Wednesday, September 1, 2021

S is for September

I conveniently just completed an illuminated Letter S just in time for September. This piece was gilded using my Brian Walker recipe gesso, 23K gold leaf, watercolour, ink and Swarovski crystals. 

 Soon my beloved days of summer will fade and we will welcome the first days of autumn. I always have such a hard time transitioning into the fall and winter season. I feel like I grieve for the greens of spring and petal pinks of summer.   I am determined to  find the joy that each day brings no matter what date is on the calendar.  This month will likely be very quiet on the blog as I work on new handouts for upcoming courses. But I welcome the time to refine my thoughts and prepare for these classes.I always put more in the notes than we can possibly cover in the class but I hope my students will be able to explore the notes well after the classes have ended.  Today I spent a beautiful day of drawing and painting. I keep a very small sketchbook for Enchanted Meadow creatures.

The little animals and birds are often the most difficult part of my design process but they add so much to border designs and illuminated letters. Your sketchbook is not a place of judgment. It is a place of growth and experiments. You never have to show it to anyone else but you will be able to flip back through the pages and see how your work has evolved. When I travelled to teach, my sketchbook always came with me along with a pencil and eraser. The practice of drawing can be a wonderful companion. The simplicity of just pencil, paper and eraser adds to the appeal. And just like writing, the practice of drawing or sketching can be so peaceful and meditative.

 It was a beautiful first day of September as some of my bird sketches were painted. The image below was painted with my dry brush technique on Daler Langton Prestige Hot Press paper. There is a bit of a tooth to the paper that reacts beautifully to dry brushing. The creation of these study pages helps me as I put the handouts together for each course. The process is so time consuming but I always learn so much along the way.
I hope  you all have a beautiful September. Follow your heart with your creative pursuits and find the joy in each day. Sending hugs all around!

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Late August Thoughts


I loved this shadowy photograph of my practice piece this morning. The shadows are created from some roses which have just about finished blooming but still have some beauty to share. I am always so pensive at this time of year. The garden is still blooming but you can see it struggling. More weeds have crept in as my time has been spent more in the studio than in the garden. I feel like I have been working harder than I have ever worked yet deadlines keep presenting themselves very quickly. This weekend I took a day out of my regular routine to study botanical painting. I will share more about that in a future post. Botanical art is something I return to often as there is so much to explore and will take years to learn. The same is so true of any of your calligraphic work. Recognize that there is so much to explore, and it will take years to learn. There is no short cut. There is no single, correct path to take. Follow your heart and your instincts. Next weekend I will teach my last online script class of this year. The class is The Poetic Pen and it reflects my thoughts and journey into the study of Italian Hand.

I began playing with this hand, I believe, about 10 years ago. Despite some stern warnings from colleagues that I should not try to revive this hand or bother with it all, Italian Hand held many intriguing mysteries for me and I absolutely loved it. Through the study of this lighthearted hand, I could feel and see a sense of play develop in my work. There was a visible as well as a tactile change to the pressure I put on the paper as I wrote this script. There was an interruption in my usual thinking patterns as I continued to pursue this hand. As I gleaned from history, I also began to merge this script with my own writing nuances. I discovered so much on this path that I think would have remained hidden to me, if I had not trusted my own instincts. There were definitely shadows along my path but also bright rays of hope as I continued to learn.  My message this morning is to encourage you to pursue what makes you happy. If something is intriguing to you, don't be afraid to dive in and take a look at it. Time doesn't slow down no matter what we have to do. Even if a topic of study seems really daunting, realize that you really can take your time to explore it. When I teach my script hands, I share an immersive study technique to begin with, but afterwards, you can dance with the pen as slowly as you like.
Really take your time to observe and understand. Trust your instincts. Develop ideas that appeal to you and then go where that path leads. Enjoy these last few days of August before we shift into the different pace of Autumn. Thank you all for your encouragement, support, photos from your gardens and kind emails. I appreciate you all so much. Happy August days dear friends. 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Upcoming Workshops

 I can't believe it is already the 15th of August. Time really does fly by. I hope you are all enjoying these August days. I am working hard on my upcoming classes but I take a tea break in the garden every day to enjoy the sights and sounds! Cherish the wonder of each day.

I promised to update my blog with the next few classes that are coming up. Over the weekend of September 4th and 5th, I will be teaching my Italian Hand class called The Poetic Pen, through Acorn Arts  Classes online. Italian Hand has transformed my thinking and my writing over the past several years. The Poetic Pen class is the result of original research as well as consulting with my friend and historian Don Marsh. The way I approach the hand is through looking at history and then finding a way to merge the nuances and joy of the hand with my own pace and style of of writing. There is a magic that happens when you interrupt what you think should happen with a written script with the delights that are embedded in historical forms. No matter what your skill level is, Italian Hand has something to offer you. It really is a transformative hand filled with joy and whimsical touches.

October will be a very full month for me as I teach my Holiday edition of The Dancing Line for The Gentle Penman. The Dancing Line will expand on the basics I taught in the Artful Flourish but will work on really refining your strokes, developing your eye and expanding your ideas for flourishing. It will have a component for birds and scrolls but I will go beyond that into Holiday themes.

Finally, in October and November, I will be teaching two courses for Ardington School online. These classes will be kept very small and allow time to work on the projects and get feedback. Ardington School does a wonderful job of hosting the classes and making the small groups of students feel comfortable in the Zoom sessions. I have really appreciated their approach for classes.  I will be teaching a  Fall themed flourishing course called Fascinating Flourishes. It will be an introduction to offhand flourishing inspired by the sights and sounds of the Autumn season. I am looking forward to this small group of students and being able to work closely with them.

November's class through Ardington School will be The Luminous Letter. This class takes the theme of my Alphabet Garden class but interprets it though a more wintery or holiday theme. Because the class will be kept very small, I will be able to expand the letter design beyond the florals and include a bird or animal. If you are new to gilding and painting, this class will get you started on that wonderful journey. 

I am convinced that letter design is one of the keys to expanding the calligrapher's skill set. Beyond pen and ink, we learn gilding and painting techniques that can be studied for years to come. Even if you don't think you can draw, letter design is accessible for all skill levels and is a wonderful way to explore the design process and unleash your imagination. I am so excited about all of these course offerings. The online format has been such a wonderful way for me to reach students that I could never see with in person travel.  The classes are more budget friendly than my private course offerings and I am always so happy to hear from my students and see how they are progressing. If you have had your fill of online courses and want to just study and play on your own this fall,  I will be cheering that on as well. You will know the path you should take and I hope to see what you produce. Thank you for all of the kind emails and messages. Enjoy the rest of August dear friends. Hugs all around!

Monday, August 2, 2021

IAMPETH in Omaha

 This is a very special week for my dear IAMPETH family. If the world was back to normal, I would be walking up and down the halls of the hotel, doing tons of shopping at Paper and Ink arts and reconnecting with precious friends who brought this introvert out of her shell and helped hone her ability to teach. IAMEPTH has my heart and soul. With the current COVID restrictions still closing the land border between Canada and US, I have had to stay home. I am still teaching my Flowering Flourish class for my precious students through a special webcam and live stream method into the classroom. So my heart is at ease that way. For all of you who have inquired, I sent pens ahead to the Conference and they will be at Paper and Ink Arts where Ann and Terry Cobb will be overseeing the sale of my pens.  But the special moments where I get to visit my dear friends, share a meal, have breakfast with Bob Hurford and go for long walks with dear friends will be missing this week.  Sending hugs and love to all those there.

These past 18 months have been so trying in so many ways. We have all made tremendous sacrifices and seen so many disruptions. One of the lessons I have learned over these months is to really look at what is wonderful in your life and cherish those things with a wholeheartedly,. Be mindfully aware of even the smallest things that bring you joy. Pause and reflect and cherish the special moments. I have had the incredible pleasure of being able to teach online with lots of private students as well as larger groups. I have been able to watch skills get coaxed to a higher level and I am dumbfounded by the progress I see in the students. The joy that come out of flourishing, gilding, writing or drawing letters really is so inspiriting to me. I will update later this month with more news about my Fall classes. I will be teaching Italian Hand through Acorn Arts online, Fascinating Flourishes and The Luminous Letter through Ardington School and another more advanced holiday flourishing class through The Gentle Penman.   I will feature each of these courses separately as blog posts later on so you know a bit more of what will be offered. Lots to do and lots coming up. Whatever your first week of August looks like from your part of the world, I hope you find moments of joy that you can cherish!! Sending hugs and much love all around. The last photo on this blog post is sweet little Juniper Jumper. I have watched this baby rabbit grow in my back yard.  He has been eating clover and dandelion weeds ad the occasional flower. I am taking tons of photos so I can paint him in one of my miniature illuminations. Happy August dear friends. 

Monday, July 12, 2021

July is Watercolour Month

I hope you are all having a beautiful summer so far. I was blessed to have some roses bloom in my garden this year, but my parents' garden has been filled with blooms.

Whenever I stop by, my Dad rushes outside to cut me some roses to take home. The cut roses fade quickly but I cherish the blooms. Many of you know that I spent 18 years in the floral industry. I don't regard flowers as a luxury, or something to be saved for sacred occasions. I see them as a necessity. They accompany us for so many of our special moments but they also bring such joy and charm to your surroundings. They bloom for us and wait to be noticed. This morning as I posted a watercolour painting to Instagram, I saw that July is watercolour month. I had never heard of watercolour month but thought I would make a quick blog post about the wonders of watercolour. The world of watercolour is vast. They are so versatile but can be overwhelming to a newcomer. I have taken several botanical watercolour courses over the past few years to help me explore watercolour as well as my love of flowers. One of the best online courses I have found is Billy Showell's watercolour school. You can choose a membership either monthly, bi-annually or yearly and her tutorials are wonderful. I have learned so much from her techniques.She has several books but the most comprehensive book I have found is Botanical Painting for Watercolour. The basics of many techniques are explored with beautiful illustrations.
The American Society of Botanical Artists have also produced a beautiful guide. This book is wonderful. The tutorials can be explored as individual lessons or you can read the book cover to cover. You can start anywhere in this book. There is the potential to go through each chapter as a mini study and learn so many lessons. Beyond watercolour, this book gives advice about drawing, working on vellum, using egg tempera and even silverpoint. It is a beautiful book. 
My newest acquisition to my bookshelf is Colours of Nature by Sandrine Maugy. This is a beautiful book  explaining the properties of various pigments alongside explanations of her painting techniques and projects. I have been reading each page with  interest as the author really wants you to understand watercolour and how to get the best results from your paint box and avoid common pitfalls.
My own preference for studying watercolour came from the desire to add  florals to my calligraphic work. I wanted to combine image and text. But as I started to study botanical watercolour, I realized I was drawn to it for the same reasons I am drawn to calligraphy and flourishing. I want to get into a peaceful and mindful state while working. I want to feel fully engaged with the project I am working on. When Dad cut the blooms from his rose garden, I wanted to cherish the gorgeous pink blossoms are really appreciate their beauty no matter how busy my schedule had been. When you examine a flower to draw, you hold it you hand, experience the fragrance, view it from all angles, touch the petals and really understand the subject. As you put pencil and then paint to paper, even if you can't capture all of the beauty of the flower, you will truly appreciate its complexity and the magic it has. As a florist, I handled dozens of flowers every day and in some ways, took them for granted. Now that I have to go out of my way to grow them or purchase them, I love taking mindful moments to really appreciate them. If you are new to watercolour, I encourage you to give it a try with what you have on hand. Skills with a brush and taking time to observe a subject will enhance our calligraphy. The disciplines really do merge together well. I hope you find some time to play this July....after is watercolour month!!!

Monday, July 5, 2021

To Flourish is To Bloom!!!!

Later this month I will be teaching The Artful Flourish through The Gentle Penman online. I wanted to take a moment to tell you what flourishing means to me. I came onto the calligraphy scene in 2003 and it wasn't long before I heard the phrase "if you can't flourish....don't prove it." Years later, I see the humour in the quote and I understand fully what it means in terms of artwork. But flourishing is not only the curves and designs that you create on the paper, it is a mental state of flow that happens during the process.And to learn to flourish, you have to start somewhere!

Beyond that, it is a skill building technique that will enhance your other artistic pursuits. When I found the world of offhand flourishing, I quickly put many other things aside. My needlework was packed away and I left the world of floristry. But in exchange, I found a way to access the calming and peaceful effects of meditation, while working with pen and ink. It really is quite extraordinary.

Beyond that, I found a sense of confidence in my work and I wanted to share it and pass it on to others. I wrote notes of encouragement constantly and kept the post office busy. Notes and letters represented practice as well as sharing my thoughts with friends and family. Ideas for flourishes keep coming and coming. I have been playing with these flourishes for 18 years now and have never been bored with them and I still don't know whether I am really practicing or just playing! No matter what calligraphic hand I explore, I look for ways to combine it with offhand flourishing. As an artist, I can point to offhand flourishing as the skill that caused me to bloom and reach beyond the comfort zone of the introvert. It remains such a love in my life. No matter what skills you have, you can flourish. It is one hundred percent acquired skill and does not rely on any natural talent!

The two books that started me on my flourishing journey were The Ames Compendium which can be found online and Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy which is still in print. Although flourishes can look complex, they really have a very simple underlying structure. Once you understand how curves harmonize with each other, you will be well on your way. I hope you look into the world of flourishing and take time to play with pen and ink!!! There is just such a sense of delight in this world of pen and ink. Email me anytime if you have flourishing questions. Happy to help! Hugs all around. 

Thursday, July 1, 2021

The Magic Of Mornings


These past few weeks have been busy here in the studio. I have had some late nights and some very early mornings. This July 1st morning (Happy Canada Day), I noticed so many things as I walked in the dark from the house to the studio. What looked dark to me, must have been looking light for the birds. The robins are always the first ones awake with their songs. It always sounds to me that they wake up with such a sense of cheerfulness. The studio is so quiet in the morning. It is cool enough to just open the window so I can really hear the songs of the birds and the last few drops of water flowing through the rain chain. It is too early to  hear familiar neighbourhood sounds like cars, splashes in pools or lawn mowers. It is just calm and quiet. The Rumi quote came to mind this morning: "The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you, don't go back to sleep." Although I am not a person who falls in to any sort of rigid routines, I have found that I love the quiet of these magic mornings.  I can instantly focus on the work on my desk and stay undistracted. Ideas for new projects come flooding in to my mind and I feel so inspired here in the quiet. And then, all at once, the concentration is gone and my mind shifts from my work to other tasks that will need my attention in the day. I wish there was a way to capture that magic of the morning and always be in that sense of quiet inspiration. Like anyone else, I face the same challenges for getting work done on time, keeping up with the business side of my job and juggling all of my other tasks. So finding that magic hour or two to work uninterrupted has seemed like such a gift these days. My hope for you dear friends is that you notice those special times when inspiration hits and take advantage of it. I can't always push back against the distractions that come my way, but I am working hard on singular focus rather than multitasking. If my task at hand is to clear up all of the email, then I give it my full attention. If the laundry needs folding, I try hard to do it without thinking about all of the rest of the tasks that need to be done. These are small things to tend to, but I find that I do so much better if I just tune into the task at hand. 

I will be busy teaching this month. My Victorian Frames and Labels as well as my Glittering Vines class will be coming up this week for the LegaciesIII calligraphy conference.The classes are filled and registration is closed, but if you visit the Legacies III website after the conference, I believe recordings will be available for a period of time.  If you would like to join me  live online through The Gentle Penman, as I bring my style of flourishing to you through my Artful Flourish course, I believe registration is still open. The Artful Flourish is probably the course I have taught more than any other. It keeps evolving over time but this course can teach anyone how to flourish without any pre-pencilling or planning. It is a direct result of thinking on paper and I am so excited to share it online. Learning to flourish is really what helped me to blossom and grow both personally and as an artist.
And a new teaching venue for me will be the Ardington School later this fall. I will be presenting a course based on fall themed offhand flourishes. The Ardington school has a newsletter that you can join. These classes are kept small so I can pay more attention to individual questions as the course progresses. They offer all sorts of wonderful courses including fine art and needlework for if you want to check them out. I will be doing a holiday themed illuminated letter course for Ardington in November but the listing is not yet posted. Here is just a glimpse at the letter. I hope to show you the drawing, gilding and painting of a holiday themed illuminated letter. It is a lot to pack into the course, but the class will be kept very small. I am happy to share my teaching schedule with you through email if you contact me at I know some of you are taking so many courses already and I never want you to feel pressured to take a course. Always follow your instincts!!
I will close this post with an image of one of the baby foxes that have been living across the street from me all spring. We have watched a family of 10 foxes grow in our neighbourhood. Part of the magic of these early mornings has been walking to the end of the driveway to see if any of the foxes were already awake. I haven't seen any of them for a day or two, they may have moved on now, but they were the source of so much curiosity in our little neighbourhood.
Whatever sights and sounds are in your neighbourhood, I hope you look for the magic around you. Treasure the times that inspiration floods your mind no matter how brief that moment may be. I hope you have a wonderful July. Thank you for your constant encouragement through messages, photos and email. Enjoy your summer dear friends. 

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Subtleties of Technique

 I usually do not post so much in a single month but I am fielding lots of questions through email about my specific techniques. I try to share this as much as possible with my students in the online and private sessions but some techniques do take a long time to develop. Pointed pen techniques are relatively easy to share and students find a lot of encouragement as they watch these skills develop rapidly on their page. Offhand flourishing is a wonderful skill to develop. Artistic skills will soar as well as your confidence and fluidity with the pen.  Colours can be added easily with coloured pencils and the flourishes look so lively on your page.

When you go beyond pen flourishes, into pen drawing you start to add to your skills and your techniques expand. Maybe touches of gold leaf gilding are added or watercolours are used instead of coloured pencils. Maybe you start to incorporate little birds or animals into your designs. The pointed pen is still used but you are also developing drawing skills along the way.  One skill leads to another. 

Keeping in mind that there is never a time line for these skills, you may want add more intricate drawings and painting skills to your work. This is where your personality can really be seen in your work and your own subtleties start to develop in your technique. As an instructor, I can guide you and share the technique that work for me but it is through he implementation of these techniques that our pathways start to separate. What works for me, the touch that I bring to the page, the colours that ignite my heart and mind, and the specific tools and supplies I use will differ from your own. Your vision and your energy will bring your designs to fruition on the page. I am currently working on a very special project. As I start to bring the images to life I reach for familiar tools and colours that I know will work. When I start to paint woodland creatures like owls, I know which colours on my palette will work. You can see the areas of browns in the image and brush knows where to reach those colours almost instinctively,
I prefer to use tube paints that dry on my palette and use a wet brush to create skins of paint on a ceramic plate. This moist/dry brush technique creates the subtleties and slow developing layers of paint that I want as I paint my illustrations. This process is labour and time intensive  but the technique  works for me. I also find that I prefer using a brush that is almost ruined for any other purpose. I reach for that well worn brush because I seem to know its mind as I work. 
These  subtleties of technique are what I encourage you to look out for in your own work. What colours on your palette are the most used? What do you do to bring that unique touch to your work? What colour combinations do you seek out? Are there patterns or styles in your culture or background that you want to bring forward into your own work? Look inward a bit as you work on personal projects. See what you can develop. Remember that instructors can share guidance with you but our true calling is to nudge you on to your own path and cheer you on as you make your discoveries. Trust your instincts. Pursue the things that you love and see what emerges on the paper.  It's ok if you fail, that is part of the path. It is expected. The owl often represents wisdom. I want to assure you that there is unique wisdom to be found as you spend time developing your techniques. You are never wasting time! Sending you all encouragement as you work on whatever it is that brings you delight. Hugs all around!

Monday, June 14, 2021

Presentation for my local Guild

 Hope you are having a wonderful June!! We have had some really warm days and I am enjoying the sights and sounds in the garden. I wanted to take a moment and let you know that I will doing an online presentation called "Petals and Pens" for my local guild on June 21st from 7:00 -9:00PM. You do not have to be a guild member to join the course. Space is limited and there is a registration fee of $25 for non-members which will go directly to the guild. Registration info is available from Carol. You can email her at or you can contact me at heather for registration info. My local guild has been a wonderful organization and I have met many life long friends through it. I am excited to offer this demonstration for them. It will mainly be my Victorian Pen etching technique. 

Sometimes, just seeing one technique is enough to launch you into a new direction!! Hope you continue to have a beautiful June!! Hugs all around!

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Summer Studies

 Welcome to June dear friends. I hope you are surrounded by bright blue skies and flowering plants. My garden is waking up but it still gets quite cold here some evenings. We are still in lockdown but I am thankful that we are healthy and there is lots of work to do here at home. I just completed the Enchanted Letter course online and I am so grateful for the opportunity to share these opulent letters with you.

The large online classes have been a great way to share an overview of the techniques but there is never time enough to get into all of the details in the handouts. There have been so many remaining questions about the gilding techniques. If you want to dive deeper in the gilding, I will have more time to share the techniques during The Glittering Vine at the Legacies III Virtual conference. I have had lots of requests for private students as well who would like a single session tutorial that dives deeper into gilding. If you are interested in this please email me at and we can go from there. My full teaching schedule is also available by emailing me. There are lots of small guild classes coming as well as a new illumination class on the way! This July, I will be teaching The Artful Flourish through The Gentle Penman online.  This is my foundational class in true offhand flourishing. Other than our pencil warm up, we will not use the pencil at all. The offhand flourish is the direct result of thinking on paper. The flourishes evolve and grow as your hand refines skills. This is the easiest of all pointed pen skills to learn as well as being peaceful and meditative. 
The world of flourishing opens up so many skills to the calligrapher. I seldom let a day go by without putting a little flourish on the paper.  The wisdom behind Study, Practice, Reflect comes through in this course. 
I will  continue to catch up on commission work and pen orders this summer so I will be in the studio a lot. I look forward to hearing from you and I am only ever an email away if you have a question or want to show me more of your gorgeous garden florals. Whatever you are choosing to do over the summer, I hope you find joy and peace in the pursuit.

 Take time for yourself. Observe the delights in nature as they come to you. Pick up the pen and play! Sending hugs all around. Thank you for your friendship, encouragement and support. May you Flourish!