Monday, July 14, 2014

Rejoice in the Blossoming of Every Flower.

Sometimes it just takes one moment to completely change your perspective. Tasks of late have been overwhelming but out of the blue I got a phone call from a member of the Calligraphic Art Guild of Toronto. A month ago, I taught my Italian Hand class there and she called to tell me that she had been practicing daily since that class! She had accepted my 6 week boot camp challenge and not a day has gone by when she didn't pick up the pointed pen. I couldn't be happier!!! This piece was created just after that phone call. It reinforced the importance of spending time in practice. This weekend, I put aside some tasks, met with a student for a private lesson, went out for a coffee and did a piece of work just for me. The "Rejoice" piece is done on Canson drawing paper with Robert Hurford's homemade walnut ink which is a gorgeous rich brown!
I used my oil based Polychromos coloured pencils, Diane Townsend pastels and a new gold from the Czech Republic that is more brilliant than any I have used. Not sure if Jerry Tresser has any left, but this gold is pure magic. The colours used departed from my favourite pink. I felt like I needed the warmth of the reds and oranges.
A piece just for me! This piece is reflective of the practice time I am taking to hone different skills and expand my horizons. I am constantly amazed at how much this artform has to teach!

Monday, July 7, 2014


Without question, I am asked to create artwork around the word Breathe more than any other word. I have lost count over the years. My most unusual request was to create a tattoo design! My most precious design was created for Trish Taylor, my beautiful friend who has just undergone a double lung transplant.
You can read about Trish's story at Operation Deep Breathe. Many people have contributed to help fund her transplant and I have included a link here to Operation Deep Breathe. Today's design made me think of dear Trish and all that she has gone through leading up to her transplant and now as she recovers from the surgery. Sending her a huge hug as I am mindful of the blessing of being able to breathe no matter how cluttered the days become.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Freeing the Flourish

Today, the calendar is showing me that we are one month away from the IAMPETH convention. It has been a busy year!!! I have tried to guard my time and keep up with letter writing and the sending of cards throughout the year. With this busy pace, something has clarified in my methods of writing and flourishing! I have always taught that 'hesitating is the enemy" and not to "overthink the flourish". Some days, the pen in is ny hand for minutes rather than hours and I have noticed a change in my work as I no longer have the luxury of time. The flourishes are struck more rapidly and I have found more freedom in my writing. The rapid flourishes are less controlled. They edge away from the traditional look of offhand flourishing. I notice micro evolution in my work from time to time and I will play with these flourishes and see where they lead.
Although my life and schedules these days have been on the cluttered side, losing the luxury of time has honed some focus for me. Still trying hard to guard that meditative quality of pen work whenever I pick up the pen. I can see the finish line of the convention tasks and I am grateful for the lessons learned this year.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sacred Mornings

I wanted you to peek at my morning ritual. I try to guard my solitude in the morning before officially beginning my day. The time with pen in hand outside is very healing and sacred to me.
My backyard is my haven. I am surrounded by the sounds of birds and squirrels. Still love the sound of the Carolina Wrens and the chickadees! They brighten every day. I work under a gazebo at the back of my yard. Today I am working on placecards for the IAMPETH closing banquet.
Each name is a welcome joy to letter.
To my right, I have a little table where Juliett the Jay visits and steals the peanuts I leave out for the chipmunk!
I counted 14 squirrels at the bird feeder and 9 starlings at the suet feeder. Peaceful sounds as I work on a joyful task.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

A Thankful Day

I have been up early this morning to work on place cards and catch up on correspondence. But my husband Chris was up even earlier and has already started his workday. Working quietly in my studio, I was struck with a thought about how intregal Chris is to my work. This past weekend he was on the road with me as I taught Italian Hand. He stayed for two days with our merchandise, politely answered questions about nibs and paper, adjusted penholders and visited with the calligraphers. They kept wondering if Chris was really a practitioner of the art form. He did try his hand at it but sadly, it was just not his idea of fun. Today as I wrote with a very special penholder that the two of us made together, I wanted to pause and be thankful for all that he has done to help me on this calligraphic journey.
Those of you who have been in my workshops, know that Chris started me on this journey by bringing me home a Scheaffer's calligraphy set and thinking that he had finally found me a cheap hobby! He hadn't counted on the fact that the calligraphic arts would capture me body and soul! Behind the scenes, although working full time as well as weekends on his masonry, he is building us a new website, working on new penstaffs, fulfilling and shipping penstaff orders, editing video content for my online lessons and keeping me sane as I prepare for IAMPETH. He is patient, and he is obliging as I seem to need his help with more and more projects. On the comical side of things, our lathe, which is very antiquated, can no longer slow down. It has one speed, overheats after one or two penstaffs and sounds a bit like a bulldozer! Despite those shortcomings, Chris is still out in the garage working on pen staffs! Thankfully a new lathe has been ordered and should arrive shortly! I wanted to share a look at some of Chris' work while being thankful and mindful of all that he does for the business of Heather Victoria Held.I am incredibly proud of the penstaffs he creates. I still turn a few of them, but most of the time he sets them aside for me to hand dye or inspect.
I couldn't do my work without him! He makes this journey through life so much fun.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Beauty of Italian Hand

Giving Special thanks for my dear friend Don Marsh today! Over the past 2 years, he has helped me with advice and insight as I prepared for a March workshop in Italian Hand. On March 1st, I soft launched this workshop to 22 participants from the Royal City Calligraphy Guild. The results were amazing as people who had not handled the pointed pen before became as intrigued as I am with this gorgeous hand.
This morning, Cocker, Snell, Clark, Bickham and Becker are on a road trip with me as I fully launch this workshop in its two day format for the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto. I feel as if I have gone through hundreds of miniature studies as this hand was slow to yield its secrets. I will share a bit more about Italian Hand after this workshop. In the meantime, I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to share this wonderful hand with eager new students! Part of today's study will be to contrast it with English Roundhand and even take a peek at how this hand influeces Spencerian script.
This hand has captured my hand and my heart. As I write it daily, it has become more inuitive to me than any other hand. Feeling as the Writing Masters are smiling this morning as a hand that was probably so simple for them has presented so many puzzles to me!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Pure Joy

I am long overdue in updating my blog!!! This is an understatement, but life has been busy. I am still playing catch up on commissions I received in December! Thankfully, I still find moments when I can share my work with someone who just needs a little lift.
My purest and most profound joy comes when I can work on such a piece. The inspiration for it finds me, I don't have to chase it. The time comes to me, I don't have to put anything aside. Miraculously, Oscar rarely impedes the process!
It is a magical process and as the piece gets mailed off to its recipient, the magic continues. I don't know when it will arrive or how it will be recieved. But is sent with all the joy and brightness I can muster. So thankful for the pen, the lessons it brings, and the way it can bless someone else and the voice it gives me when my own words fail. I remain humbled and in awe of the whole process.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Fleeting Moments

" We have only this moment...." I am trying to remain conscious of each precious moment while being fully absorbed in this busy season. So thankful for the pen and ink. No matter how hectic things get, I am taking time to clear my writing desk each night and put some playful strokes on paper.
Grateful that the disciplined study of Italian Hand seems to have affected my Roundhand. Finding freedom and pleasure in both. This dashed off example was done with my trusty straight holder, an Esterbrook 356 and Walnut Ink on Maruman paper. Most of my ornamental pen work is now done with a straight holder, while I continue to use my oblique for Spencerian Script. As I catch up on pen orders and a myriad of deadlines, I will be scarce on facebook although always available by phone or email if you need me. I will try to keep my blog updated.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter Dear Friends!!!! A quick post today. This little piece represents lots of exploration for me. I am undertaking a huge study in Italian Hand as I prepare to teach an extended class over the summer. Italian Hand and walnut ink go hand in hand and as a result, I used it to letter this piece taking a break from my usual McCaffery Brown. The use of the walnut ink required a change in my usual line and wash technique. I also changed my trusted gilding medium to experiment with Instacoll and Miniatum Ink. Still not a fan of the Instacoll but I love the possibilities with the pointed pen and Miniatum ink. Other changes included experimenting with a porcelain rather than plastic palette, Sennelier Watercolour rather than Winsor Newton, the entire piece including the fur on the rabbit was done with a Kolinsky sable brush size 2 rather than my normal 000. All the greens were mixed rather than relying on altering Sap Green. A fun piece to play with and enjoy different techniques. I love Spring!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Recap Of the Enchanted Letter Workshop: Goldner Walsh Nursery, Pontiac, Michigan

In 2011, I embarked on a year long project with my dear friend Dana Cochran of A Fine Line Studio in Asheville, North Carolina. Dana and I have been friends since meeting at The Spencerian Saga in Ohio back in 2005. There has scarcely been a day gone by that we don't email each other! You can read all about our year long project together if you follow my blog posts from 2011. Dana's work followed a botanical path. She would take an elegantly drawn Roman capital and embellish it with a beautiful botanical water colour. My journey started with traditional illumination techniques which I quickly got bored with. I wanted to design letterforms that could work with script lettering. I did not want to copy traditional illuminated letters. I wanted my designs to be unique and a reflection of my taste. I took traditional gilding techniques but throughout the year, I developed ways to make the letterforms more flourished. The resulting study year with Dana turned into The Enchanted Letter workshop. I was taking bookings to teach the workshop before the project was completed. Since 2011, I gave been delighted to travel to many locations to teach The Enchanted Letter. This past weekend, I spent time in Pontiac, Michigan at The Goldner Walsh Nursery teaching the class. One of the attendees sent me some pictures and I am delighted to share them here. The workshop starts with an exploration of the influences that came together to create the letterforms. I start with Medieval and Renaissance illuminations and how they shaped my thinking. I also introduce my students to the work of my illumination teacher Debbie Thompson Wilson and my favouite Victorian Illustrators. Each letterform is designed by the student.
Nothing is copied, they all explore their own sense of design and learn techniques to critique their own work. The two days fly by at lightning speed and I hope that each student leaves with a sense of Enchantment in their own abilities to create something unique! Hope you enjoy the pictures. I had no idea that the year long study with Dana would end up being such fun to teach in a workshop. The workshop proceeds through various styles of letterforms as well as learning to design ornamental foliate extensions.

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Taste of 1883 &1884

My mailbox is very happy today. I just received a rare Kate Greenaway print from 1884. Sent to me by my dear friends Ann and Terry Cobb, this will be framed and treasured! Engraved by my hero Edmund Evans and a beautiful example of the work of my favourite artist Kate Greenaway. Kate was an introvert through and through. She was heavily critiqued for her work, and although she listened to each critique carefully, she remained comitted to her own vision. She accepted that which she considered true and discarded the rest! She was determined to paint what made her happy and would not submit to the vision of anyone else. As I read through her biography this week I am amazed at her discipline. She was an early riser, and worked from just after her breakfast until her lunch time. Although she shared her home with her family, she was strict about being undisturbed in her studio unless the matter was extrememly urgent. She took a short lunch break and then worked for a few more hours in the afternoon. She allowed time each day for a walk outdoors and if she had a visit to attend to, she would take care of that at tea time. Evening hours were left to correspondence and reading or sewing the clothing that she would choose to illustrate. Her letters of correspondence were often illustrated. This example is from a birthday greeting she sent to John Ruskin.
She fought hard to retain her copyright to her work although she was shamelessly copied and marketed by her competitors in other countries. I adore her spirit and her work! This precious bookplate was created for one of the children who posed for her illustrations.
Along with my precious Kate print, I just received a tiny book from 1883. Muster Alphabete
is a beautiful representation of the Victorian forms that I love. Although they often border and surpass the realm of the excessive and can push the envelope of good taste, I admire their attention to detail and their love of ornamentation.
I am welcoming Spring today with this glimpse into the past.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Behind the Scenes

There are some things you can never know until you start to go through them.
When I took on the role of IAMPETH President this year, I truly had no idea of all of the hours of work it would involve or the friendships I would forge along the way. The road has had some highs and some lows. Some stresses and some moments of pure joy. And we are only in March. Still plenty of road left to travel before the conference in Indianapolis. It all boils down to the love of the art form and working hard to promote and preserve that art. Today, IAMPETH takes a giant step forward in building our new database. Lots of hands and minds have come together to see this happen. I am so thankful for the support of family, friends, board members and colleagues and especially thankful for one dear friend's time and energy into this project. Dear Debi this is for you my friend. For those of you who know my process, there are no surprises here in this piece. I think in pencil and then paint.
The design took place during one of the busiest seasons of IAMPETH planning and working!
Now being mailed off to bless my friend.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Italian Hand Study Day

Having a wonderful day studying Italian Hand.
I have been asked to teach a workshop in Italian Hand at the Royal City Calligraphy Guild this coming Saturday. After back to back Spencerian workshops over the past several months it has been a challenge to work out the Spencerian tendencies to embrace this beautiful hand. Often overlooked because of its strange shading, and reverse shading on capital letterforms, I have found that this hand is challenging but not impossible. Many variations of the hand are found in George Bickham's Universal Penman. Right now I am taking a break from going through the Universal Penman looking for different letterforms.
My lettering today has been done on Canson Layout Paper with Walnut ink and an Esterbrook 556. Breaktime is over!!! Back to work!!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Pencil Guided Thoughts

I never ceased to be amazed by the mediative qualities that a simple pencil can bring out.
As it glides across the paper, there is no fear of making a mistake. The eraser is built in. Mistakes are easily eradicated. This simple, mindful process allows thoughts to flow freely. If you have read some of my previous posts, you will know that I love to keep a journal and pencil handy. This journal is particularly special. It captures thoughts that come to me as I work out designs in pencil.
Often it is a thought that I need to try to expand and later finds its way into a workshop. It's just pencil on paper. Nothing incredibly difficult or complicated. But the action of putting pencil to paper does help hone my thoughts and ideas. The journal provides an added bonus that it allows me to return to my thoughts at any time.
Just a thought I wanted to share.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Too Busy Not to Paint!

Busy has been my default setting lately! I am making it a habit to find time for practice and for play even though my daily agenda is filled. I try to keep up with my handwritten correspondence and I am working on some very large projects at the moment. But in between the projects and the busy schedule the illuminated miniature has been a haven of peace. The sketch begins in my journal with a quick pencil drawing which is transferred onto my paper or vellum. The sketch usually takes me about 30 minutes and once I have laid down the gold size, the painting process takes about 2-3 hours for this small size.
My love of the painting techniques of Marie Angel, illuminated manuscripts and the only little animals I have seen on my walks in this harsh winter have provided the inspiration for the sketches and the paintings. In the midst of winter and an extremely busy schedule I find the quiet of painting to be a wonderful solace where I can recharge. The pen has been busy too as I explore new techniques and styles that are difficult. I will keep you posted on the pen progress soon!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Handwriting Day

January 23rd is a special day for those of us who love handwriting! Today I worked on a small batch of letters and got them ready to be posted. No matter how many or how few words I put on a letter to be mailed I can't help but feel connected to the people I am writing to. The process is peaceful and meditative for me. I sat down to write one letter, but ended up writing seven!
Happy National Handwriting Day!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Final Details

From start to finish, my project took 41 days! I started with the desire to really enter the working methods of the Boucicaut Master, an elusive and anonymous French Illuminator from the 15th Century. My portion of the border is far larger than the original. I worked at a size of 2 1/4" By 10 inches and I dramatically enlarged the image I found online to study the details. The purpose of studying this way and copying this manuscript was to see what I could absorb of the Boucicaut Master's attention to detail. I was not disappointed! By enlarging the original, I could see every detail. From the individual seed pods in the acanthus leaf centres, to the veining drawn on the stalks of the cornflowers to the curls and the part in the angels' hair! I learned how the shading was applied to the acanthus leaves. I could see several shades of lavendar and blue in the violets and I could see that how he painted the curves of the violet leaves, in fact he painted a ruffle on the violet leaf!
I invested over 30 hours in the project. The piece is almost entirely painted with a 000 Winsor Newton Series 7 Brush. Some of the larger areas were done with a 00 or 0 brush. It took 4 layers of watercolour to build up a jewel tone effect. My working method throughout the piece was moist brush rather than having a lot of water on the brush. One of the techniques I discovered was in the facial features and in the hands. Usually, I don't outline my work before painting. I save the outlining until the end if it is necessary. At first glance and even enlarging and studying this piece, I felt that it had not been outlined except in a few areas. But as I continued to study and magnify the image, I could see that the facial features and hands hand been outlined, with the features fully drawn and then a light wash of pigment was placed over top of the outlining. They white of the vellum was left for the eyes.
A great technique to remember. The final reward of this piece was the filigree work.
When I gilded the piece initially, it is hard to see a pattern or any sort of sense in the placement of gold. The gilding pattern in the filigree is random rather than repeated. But the Boucicaut Master took care to make sure each gilded leaf or orb was attached to a stem which in turn was attached to another part of the design. This gives such a continuity in the filigree. My illumination teacher always treats the filigree portion of a miniature as the reward for working through the piece. I felt very rewarded as I applied the filigree. I did not reference the manuscript for the filigree work. It is very intiuitive. In the end, the piece yeilded up some discoveries that would have remained hidden if I had not embarked on this journey. I enjoyed the study and the peace it brought over this festive season of the year. Although I invested time and energy, this piece feels as though it does not belong to me. I added one little touch ( other than adjusting the pug nose on the lower angel). Where the Boucicaut Master had further ornamented his filigree work with tiny drawn dots, I filled the dots with my Sakura Stardust pen! A little twinkle from this century, reaching back into his.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013 Christmas Video Up

Wishing all of my friends, students and colleagues a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for all of the encouragment and inspiration. Hope this holiday season is filled with peace for you all. The video reflects my usual practice time...with Oscar either perching over top of my work or very close by. Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Mid-December Morning

There are mornings when the thought of writing wakes me up and I have to get into the studio to play. This morning as the sun rose slowly, I found a blue/grey piece of Canson paper and a Tennyson quote that has been rolling around in my head. The house is quiet in the morning and I can work in peace. I mixed a new batch of ivory ink and wrote the words.
My straight holder was nearby and the Esterbrook 128 still has some life in it. December is an odd month for me. Lots of holiday tasks to take care of. I love to visit the shops to see their Christmas displays. My classes wind down for the end of the year and I find time to breathe. This morning the quote helped me reflect on those who I have met this year. So many wonderful students who have become my friends. I am so grateful for my experiences, my family, my friends, students and colleagues. Grateful for time spent working with the pen. Grateful that I still have so much to learn.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Image Emerges

I have spent my first week with the Boucicaut Master. I have spent 7 hours this week in the underpainting stage of the image. The underpainting stage consists of a light wash of the colours of the design. Traditionally, I paint the foliate features first but I started this miniature with the two features that will cause me the most trouble, the angels! Remembering that I enlarged this image quite a bit, I marvel at the skill of the Boucicaut Master. The first surprise that came to me was the angel at the bottom of the border. Without a doubt he is painted with a pug nose!
I will not include that nose on my little angel, but he brought a smile to my face when I saw that little nose. The top angel is painted in profile which is always a challenge for me. Each finger is accounted for. At least on the original.
I am struggling through the facial features and the finger positions, but I still have room to capture them properly. The underpainting stage is done to help capture the design before the details are painted in. The hands and faces of the angels are painted in Holbein Jaune Brilliant 1 and Jaune Brilliant 2. The underpainting was done in the following order and colors, Yellow Ochre, Olive Green, Cobalt Blue and French Vermillion. I am limiting my palette to my Senellier Pan colours and my Winsor Newton Pans. At the end of the week, I am still nervous about the angels but I am hopeful that I will find lots of joy in painting the foliate work!