Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Fairy Tale Process

I have been working on my calligraphic hands since 2003. I rarely delve into the edge pen, but when I do, I usually choose German Text. My source material is an old booklet that is crumbling but it has one of the nicest German Text hands I have ever seen. The book was penned by L.H. Hausam and contains several alphabets.
I love the Victorian look of the text and how it contrasts with English Roundhand. I used Christopher Yoke's Historic Small Batch Japan Ink on the Strathmore Drawing paper and a Mitchell 3.5 nib as well as a Gillott 404. I love the ivory colour of the Strathmore drawing paper. The scroll design around the quote was drawn in pencil before inking the design.
Some offhand flourishing techniques were used with the flowers and leaves. The piece is gilded with 23 K gold leaf, painted with watercolour and then burnished with pastels. I used a few Swarovski crystals in the centres of the blossoms. This piece will be donated to the IAMPETH silent auction in Portland. The whole piece is part of a playful process.
The quote struck me as very Victorian and fanciful and in need of a lighthearted border. I find joy in the process of working on a design from start to finish. The piece is far from polished or perfect, but brought me a lot joy as I worked with the playful border design. Learn your lessons with each piece of artwork, clear your workspace, and get ready to start the next one. We are never finished with the learning process.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

New Eyes

I have come across some of the writings of John Ruskin in my studies of Kate Greenaway. Kate and John corresponded for years. John Ruskin was very encouraging of her work and some of his comments and critiques of her work are quite remarkable. This month I have been working on leaf studies in botanical illustration and Ruskin came to mind. One of his quotes... "PAINT the leaves as they grow! If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the world." has inspired me for many years but I feel like I am just beginning to understand it. There is a world of patience and understanding to find in a single leaf. I am still working on vellum and watercolour and will post more about that soon. But I have been diving into the world of Faber Castell Polychromos coloured pencils and finding a lot of lessons to be learned. Learning to tone, and layer colors and really see light and shade is mesmerizing. I stop and look at leaves on the shrubs and trees as I go on my daily walks. I am truly mesmerized. I am overwhelmed with the beauty in our world even in a single leaf. Today I worked on a sketchbook page and I look foward to expanding these pages and my studies.
As I closed my sketchbook to come into the house, this strange leaf rustled in front of me.
I have no idea what plant it came from. It almost looks like a dried geranium leaf but I am not sure. I don't see anything else like it on the property. But it seemed like almost a challenge from Ruskin!! Maybe if I can paint this leaf....I can paint the world.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gratitude in May

Where has this month gone? Seems like I am full swing with teaching workshops and finishing final touches on my Enchanted Meadow Workshop which launches in August! So happy to be able to present that course and share the techniques that I have been honing for years. I created this little blue bird miniature
as part of the notes for the class. Lots of dry and moist brush techniques on him and happy to add him to my Enchanted Meadow series. The process of painting him was as peaceful and meditative as any time I spend flourishing with my pen. I will happily send him out as a note card of encouragement to anyone who feels they need a note from a friend. Now and then I get overwhelmed with the emails in my inbox. So many people in pain and struggling to find peace through mindful practice with the pen. If a little note will brighten your day, I am happy to send one your way! I am so grateful to those who read this blog, or follow me on instagram or Facebook. Now and then I even get a surprise in the mail! This week a lovely package arrived of gorgeous antique laces and linens! A beautiful and welcome surprise! Thank you dear Pat for thinking of me!
As May draws to a close, I want to be grateful for the blessings of friendships, peaceful creativity and the joy of sharing what I love with others.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Iluminated Alphabet Page

Last year I worked on an Illuminated page of the Armenian Alphabet
for an exhibit commemorating the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. I remember being very lost in the process as I cannot read or write Armenian and the Alphabet seemed very strange to me. But after the exhibit, the framed piece came home to me and it had become one of my most cherished pieces of artwork. In February of this year, I started working on a similar project but this time illuminating the Italian Hand alphabet. I need to be clear, that a pointed pen alphabet with a heavily illuminated border, raises questions and eyebrows. I was told from the minute I started learning illumination techniques, that it could not be combined with pointed pen. But to be honest, I really didn't care what anyone else thought as this is a personal piece that I wanted to work on for myself. I started with no clear plan. Just penned my hybridized Italian Hand alphabet on the Fabriano paper and then designed the border around the alphabet. I used measurements for the border that I had seen on other illuminated pages from the Renaissance as well as flower and foliage that are typically seen in Renaiassance manuscripts.
After the lettering, the next stage is always the gilding. I used Miniatum ink and 23K Czech gold leaf. The next stage of development is the underpainting. This is the stage where you start to bring life to the work.
This is always the trickiest part of the work for me as you really can't see a clear picture of what your colour choices will do to the final piece. I stuck with bold colours for the design but utilized pinks and olive greens rather than bold Cadmium red and Viridian or Hooker's green. I wanted some of the colours to be pulled back from what would be typical in Renaissance manuscript work. In hindsight, I should have used an Opera Rose instead of Rose Dore which would have given a more intense pink. Next time!!! This underpainting stage is known as the ugly stage of illumination. Nothing is clear. Paint looks dreary and the gilding looks flat and lifeless. Many students of illumination get discouraged at this stage thinking this will be their final look. But it is only a building stage. This work will continue to evolve.
Slowly the intensity of the colour is built up in layers. I try not to apply a thick wash of colour but prefer to gradually build the intensity. I added some Payne's Grey to the French Ultramarine Blue to add some depth. Burnt Sienna was added to the Quinachridone Gold to add depth to the gold tones and Alizarin Crimson deepened the Rose Dore. I should add that all of this is watercolour and not Gouache. I have been challenged by some artists to use Gouache rather than watercolour but it is absolutely my preference to build up these layers with silky appllictions of watercolour rather than the more velvety look of Gouache. The preference is personal and I feel I have more control with watercolour than with Gouache. The Olive Green was overpainted with Holbein Shadow Green to add depth to the leaves. Bleedproof White and McCaffery Brown Filigree work make up the final stages of the piece.
The Bleedproof white adds dimension to the foliage and the inking stage is the final clean up to the piece as well as making the design look more complex and ornate. It was a pleasure from start to finish and a learning piece throughout. The piece took me over 2 months to complete but I only worked on it for short periods of time. Skills evolved and changed as I worked on the piece. More skill was gained over the brush and consistency of paint. It was so much fun to be totally immersed in a personal project like this. And I still have the pleasure of searching for a frame.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

K is for Kathleen

This week I recieved a very precious gift from a wonderful artist. Kathleen Rollick is a talented calligrapher that I met at IAMPETH a few years ago. When I was president of the organization in 2014 she gave me a beautiful piece of her artwork that she had made into a necklace. I was so touched by her generous spirit and felt so privileged to have a piece of her artwork to wear. When I received a package in the mail from her this week, my heart skipped a beat.
Anything she would share with me would be a welcome surprise but nothing could prepare me for what was in the package. I knew of her incredible work of handpainted Easter Eggs. I had stumbled across an article about her Easter Eggs while I was looking up information for my Indianapolis conference in 2014. You can read the article here. Her prayerful process of the painting the eggs and and creating them for a specific person was so touching and heartwarming. I never dreamed I would have one of my own. She enclosed the fragile egg carefully in a tea container and sent along a very special note along with a key of the all of the symbols she used to paint the egg.
I can only imagine how time consuming the whole process was for her to complete. And to know that I had been prayed for while she painted the egg, brought tears to my eyes.
What a precious and special gift. Something I will always cherish. And now I have the joy of searching for the just the right egg cup for display! I will enjoy the hunt in the antique shops! I created this Enchanted Letter as a thank you for Kathleen.
Something from my hands and my heart with sincere gratitude for her artwork. I created the first design on the matte film, trying my Enchanted Letter techniques and gilding on the film. It worked really well and I was pleased with the results up until the Finetec gold was added for embellishement. The Finetec gold seemed to spread out a little too far on the matte film.
I continued to finish the piece but ultimately did a second letter to send to Kathleen. This time working on Somerset Satin paper with a slight texture. Both letters were created with a such appreciation for this amazing artist.
Her incredibly generous gift to me was a reminder of how healing and blessing our work can be to others. If the thought crosses your mind to send a piece of your artwork to someone else....act on it. Don't second guess yourself. Just trust your instincts and see what happens. You have no idea the chain reaction of joy that it can bring to someone else. It can be as simple as a decorated envelope with a note inside to let someone know you were thinking of them! Now I just need more hours in the day to get notes to those who have been on my mind. Thank you dear Kathleen for blessing me!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

April Awakenings

A is for April.... It's been a strange month here in Canada. After an unusually warm winter we were hit with a cold, icy and snowy spring. But slowly the garden is awakening.
The buds are forming on the weeping pea tree and the pear and apple trees are springing to life.
Signs of spring are everywhere. Spring is my season. Every thing wakes up!
The doldrums of winter begin to receed as the birds come back to the yard and the days get longer. I love this season. Lots of new things on the horizon for me. I will be shifting some of my responsibilites very soon to make way for new studies and pursuits. The more I paint the natural world and combine that with my calligraphic art, the more I realize that is the path that I want to follow for this next phase of my life. The winter season always seems to dull my senses and things begin to come into perspective for me in the spring! My outdoor studio was ready and waiting for me when I returned from my teaching trip to Albuquerque. While I was busy with the Victorian Pen class, my husband was busy preparing my outdoor space.
Just the thought that it is ready for me to start working makes me so eager for new projects!! I just have to wait for the weather to warm up a little! Wherever you find that sacred space, I hope spring brings you new revelations and starts to awaken new projects within! Enjoy the sunshine, watch the birds, be grateful for the space and time that you have and begin to create!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

April Surprises

April is starting out pretty chilly here in Ontario. Lots of snow on the ground, a brief ice storm and another blast of winter. But Spring will come! As I continue to navigate the time struggles I encounter each day, I am getting more balanced about time spent on the computer. I find it a necessary part of my daily routine as I respond to email, prepare for each new workshop with all of the necessary travel correspondence, work on new projects and updating handouts. It seems the artist gets delayed while the adminstrator does all of the necessary work. I am experimenting with a schedule change in my own routine, where the artist works first and then allows time for the adminstrator to take care of her tasks. I am reading through the book Daily Rituals by Mason Currey and it is encouraging to see the time struggles of so many others. Interesting reading, but bizarre in spots.
I am still trying to accomplish all of my necessary work, while giving the artist more free time. I will see how it works. One of the surprises I had waiting for me was Duralar Matte Film.
I had ordered it weeks ago and it sat patiently waiting for me to try it. It is full of surprises. For some strange reason, I bought it for watercolour work which it is not compatible with in the least. Although the packaging states it will work with paint, I can't see how as every technique I tried on the paper created small beads of unblended watercolour. So I pulled out my FaberCastell Polychromos pencils and gave it a try. I was encouraged at the results. My first experiment was a leaf drawing.
The polyester film will take several layers of a light application of the coloured pencils before a saturation point is reached. But then it seems to stop taking any colour. I did not realize when I was practicing on the leaf study, that I could turn the paper over and add details to the back. So I attempted a Hoefnagel inspired snail design just using neutral tones and slowly building up layers.
The Duralar is great for capturing details. It erases easily with kneaded eraser. It does dull the coloured pencils very quickly. Apparently it will take ink but I am skeptical about how well I can letter on this film. I look forward to more detailed experminents to see what I can do on this matte film. My suspicion is that Prismacolour pencils will be less successful because of their waxy nature. The quality of the Polychromos seems a good fit for this polyester film. I hope to learn more about the qualities of this medium as the artist continues to take time to question and study.

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Race of Time

Diving into different forms of studies to help augment my calligraphic work has been an eye opening experience. There are so many layers to peel back and discover. Whether I am studying a butterfly specimen
or trying to truly observe something as seemingly simple as a blueberry, I find myself mesmerized by the process. My study into Botancial art has led me to the work of an artist named Rory McEwen. His work is fascinating. Much of his work is done on vellum. Many paintings are a simple leaf
or flower placed on an oversized piece of vellum.
Every detail is captured and preserved. I find it so engrossing to just observe both the simplicity of the composition while seeing the magnitude of the detail. His use of vellum is extraordinary. Botanical work is for detail enthusiasts. There is no denying it. His book " The Colours of Reality' is wonderful if you are able to find a copy. Although I loved the paintings and the essays, I spent the most time on the end pages as I read through his work diary entries. He carefully dated each entry and noted his hours of work on each of the subjects he was painting.
I marveled at his routine. I applauded his discipline. I was stunned at how quickly some paintings were created while others took him so much longer and notes were added if he went back to rework them. So much is captured on that paper just by observing his routine! Back in self-reflection mode, I wonder at my own routine. Rory's journal entries are from 1981 and 1982. It was a time before instagram and facebook. Pretty sure he didn't have a cell phone sending push notifications. I notice that he gets interrupted in his work as he takes time out for travel, packing up his studio, cleaning his studio and photographing. I can relate to that. Just two end pages in the book but I feel as if I know something about his routine by reading his careful notes. As I reflect on my work routine, lately it is more gaps and interruptions than work. Something is out of order in my routine and needs to be put back in order. I think the journal entries are a great idea so I can get a snap shot of how my time is spent. Reading through the book, has brought more questions to my mind than answers but the time to question things is a welcome time for me. It's so funny what can be hiding unexpectedly in the pages of a book! Looking foward to trying the work diary entries to see what I can discover about myself. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The March Hare

It happens every Spring. It must be seeing all the Spring decorations in the stores or a touch of Spring Fever. I always start painting rabbits.
I love them. I don't mind in the least that they eat my vegetables in the garden while they are still sprouting. They also eat all of the dandelions!! One of my first study pieces I ever did with my teacher and Master Illuminator Debbie Thompson Wilson was a little Medieval Rabbit. I still have him framed and I look at him every day. When I see my first attempts at Illumination, I wonder why I ever continued. But there is something in adding tiny decadent touches of gold to work that is so appealing. I continue to get emails from people who are discouraged with their current progress. We've all been there. But I have learned over the years that the work itself is the reward. Every time I sit down to write or to paint I am investing in this creative life. I am pursuing something that I believe is so deeply personal. Be ok with the journey. Be ok with the time you need to invest in it. Just keep going and find the teachable moment that each piece of artwork has to offer you. There is a hidden gem in each piece that only you can discover as you continue to work. The fact is that although I study Medieval and Renaissance Illumination techniques, my work is far from it. The underlying influence of all my work is the Victorian Era. I couldn't stifle it if I tried. The March Hare is a result of my hybridized Victorian style blended with a touch of gilding. The miniature is painted on a scrap of calfskin vellum. Painting is done with watercolor. This past week I tried working with gouache and found that I fought the medium too much. Watercolour is my medium of choice. I am really enjoying my Daniel Smith dot card and I have drastically expanded my collection of their transparent pigments. Many of them appear on this little bunny and I amazed at their ease of use. I have been trying a variety of brushes that I received in the mail from a dear friend. I am learning that a larger brush can work even in tiny miniature painting as long as that point holds. I am finding that I prefer the larger brushes! Gilding is done with Miniatum Ink and Jerry Tresser's Czech 23K gold leaf. The gold is the brightest I have ever seen. The March Hare is designed for an upcoming workshop I will be presenting in Birmingham, Alabama. I have been developing the Enchanted Meadow workshop for several years.
Much of the study has come through observing the work of Marie Angel and her excellent guidance in her Painting for Calligraphers book. The foliate work presented is based on principles of Victorian Ornamental design which seems to come into all of my work no matter what medium I choose. Gilding techniques are simple in this workshop but the painting techniques presented are slow and mindful. But what a labour of love. This spring, as the robins return and the chimpmunks and rabbits start to make frequent visits I will be ever vigilant to observe them and try to jot notes in my study books. Quite a few Enchanted Meadow works may appear on my blog as I work on a new set of handouts for the class. There are still a few hours of work left to do on the rabbit but he is starting to shape up.
I know I am rushing the season...but Happy Spring!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Taking time to Study

My vellum studies are still in process. The current assignment is small round subjects on vellum. After a disastrous encounter with trying to paint a walnut, I switched over to a Mission Fig.
I have never really observed a fig! What a mysterious fruit! Absolutely gorgeous colours on the inside. I really should try to paint one that I have sliced! Nature is spectacular! Part of the study is to try to find the underlying colour in the fig and mix it appropriately. There are greens, golds, red purples and deep blue purples as well as the cloudy bloom that still needs to be painted. I am figuring out how much water to have on the brush. Almost none! The brush is very dry and this technique I can see is very hard on the sable brushes. I am using a size 4 Winsor Newton Series 7 Brush. The more I paint on vellum, the more I fall in love with the surface. It is so forgiving. And the work gets such an old world feel with that golden colour background! This has been a welcome retreat from my usual studies. I find the same meditative peace that overtakes me while I work as I do with pen and ink. This challenging art form engages more of my mind as I can't be on autopilot as I work. I hear the conversation in my head as I try to mix and match colours. It feels like such a luxury to take some time out to paint. But much necessary restoration. Yesterday's study day was in preparation for The Poetic Pen Workshop for Binders in Atlanta next month. Just a few hours with the letters reinforced that they are more a part of my soul than any other script alphabet.
English Roundhand is a close second but no other script alphabet seems to bring me so much joy! The study days are so important. They give you a chance to really tune into the artform and shut out the forces of the outside world even if it is just for a few hours. No matter what other work comes along to fill my schedule I am constantly reminded of the restorative importance of study. I hope that never changes. Beyond anything I achieve as an artist or a teacher, my happiest time is spent as a student, constantly learning and exploring.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Personal Process

Early on when I began teaching in 2010 I had a dear friend question me about doing so. Why would I teach? Why would I share? Why not just keep it to myself? The only reason I teach is to give someone else the joy that the process of creating gives me. Back in my embroidery days, one of my first teaching engagements was to teach silk ribbon embroidery at a women's shelter. The women had been abused and many of them had fled their homes without anything other than their clothes. The director of the shelter wanted the women to make something pretty that they could hang on their wall or put in their room to add a spark of beauty. The class wasn't long. Just a few hours. But that's all it took with Silk Ribbon embroidery to make a little bouquet to hang on their wall. For those few hours, stress was relieved. Pain was gone for a little while and their minds were free. Now, when I teach calligraphic art, I know I meet people from all walks of life. Each has their story and many have incredible hurdles and stresses in their lives. The artforms I teach are therapeutic. Not overly complex. Hopefully the classes spark joy with the student and they go on to create their own artwork putting their own unique stamp on their work. That is why I teach. Every workshop I teach is a result of a personal process. The Enchanted Letter class is the result of personal study and exploration.
I see the little Victorian Letterforms as my own children! They have a personality that evolved over a year of study as my friend Dana Cochran and I both worked on illustrative letters throughout the year. We kept each other accountable. My process had many failures. I was not happy with my first attempts and the style of Victorian letterforms that evolved out of that year were my search for finding a style of illuminated lettering that would augment my pointed pen script. After I developed the letterforms, I started working on Victorian foliate extensions to add to them. The extensions could act as border designs or meander around corners.
The inspiration for the designs came from Persian illuminated manuscripts, Victorian scroll engravings and Florentine paper patterns. I love to create the designs and I love to share them with my students. I am happy when students take what the learn and create their own works of art. It does catch me off guard when I see others take the Enchanted Letter workshop and teach it as their own brainchild. If I can explain my feelings clearly, these workshops and their content are like an entry in my diary. Seeing my personal work taught by another is like having someone write their own notes in my diary. Do they have the same feelings for the work? Are they explaining my thought process? If they have their own process of creating the letterforms, why are they copying mine? I don't understand this part of my field. I don't think I ever will. The process of creating a workshop and taking care to pass on the elements of the style with passion and clarity are deeply personal. I asked a friend to share their thoughts with me about this. She is very wise. She was in an art class and the teacher took the students to the window and showed them the sun. She said..."this is the sun...and there is nothing new under it." So true. As artists we all borrow. Ideas and inspiration are all around. The ideas are all floating around out there and with the convenience of social media, work is being shared readily and the ideas merge together. I get that. I also see incredible influence from my embroidery days and floral days influencing the designs that I create. I recognize the derivative nature of the work. I also recognize the elusive nature of artwork and teaching. That being said, I am so grateful for the commission work that comes my way for these intricate designs. They are probably my favourite initials to create. Each design is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Although they start with similar elements they all take different twists and turns. I create every one the same way...starting with a detailed pencil design. I never rely on an initial that was previously created even if the client points to previous design as the one they want. I work it out carefully in pencil and then commit to the painting process. These days, I add more gilding and swarovski crystals than my previous work. This design was created for an upcoming child's baptism. A work of joy to share from my heart.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Connecting Thread

Many of you know that for years I spent hours of my time doing Victorian embroidery. Once in awhile, I still miss the the bright embrace of that wonderful artform. In the dead of winter one of my escapes is to visit antique shops. Every time I see a piece of lace or hand crocheted doily I stop to look at it. I have rescued dozens of vintage laces, handkerchiefs and doilies. I take them home and gently restore them to their brightest form. I seldom pass them up. I always feel a connection to the artisan who created the original piece. I want to give their work a life again. This little round doily was originally from Paris.
The crochet edging is done by hand. I wanted to revisit my freehand embroidery days and adorn it with flowers and glass pearls. As I worked on this piece, I realized that beyond my floral background, my flourishing technique is also based in my embroidery days. I seldom worked with a pattern. I just wanted to adorn things with some Victorian touches. The same is true of my flourishing. I stare at the blank page and see what emerges. With embroidery and with flourishing, you start with your biggest elements of the design and add your smaller elements around it, filling in with accent strokes and stitches as you go. The little visit back to my embroidery stash helped me to see the connecting thread between the two art forms much more clearly. Both require peace of mind. They both bring on a sense of peace and meditation while working. Both require you to completely engage with the medium. Both are very tactile. It was a bright diversion to revisit needle and thread. The heart flourish clearly reflects some of my embroidery experience.
Neither the flourish or the embroidery reflect perfection. They both meander freely and organically. Nothing is preplanned or designed. Both are the result of happy play and just letting the creation process happen. Happy flourishing. Just play!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Putting Ink On Paper

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day!
A day to be celebrated and savoured for many reasons. I have shared my thoughts with my handwriting class students many times over the years. I believe that handwriting flows rhythmically with the thoughts and feelings of the writer. If you are tense and jittery, your handwriting will reflect those feelings. If you are relaxed and at peace, the connection between thoughts in the mind and the journey to the hand seem to flow unimpeded. No emotion can hide from the tip of the pen. Handwriting and calligraphy are my daily reset buttons if I should use such a digital term for an analog skill. Even the word analog looks out of place when I am writing about handwriting. The digital age has affected our minds. There is no way around that and some will argue that our minds are better for it and some will say that are minds are worse for wear. I recommend the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr if you want to dive into his thoughts on the matter. My copy is tattered, heavily underlined and laden with post-it notes where I jotted some responses to his thoughts. His book caused me to stop to think about the effects of the digital age. My response to digital overload is that daily reset button of handwriting and calligraphy. Both skills allow my mind to rest, to pause, to breathe. Thinking back to my cursive writing lessons in elementary school, I don't think I would have agreed that handwriting was rest for my mind. We had daily drills, practiced letter forms on guidesheets, often did our drills to a metronome to keep us writing rhythmically. Our handwriting needed to match the guidesheets as closely as possible. We needed uniform slant of letters, consistent open loops and flowing exit and entry strokes. Every elementary school teacher I can remember had impeccable Palmer Penmanship skills. I wanted my cursive writing to look like theirs but it really didn't conform. We had to apply in writing for our Pen License before we could graduate from pencil to pen. The world of pen offered bright colors of ink, different sizes of pen tip and even a fountain pen option if we could prove we wouldn't have ink blots all over our work. The goal of achieving that pen license was monumental at the time and I remember feeling stressed, and worried that I would ever get that license! I eventually got the license and remember my favourtite pen was the fine Bic with the schoolbus yellow barrel and the blue cap. My penmanship skills in no way called me into my future career choice. My thoughts about handwriting are often different than those of my colleagues. I see beautiful cursive writing as well as beautiful italic writing. I believe that handwriting is a very unique extension of our own personality.
Each person's handwriting is as unique as their voice or their fingerprint. No two people will write identically even if they started with the same system of penmanship. My goal in teaching handwriting was always to increase legibility while helping each student find a practical rhythm and pace to their writing. If they can't read their own notes or keep up with their own thoughts on paper with ink, they are going to abandon the pursuit of the skill. I do find that the digital age can bombard my mind. The harsh bright screen of the computer, the beeps I hear it make while I am trying to concentrate on getting my thoughts on paper, watching little messages fly across the screen, and in the back of my mind, often wondering what else is on. So I temporarily switch from my writing document, see what is happening on facebook and instagram, linger there often longer than needed ,check my email, respond to those and then try to remember what I was working on before the diversion. I wonder..... is this healthy? When I pause and shut down that computer screen and can sit at my desk with only ink and paper, my mind breathes. It rests in the comfort that the paper will not distract me. The paper does not have a delete button. It does not autocorrect my words and thoughts. Errors are captured and recorded on paper but with the safety of knowing that the recycle bin can carry those mistakes into oblivion. I can rest and take comfort in the thought that I can create something on the paper that can bring joy to someone else.
I can brighten someone's day with a note of encouragement or a brightly flourished envelope. I can let the feelings I have for the recipient come to the surface and flow out of the tip of the pen. It is a unique experience. It is meditative, it is peaceful, it restores my focus and refreshes my mind. It is my daily push back against the bombardment of the computer screen.Neither my handwriting or my calligraphy is perfect. It is not a font. It reflects the human who picked up a writing instrument and united with the process of putting ink on paper.
It's a celebration of a skill that can be used to bless someone else. It is a practical way to say thank you that means far more to the recipient than an email. When a handwritten letter arrives for me, I savour the experience. I pause and breathe while reading the note. The note does not intrude. It did not beep at me as a text message. It waited quietly on the desk until I was ready to open it and read the thoughts of my friend. I feel connected to my friend as I read their words.It's an entirely different connection than what comes to me on my iphone as a text message. It feels different than a digital message. It did not get lost in a huge group of emails that came to my inbox. It found a quite place and soulful time to visit with me. The process of sending handwritten notes continues to be part of my life. In many ways, I think in ink. Happy National Handwriting Day!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

English Roundhand...My Personal Philosophy

I don't intend to be preachey all of 2016 but I feel the need this first week of January. Bear with me for now! When I want to convey something cheerful in script writing my default setting is English Roundhand. From the minute I picked up a pointed pen, my natural tendency was to produce rounded letterforms with weighted shades on the downstrokes. English Roundhand was not the first script I attempted. My first love of writing was Spencerian Script! My introduction to Spencerian Script came in 2003 at the IAMPETH convention in Cleveland, Ohio. That is where I had my first class with Michael Sull and my journey and love affair with the pointed pen truly began. I attended my first Spencerian Saga in 2005 and attended several more over the years. The Spencerian Saga continues to flourish under Harvest Crittenden and her directorship and I recommend the Saga experience to anyone who wants total immersion in the Geneva On the Lake experience of Spencerian Script in the setting of Platt Rogers Spencer's home base. It will not be forgotten. I worked with Spencerian Script alone for many years. It was my correspondence hand and worked well with my style of flourishing. But when I was exposed to the work of George Bickham in The Universal Penman, my heart skipped a beat! This is my worn and battered copy. I had the spine of it removed and a heavy duty coil binding added so it would open flat on my desk. It remains my most used resource in my studio along with Tomkins and Milns Ornamental Penmanship. Both of these monumental works are available as Dover Reprints. If you don't have copies of these I recommend you run to get them!!! Inside the books, I was mesmerized by the content. The forms are voluptuous and elegant. The lettering brings me so much joy. Both volumes contain not only fine examples of English Roundhand but also my beloved Italian Hand which has become my favourite lettering style. In the back of Bickham's book you will find pages with various styles of lettering. Terminology is a weird and scary ride in the calligraphic world. I have witnessed divisive and derogatory behaviour over terminology. I don't dwell in the land of division. My hope is to build bridges and encourage the lovely art form. If you are an educator or artist who is promoting the love of lettering and sharing your skills with others, I applaud you. As an educator I feel that part of my calling is to bring others into the joyful relationship that can be found with the pen. My personal love is the pointed pen. That being said I see work being done with the broad edge that is positively breathtaking. I love the beauty that can be found with that remarkable tool. Most of my time though is spent with the pointed pen as I flourish, practice English Roundhand, Spencerian or my beloved Italian Hand. Yes... Italian Hand is my runaway favorite and I will be commenting more about it in future posts!!! For anyone interested, I will teaching Italian Hand at Binders in Atlanta this coming March. I still consider myself to be a relative newcomer to the calligraphic world. Lettering holds surprises for me every day and I am still filled with the same sense of wonder and awe that I had when I first picked up the pen. It didn't take me long though to encounter opinions and ideas that some people found superior to others. I remember being taken aback at some heated discussions and opinions arising over the word copperplate. I didn't understand it then and I try to avoid the division over it now but I don't shy away from discussing it. I did dive into years of research over the term and I came across a variety of ideas and opinions. One book pointed to 'copperplate' as the reason for the decline of Western Calligraphy. I don't share that opinion and choose to elevate this script lettering as one of the most graceful and elegant styles that can be created with a pointed pen. I recognize that others think differently but see no reason to divide over vision of a script hand. Maybe I am missing something, but I think if we love lettering, we are on the same team and all do our parts in promoting the lettering arts. Each of us adds our own chapter to the story and we bring with us the ideas and experiences that shape our opinions. No one taught me or told me to use the term English Roundhand, I just landed there. I remain there because for me, it is the most descriptive and accurate term for the style of script that I want to emulate. This is just my opinion that I have arrived at through my own personal reasearch. I recognize that there are many incredibly talented script artists who have arrived at the conclusion that the best term to use is copperplate. I still love and respect their work. Despite all of us having our love of lettering, we will all possess diverse opinions. That is to be celebrated and encouraged but never feared.This plate from Tomkins and Milns explains it best for me. "Beauties of Writing exemplified in a variety of Plain and Ornamental Penmanship. Designed to excite Emulation in this Valuable Art." That says it all!!! Free the caged bird! Learn what you can from others but never think that is the only way to learn. Never shy away from original research, if your opinion is different even from someone you respect, its ok to express yourself. Never underestimate what can happen when you study for yourself. Take what has been printed before with a grain of salt..including this! You will come to conclusions that no one else can lead you to. Love what you do and do what you love!