Thursday, February 1, 2024

Launching my first online Study Day


Welcome February and all that this month may hold. January was a whirlwind. As I type this blog post, my mind is overflowing with thoughts and ideas as I wrap up a very robust teaching month and get ready to transition to new classes. As an instructor, I am perpetually studying, researching and figuring out ways to relay techniques to my students. There is always so much to learn. Several of my students have reached out to me over the past few months asking me how to study. The question itself is difficult to answer as we all respond to different methods. For some, reading books is the best way to engage with a subject and truly learn.
Others study through observation, while others prefer a slow and cumulative approach to study. I tend to study through immersive and extractive approaches. I will take a deep dive into the subject and truly observe it. I try to summarize what I am seeing. I spend long and quiet hours in observation before I put pen, pencil or brush to paper. If we want our hand to do something, we must first know what we want to achieve. The process takes time and cannot be rushed.

There is no substitute for observation or immersion in the subject. The extractive method takes the key elements that you have observed and puts them into practice. The difficulty for most students is that they will default to the practice of copying, rather than learning how to merge the things they like with their own ideas. This is the hardest part of study. Learning how to observe and extract without copying. Calligraphers are often trained to copy.There is a place for that as we start out. But as I study, I try to extract the nuances of what I am seeing and infuse it with my own heart and soul. This is so difficult to explain but this is the foundation of my study method. We also must learn how to put our study into context. Rather than being in perpetual practice mode, it is best to jump into creative mode in my opinion. This is where growth can truly been seen.  For years, I have been taking small time outs, or Study Days to enhance my skills. On March 16th, I will be sharing this for the first time. This is a very different online experience.  The March Hare Study Day will share my favourite study method with a very small group of students. Our special focus will be painting a white rabbit which is near and dear to my heart, especially for Spring. You can read more about it on my website. 

 This will be a real time work along day with me on Zoom. I don't have to rush, and I can talk to a small group of students and we can interact as we work together. My hope with this class is that students will break through that intimidation barrier of creating artwork and will just get on with it. These study days have been part of my regular practice for nearly 20 years and there is a special philosophy behind them. They are game changers no matter what you end up creating on the paper. I am really excited about this first Study Day and if all goes well, I will offer another seasonal opportunity in November. Registration is now open on my website and the spaces are very limited. I want this to be a quiet and intimate experience. I still have other class opportunities coming up which explore more study methods.

The Flights of Fancy course 2024 is longer term, intensive way to study. You will be dedicating nearly half a year of study, but there is distinct growth that can happen with this investment of time and practice. The students of 2023 had a lot of work to do, but those who did the work and took the plunge, made vast improvements.It was really quite remarkable and I am still hearing from the class of 2023 and watching their work blossom. This is a slow study program and utilizes both immersion and extractive methods. If you are interested in joining us for the 2024 year, I will be happy to accompany you on this journey. 

I am working on preparing the course demonstrations now for this new group of students.  Currently, I am working on a Fox to add to my menagerie of carousel animals. The course curriculum will be very close to the 2023 program but all of my demonstrations will be unique to the class of 2024. 

 Finally, there are the online class experiences that have been such a blessing since the pandemic years. Online classes that are presented over a few hours are meant to be digested after the class. It is almost impossible to work along with the instructor and create the same project. But the benefit of the recordings allows the student to go over that project on their own. Once again, the student must do the work rather than just observe. If you want to join the Belles Nouvelles or Spencerian Whispers classes at Ardington, there will be time for you to practice and get feedback for your work.Ardington keeps the class numbers very small and there is an atmosphere that is most welcome for any skill level. It has been a joy to present classes through Ardington and I truly feel like I am part of a family and building a sense of community. 

Belles Nouvelles will show you how I find the nuances of these special decorative letters  The letters are influenced by  antique Toile fabrics and based on the Art Nouveau style.. I will share the colour palette and the distinctions as I extract from other beautiful  Parisienne influences. Beyond the finished product, the classes are glimpse into my extractive study method. 

 Spencerian Whispers is not your regular Spencerian Script class. I work with a straight holder and my script has more expressively rounded forms than the norm. We will be chasing beauty rather than adhering to a system of penmanship.

Once again, the script itself if the product of study, immersion and extracting what I like, discarding what I don't like. Your Spencerian Script should be gentle and delicate while still bouncing with life. It will be a delight to dedicate some time to this whispering script.

 The use of books and extensive study has lead to a collaborative class is coming up with Martin Beek at Ardington with the Borders of William Morris. This is now my second straight year of immersive study into the life and work of William Morris and I am just skimming the surface of research.

Morris is an artist like no other and I am particularly struck with his dedicated work ethic. Currently I am reading about how many failures he had with his gesso gilding experiments. But his failures never stopped him from further experiment. It is fascinating. This presentation at Ardington will be presented in two sessions. We will have the benefit of hearing two different lectures from Martin and then the practical demonstration sessions will include the Indigo painting style of William Morris and his beautiful borders.I have been especially influenced by his birds, thistles and roses as I prepare for this class.

  The life of an artist and instructor is never dull. We are constantly working and constantly evolving. We go through dry spells, fatigue and failure all the time. But the passion for the art form propels us ever forward. To work with our hands is one of life's greatest joys and blessings. To be able to share the love of this work is such a privilege for me. Thank you for reading through so much on this blog post. I always want to share the upcoming study opportunities with you, whether or not you ever take a class. Study and sharing are both intrinsic to teaching. I am a perpetual student as I maintain my passion for this art form. Have a beautiful month dear friends. I hope you find so much joy with the work of your hands. Dust off some books that are on your shelf and see if there is inspiration hiding in the pages. Happy February. 

Monday, January 1, 2024

Precious Time

 As I sit at a freshly tidied and dusted desk, welcoming the first day of January, 2024 I am appreciating the precious beauty of this day. I have spent the last few weeks organizing, donating items I no longer use, cleaning up my portfolios, files and my calligraphy supplies. I see how much I have accumulated over the past  few years and how some things I have on my shelves have never been used. I am determined to do a careful check of my supply shelves before I purchase something this year and try hard to keep my desk tidy and welcoming even as the projects accumulate. As I  cleaned the studio  I found beautiful sparkling paints, fresh paint brushes waiting to be used and notebooks waiting to be filled. I found books that are still waiting to be read  and I looked through old guild newsletters that brought back warm memories. There is so much to appreciate and remember. Some of my dear calligraphy friends have passed away but their cards and letters remain in my scrapbooks. I have been especially pensive about the passing of time and how easy it is take it for granted.  I know my 2024 schedule is robust. There is so much to do and so much to prepare for. But the simple joys of each day cannot be overlooked despite the busyness of my schedule. I recommend flourishing as time to breathe and meditate and have taken my own advice as I work it into my own schedule for the sheer joy of the flourish rather than a finished piece as part of a class. The wonder and joy from the simple act of putting pen to paper cannot be overstated.

 With each offhand flourish, I am free from the pressure of creating a perfect letterform as the free form design unfolds. As I  continue with the Flourishing Club at  The Ardington School of Crafts for 2024, my greatest hope is that the students will partake of this precious time to flourish with the freedom of letting the flourish evolve on the page as it will. As 2024 unfolds, you will likely be inundated with upcoming class notices. There is so much out there for you to explore. My full teaching schedule is on my website or can be emailed to you if you are interested. Faded Love Letters and Alphabet Garden are up first this month. Both are beautiful takes on different types of drawn letters. I have talked about them in previous blog posts and continue to explore the delights of these different letter designs. As I worked on this initial O for Faded Love Letters, I was especially pensive.

Our little cat Oscar is getting older and appears to be slowing down. The O that meandered on this page was created as I continue to appreciate all the joy he brings knowing that our time with him is so precious. There is true beauty in all seasons.

These skills we have with pen, ink, paper and brush can help us work through our own thoughts and bring a sense of calm to uncertain days. I am feeling mindful and so appreciative as 2024 awakens. Once again, my word for the year is Hope.

Sending warm hugs and so much love and gratitude to my friends, dear students and readers.Thank you for being such a blessing to me. I hope you find joy with the work of your hands, peace as 2024 unfolds and abundant blessings throughout the year. Love you all. May you flourish!

Friday, December 1, 2023

May your days be Merry and Bright

 Waking up very early this morning with my mind overflowing with tasks that need to be completed. No matter how busy the season gets for me it is always a joy to work with pen, ink, gold and paint. I feel blessed to face the tasks in front of me and so grateful for all of your encouragement, kind words and support. Thank you for being such a blessing to me this year.  We have worked hard together. Many of you have attended numerous classes with me and you have kept me busy as I watched your work grow and evolve over time. It is an honour to accompany you on your journey. It helps me grow as an artist and an instructor and it means so much to me as I watch your own styles emerge on the paper. I couldn't be more proud of you and know that 2024 will bring more joy in the journey.

My 2024 teaching schedule is robust and filled with new classes, some encore presentations of letter design classes, as well as script hands to enjoy. Flourishing club will resume and I will host some Zoom study schools where we can work together on some illumination skills. So lots to anticipate and so much for me to prepare for. But I am determined to enjoy the passing days of December. I love the sights and sounds of this season even though I am not a fan of snow and winter. I do love the warmth of the lights in the window displays and the thought of sending and receiving cards in the mail. Taking time to pause and prepare a card and a note for a friend is part of the joy of this season for me. Thank you dear friends, students and readers of this blog to be part of the joy of the season. It is difficult for me to put into words just how much of a blessing you are to me. I am not quite finished wrapping up my teaching for the season. Still the Festive Squirrel class to complete, December's Flourishing Club and my private students to receive their December lessons. I will post my 2024 schedule on my website soon, but you can always email me to get a pdf copy of the upcoming classes. I will catch my breath as December wraps up but I am only ever an email away if you want to reach out. The flourishes on this blog post are from the White Christmas class that wrapped up last week. No matter how many times I flourish a festive style design, I find a new pathway, a new idea and a new appreciation for the craft.

All of us, no matter how far along we are in our journey are keepers of this craft and part of this calligraphic collective. We are colleagues together. My hope is that we will continue and to explore this art form together and find the joy and peace that it can bring us. I am constantly aware that I stand on the shoulders of those who have invested in me, mentored me, shared their skills with me and encouraged me to teach. I am forever grateful to my first teacher Michael Sull, who helped me to find my voice and my path as a teacher. Brian Walker who passed away in 2018 helped me hone my skills and gave me eyes to see. Bob Hurford was my first penpal and encouraged me to flourish. He saw potential where I only saw failure in my work. And Dr. Joseph Vitolo was the patient voice who answered all of my questions in the beginning and put the right ink, paper and pen points within my reach.

My ideas, thoughts, skills and designs have evolved over time and are what I share with my students now. But I never forget the pathway that I took and those who helped to bring me to this point. Feeling so thoughtful this morning as I reflect on the teachings of my mentors and continue to work here at this desk, in a career path that I could never have envisioned so many years ago. One step at a time dear friends. May you Flourish! And always remember that you are right where you should be in your artistic journey. Your pace is your own and no one can dictate that to you. Happy December. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Moments of Grace

 I'm starting my morning with a view of a frosty lawn strewn with leaves. My rose bush is tucked in for the winter and I the last blooms of the pansies and the marigolds are giving me one last smile. Squirrels are bouncing around the yard picking up the peanuts I put out for them a few minutes ago. The birdbath is lightly frozen this morning but looks quite charming with an array of pine needles on it. My garden has been a comfort and a joy for me as I glance up from my studio window. It has accompanied me for every coffee break and every pause I take from my work. I read there, often eat there and always appreciate the moments it gives me, weeds and all. It is hard to tuck it away for the winter but I know it will be reborn.

October swirled past us so quickly but also brought such heartache to the world. It is so hard to work in the calm and quiet of my peaceful life when I know that there is so much pain in the world. Sending this world a collective hug and an ongoing prayer for peace. When I think of such heartache, it challenges my purpose at my little studio desk.In these moments, I need to search harder for grace. I try not to take things for granted as I cherish the quiet around me. When I put pen to paper, it is with a greater sense of thankfulness with each stroke of the pen. The work with our hands can become a meditation no matter what is happening around us. There is a sense of comfort in the familiar sound of the ink and pen on the paper. There is a glimmer of joy when metallic ink leaves a gossamer trail on the page that you hope someone else will enjoy. When an envelope is dropped into the mail box and sent off on its way, there is a spark of joy that you hope resounds with the recipient. We can still do small things and cherish the moments. There is still such grace and beauty to be found around us.

I worked on beautiful wreath designs for my Ardington Flourishing Club students. We have our November and December sessions coming up with some special surprises in store,  My November class will be White Christmas through The Gentle Penman. We will have an easy start to the class but I will build up the strokes to produce more involved flourishes for session two. Many students created holiday card designs in previous editions of this festive flourishing class. Whether you want to refresh your skills, pause for a little while to create beauty or have a sparkling time with metallic inks and Festive ideas, we will cover all of this in White Christmas. 

Looking ahead to January will bring The Alphabet Garden 2024 Edition  to Ardington school online. This is my most popular versal design class where we create a delicate and garden inspired illuminated letter together.

And January will also launch a new class for The Gentle Penman called Faded Love Letters. The Valentine theme is behind the class, but I will be digging into Victorian Sheet Music, Branching Rustic Letters and muted palette as we look at some hidden treasures of letter design you may not have discovered.

There is always so much to discover and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to share with you. I am still finalizing my 2024 teaching schedule but I will be hosting some Zoom School sessions for any of my students who want to work along with me as we dig deeper into techniques and work on completing designs together. More information will be coming soon. I hope this will fill a gap with something I see happening with continued online classes. I want students to gather confidence to bring designs to fruition rather than accumulate notes and good intentions with the courses they take. There are lots of study opportunities to look forward to and to keep me busy at my desk. My hope for you dear friends is that you find grace in the moments that make up your life. Find peace with the work of your hands. Encourage someone around you with a surprise note or letter in the mail. Flourish where you are dear friends. Sending graceful thoughts, hope and peace to you all.  

Sunday, October 1, 2023

October Beauty

 What a beautiful beginning to October. The sun is bright and filling the garden with warmth as my roses continue to offer their splendour. These bright blooms have brought me so much joy over the summer months and I am grateful for each blossom they continue to produce. Nature if filled with wonder. Time goes so quickly and I never forget how important it is to slow down, pause, and appreciate the season as it passes. I know the warmth of this morning will not last forever and soon the days will bring frost and chill to my garden. I know I have to prepare for the Festive Season. 

As October begins, I have been flourishing at my desk as I continue to teach for the Ardington School of Crafts. We began our Autumn flourishing club with constrained flourishes of leaves, acorns and mushrooms. The explorations of the students are always a marvel to me. The flourish is such a unique expression for each person and such a peaceful way to build skills with the pointed pen. 
The bookings for the Autumn flourishing club are closed but I will be presenting a very special December class that will utilize character flourishing. It will help you celebrate a Beary Merry Christmas!

Character flourishing has been a wonderful accompaniment to my floral and abstract flourishing. If you want to explore an introductory class with this technique, October Owls will be presented through The Gentle Penman on October 13/14 depending on your time zone. I had a wonderful time creating this course and I now have a full line of Owl note cards as a result of these designs. 
Festive flourishes in white inks on dark paper will be preseented in November online. We will start with simple designs but expand into more complex character flourishes such as a deer or a little gnome, Expect a very playful time in the White Christmas class.

I am hoping the class itself will help you to enjoy the Festive season which can be difficult and stressful for so many of us. Taking time to pause and relax as you flourish is such a blessing. And these flourishes are honing so many pointed pen skills as we work on these seasonal delights. If you have read my blog for any length of time you know how firmly I believe in the importance of offhand flourishing as an essential skill builder. You will build so much confidence as you practice and watch these amazing designs grow on the page. 

Wherever you are in your part of the world, I hope the beginning of October is filled with joy and expectation for you. May you cherish time you can spend with your pen and ink. I hope you are finding peace in your work and beauty in your days. Thank you for blessing me with your friendship, your kind words and the beautiful work you share with me. I am so thankful to hear that my classes have been helpful and inspirational. You are the reason I continue to create classes and to teach. May you flourish dear friends. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Sweet Silence

 Good Sunday Morning dear friends. This morning I was up early and out in the garden. September is here and the days are cooler after an incredible heatwave. I was taken aback at the silence of the yard. No birds chirping that I could hear, no squirrels chattering and very little ambient noise in the neighbourhood. The calm and peace were so welcoming. I paused and just appreciated the blooms that are still on the rose bush. What a blessing to have a moment of quiet.
I promised to share the new courses I would be launching and the info is now posted online. The upcoming holiday season can easily interrupt our moments of calm, peace, and sweet silence. We can get so caught up in the busyness of the season that we miss the special moments. I always have to think ahead and work on festive designs in advance. If you would like to design your holiday card with me, The Holiday Charmers class is now open for registration.

 I want to focus on the drawn letters and the illustrated mice designs. I will also paint a sweet song bird as well as draw, gild and paint lettering. I will share the techniques for a very soft painting effect that softens the look of dry brush while still maintaining the control and detail.

I will also share why this is one of my most popular ideas that I developed over the years and how incredibly versatile and handy it can be. There is something for all skill levels and I hope to prepare more Merry Mice and Sweet Song Birds as Holiday Charmers to prepare for this class.

The class is in October giving you lots of advance time to prepare for the Festive Season.  I have other upcoming classes online for Autumn but many are sold out. Registration and info for my classes is online here. Wishing you all a beautiful Sunday. Enjoy the calm. Appreciate small details. And do something you love to nourish your soul in this season. Love you all. 

Friday, September 1, 2023

Sweet September

 Another blink of the eye and the calendar page changes. September breezes in sweetly and gently. It is always a bittersweet month for me. I love watching the leaves take on brilliant colours but it is so difficult to watch the blooms in the garden fade away. I know each season passes in its own time and there is always the promise of new growth coming again. It is best to just embrace each season and the changes it brings. Here in my little studio, I am constantly busy and grateful for the work. Pens are being painted and shipped all over the world. I have had commissions to work on and the busy schedule of private students and new courses to prepare.  The Ardington Flourishing Club sessions begin again in September and I am looking forward to sharing seasonal ideas with the community of flourishing artists. 

 I have seen incredible growth with the participants and can't wait to see what happens as we continue to pursue offhand flourishes together. There will be a very special December edition of the Flourishing Club coming up! I will share more info about that as we move closer to the holiday season.

 I am thrilled to share my newest class October Owls for The Gentle Penman online.

This is a single session class and the beginning of some whimsical character flourishing classes that will be released in 2024. October Owls seemed to be the perfect platform for adding a touch of autumn's glow to offhand flourishing.

No matter what path I take in my artistic pursuits, I always seem to return to the pointed pen and the beauty of offhand flourishing. The flourish is so deeply rooted within me yet I am always making discoveries with it. Flourishing helps me to pause, clear my my mind, appreciate the moment and truly be taken aback at the work that is produced when the piece is completed. I see this in the work of my talented students as well. If you have never taken the plunge into the world of pointed pen flourishes, I encourage you to begin. They are joyful, peaceful, meditative and far easier to learn than any script alphabet. I cannot sing loudly enough of their virtues. Wherever you are on your artistic journey, I believe the flourish can unlock so much potential in your work. I hope you have a beautiful September. Take time to pause and appreciate the wonder of the season. Time goes by so quickly. Understand and appreciate each passing day. Sending hugs all around with such gratitude for the kind words of appreciation that you share with me. Happy September beautiful friends.