Still enjoying the wintery flourishes in a very mild December here in Ontario. I enjoyed creating this large snowflake flourish this past weekend.
It is done on midnight blue cardstock with Bleedproof white, Swarovski crystals and an Esterbrook 358. The original will go into my portfolio and be included in a 2016 workshop for Festive Flourishes. I created a second design this afternoon and my thoughts came together about the individuality and creativity in both the snowflake and offhand flourishing. I apologize in advance that this post is more opinionated than most, but I get very passionate about this discussion.
In its height of form in the late 1800's, offhand flourishing was anything but unique. Most pen artists were utilizing and repeating the same designs. We saw birds, plumes, quills, scrolls, more birds, leaping stags, horses, swans, still more birds, a few angels and a zebra or two. The ornamental work was part of the skill set of the penmen of the day. Instructions in my 1884 edition of Real Penwork Instructor in Penmanship emphasize copying and tracing. The book states that"leading penmen and pen-artists" would use this method for a quick and easy way to make an exact copy of ornamental penwork. The book states that this has been kept "sort of a secret". It goes on to state that " a child can make an exact copy of any kind of ornamental penwork and do it to wonderful perfection." What struck me when I did the second snowflake flourish, was that the instructions given in the 1884 manual are still living on. I am seeing lots online of copied works utilizing the tracing process. I think it was bad advice in 1884 and remains an unnecessary and restrictive process to what should be a freeing and creative form. I also don't agree that the end result should be "wonderful perfection." If I wanted wonderful perfection, I would buy a rubber stamp. The process of offhand flourishing has an organic feel. The line is natural. It meanders. It can have many repeated elements and create wonderfully varied results. I have never achieved perfection with a design. I hope for excellence, but perfection and offhand flourishing just don't seem to go hand in hand in my mind.
When I started flourishing back in 2003, all I had as a reference was Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy by Dover publications. Later I added The Ames Compendium. I loved the Victorian looking designs and tried to emulate the strokes I saw there, but my mind did not enter into the realm of thinking that I should trace them. I tried my best to discern the shapes and made some hideous looking flourishes. But the both the journey and the process were very authentic. It took time, it took brain power and it took determination. I had many failures. My recycling bin was always filled with the trials and errors. It didn't take me long to realize that I did not want to repeat the historic forms. I wanted to use them as inspiration but find my own voice with them. As offhand flourishing artists, we owe no allegiance to repeat those designs. Use them as a springboard. be inspired, but move beyond the tracing process. We are truly free to create what is in our heart and mind's eye. Experiment and play. Realize that just like snowfkakes no two will ever be alike. See what evolves naturally. You will like some and toss some. That is all part of the process. The tracing process recommended in the book is a straight jacket for the artist and shackles true expression. Just play!!! I really believe that playful exuberance was the beginning of offhand flourishing. Over the years, the true offhand flourish evolved into the rendered flourish which begins as a detailed pencil drawing. It is more formal, can be very striking and impressive, but is an entirely different skill than offhand flourishing which is not preplanned. To be even more technical, I see three types of flourishing. True Offhand which has no preplanning or pre-penciling. The Constrained Flourish, which still is offhand in that it is not preplanned but is constrained to falling with the lines of a shape such as my previous post with the peace border, or any of my cookie cutter flourishes. Finally the Rendered Flourish which is predrawn and then flourished over the pencil lines. The only way I see the Rendered Flourish as being successful is when the pencil lines are used as a light guide rather than slavishly traced. Whatever method you choose, be playful and free and allow yourself the time and patience to take the journey. Happy Playful Flourishing!!!!