be taking some time to breathe! The pen will always be in hand as I practice and continue to learn!