Monday, November 29, 2021

The Peace of Pencil

It seems like we blink and month expires. Here we are at the end of November. I am almost finished up with my teaching schedule for the year. It seems like the studio desk was bustling from one day to the next  and I am so very grateful to my dear students, friends, and colleagues who hosted my online courses. There is more to come in 2022 and I hope to dig deeper in areas that have been requested by students. I have some new courses coming up! If you would like my upcoming confirmed teaching schedule, please email me at heather@heathervictoriaheld.com and I will send it to you. I hope whatever classes or techniques you have explored this year have brought you peace and joy! Thank you to all of you  who have sent me such kind notes of encouragement. I appreciate your thoughts and I love seeing your work. 

 As we embark on the festive season in a world that is still so stressful, I wanted to share something special with you. One of my closest companions on my studio desk is the humble pencil.


This low maintenance, analog tool is the first one I reach for as I am toying with ideas. It is quiet and patient with me and yields to erasing easily. It builds my confidence as I slowly come to conclusions about paths I should take in my work. It helps me formulate ideas and thoughts into more complex work on the page. 

 It can be easily overlooked as we want to quickly proceed to the vibrancy of colour and the joys of gilding or painting. But the pencil provides the stability and structure of the design. In all honesty, I succeed or fail with a project at the pencil stage. Sometimes the sharp point of the pen and the permanency of ink embeds a bit of stress into my process. There is such peace with working with the humble pencil. I know I have stressed this before, but pencil work translates into skills with the pen. I have many journals of sketches, ideas, quotes and layouts that are so fulfilling to use and refer back to.

Although most of my flourishing work is done in true offhand style without pencil work, the Glittering Vines, Enchanted Meadows, Enchanted Letters and Alphabet Gardens all start with pencil plans. If you want to explore some of my pencil play late December, my dear friends at the Pointed Pen Collective will be hosting the course Pencil Lines for Glittering Vines.

You will have plenty of time after the class to design with the simplicity of pencil before we have the second class in January where you can gild and paint your design.

My hope as the year advances, you will be able to expand and enhance your techniques as well as I slow down and take a deeper dive in subject specific classes. I also want to share my research and study methods with you. I tend to go head first into a subject and love to share what I have discovered over the year.  Pencil drawing is the root of my animal designs and  I will be teaching The Enchanted Meadow through The Gentle Penman in January as well.

You can also look for a special Valentine course soon through The Gentle Penman where we focus on some precious birds to study. Once again...we begin in pencil!

I have also agreed to run encore presentations of The Alphabet Garden and Flowering Flourish for the Ardington School of Crafts. Ardington classes are strategically kept very small.  I have more time to look at student work and our final session is a Q&A session with lots of feedback.
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As November comes to a close in yet  another turbulent year, I hope you find peace, joy and creativity in your own home at your desk. We have no control of the things around us, but knowing how to utilize a pathway to peace can be so helpful! I am only ever an email away and I love to hear from you. Happy pencil play dear friends!


Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Noticing November

 I think I mention this every year in my blog posts but November mornings always draw my eyes toward their spectacular light. There is some sort of shift that happens with the light. Maybe it is the changing leaves, or the crisp air or the bounce in the steps of the squirrels but November captures my gaze. I can feel the threat of winter but I know that winter will pass. From the warmth of my studio and the bright windows, I can work away in peace and quiet. I appreciate this time. 

I have been busy teaching for guilds online as well as preparing for upcoming classes. It seems that I have been doing tons of pencil work lately and I love it more and more.

The pencil never judges. It allows us to make corrections. It allows us to think on paper and really play with the work before we finalize with ink. My Pentel Graph Gear 1000 mechanical pencil is my favourite to use, but lately I have been reaching for my Blackwing pencils. The Blackwing is so smooth and fluid on the paper as I sketch my designs. It does need to be constantly sharpened though but that is all part of the process. I have some courses coming up that will involve more time for drawing.It is the fundamental backbone of so many skills we want to incorporate into our calligraphic work. I am convinced that if we spend a bit more time with the humble pencil, we refine skills that translate with pen and brush. I still love working in my gridded journals and I have been having fun looking at older sketches that translated into paintings for my Enchanted Meadow series.

I find the pencil work as meditative as offhand flourishing work. I enjoy the process of watching the work evolve slowly and the freedom to correct things as often as needed. I can hardly believe that November is here and I still have so much to complete this year. No matter how rushed things get in the Festive season, I recognize how important it is to work through my tasks slowly and mindfully. I hope you notice the beauty of autumn and enjoy the sights and sounds of the season. Wherever you are in your creative journey, I hope you are appreciating the process. Thank you so much for the kind emails and words of encouragement in my inbox. I appreciate your comments on my IG posts @heathervictoria1. And I love seeing the work you have been doing after classes!! Keep going and keep playing!!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Coming Up!!!

 I hope you are enjoying a beautiful autumn day. Here in Ontario, it feels quite cool but the skies are bright blue. The chickadees, cardinals, bluejays and nuthatches have been busy at feeders and continue to inspire.This past weekend I was able to teach via Zoom for The Friends of the Alphabet in Atlanta. I was thrilled to be able to present my Alphabet Garden course slowly. I had two full days with the group so we could draw, ink, gild and paint the letters together in real time. I did not have to rush the process. The students created stunning and inspiring work. I was able to present both the inlay and overlay painting methods for my students and I was thrilled to have this relaxed pace. This class really had the feel of an in person workshop as I could review their work via email and offer feedback. This initial was painted with two colours using Small Blue and Sap green.


The R was painted with Quinacridone Gold, Transparent Orange, Sap Green and Burnt Sienna.
These small project studies allow the students to explore so many skills and become comfortable with techniques that can enhance their calligraphic work for years to come. It is such a delight as an instructor to watch skills blossom and come to life. 
I will be doing a one day presentation of the Alphabet Garden for the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto this coming Saturday. Once again, I will be able to work slowly on the letter in real time. The registration info is on the website
I also wanted to share an exciting online holiday lettering event through Texas Lettering Arts. There will be 8 hours of free instruction online.  I was thrilled to participate in this event and love that this guild has offered so much free content to people. This guild hosted the first online Zoom event that I attended during the height of the pandemic and I felt like they turned a light on for so many of us during such a difficult time.   I have created a holiday star demonstration for the event and I hope you will enjoy it! I love being able to give back to this wonderful community of lettering artists and I hope it is a blessing to you as we enter the festive season.

Texas Lettering Arts also hosted the International Calligraphy Conference online this year. The recordings for each of the presentations are available for purchase if you want to see what was presented at the conference in July. 
Finally, I want to give you a sneak peek at a very special piece I am working on for my Mom who will be turning 80. I still have quite a bit of work to do but this is a labour of love for me. I still have work to do on the birds and then need to decide on how to proceed with the filigree work. Hopefully you will enjoy seeing this process picture. Still several more hours of work to go!

I hope this week brings you so much joy. Do something that you love!! Sending hugs all around. 

Monday, October 4, 2021

The Suddenly Season

It is already the first week of October. Suddenly the autumn season is surrounding me. The sights, sounds and fragrances in the air are so different than just a few short weeks ago.

 I was up early on the weekend and sat on the studio porch watching streams of leaves fall in the the neighbour's back yard. Seasonal changes happen so quickly. I am enjoying pumpkin spice teas and festive colours as I flourish here at my studio desk.


I am grateful for this work and for all of my beautiful students. I have been so encouraged to see the work you have done and I hope that you find the time spent with pen and ink to be peaceful and meditative. Between now and the end of the year I will be teaching quite a few classes. Several guilds have me on their schedule starting with the Michigan Association of Calligraphers this coming weekend. I will be presenting The Festive Flourish course which was my first holiday themed flourishing class designed around cookie cutter shapes!
I know this season will advance quickly. Here at my desk I always have to work a season or two ahead to prepare for classes and students. But I am trying hard to appreciate the delights and magic that each season brings. I think Thoreau's quote is so fitting at this time of year." Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth." There are so many layers of contemplation in that  quote for me and I think of it as I watch this season emerge. From my studio desk to yours, I hope you find wonder in this season and joy in the work you do each day. I am so grateful for each of you!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Emerging Magic


 I have been overwhelmed this month with work on my studio desk as I get ready for workshops and continue to develop new courses. I am finding inspiration everywhere and I am watching some magical transformations in my work. This month I have been exploring some different gold techniques as I work on illuminated letters. I have also been drawing quite a bit and the drawing techniques are coming out in some offhand flourishes. There are many times that I work at my desk and recall conversations I had with Brian Walker. Brian and I corresponded regularly through email and he was always telling me about the 'craftsmanship' of calligraphy work. Brian made his own ink and his own gesso for his work. I have not tried serious ink making yet, but I do make my own gesso using Brian's recipe and have been making my own shell gold for the illuminations. You really feel like something magical is happening when you create your own shell gold.

 When  combined with the drawing of letters, botanical elements, birds, butterflies and ornaments, I finally had a lightbulb moment of what Brian had been saying to me for years in the past. A magic emerges on the paper at some point in time. Your skills evolve over time.  We never learn things all at once. You take the time that is needed to complete the project. There is magic there! There is magic in time and in process. You can watch your skills develop...slowly! I live in a sort of creative tension here in the studio. I earn a living through workshops, painted pens, private tutoring and commissioned art. All of these endeavours require a lot of time and yet I still have creative pursuits that I need to explore to grow as an artist. And there is the tension. The struggle between deadlines and continuing to grow. I don't have a solution for the this but I have learned how to pause and play. Sometimes, I have to explore and idea, get it out on paper and work with it a bit before I return to a task or a deadline. You will find these moments in your day when an idea hits you. At the very least, write that idea down on paper and return to it when you can. Explore the idea. Draw a bit, write a bit or paint a bit. Understand, that you don't have to complete the whole idea in a rush. It will take time to explore and then do properly. Time is really a huge part of the process. I want to encourage you to explore the ideas that have been knocking on your heart even if you can't commit to the full project yet. Just begin...bit by bit...little by little... and see what emerges.  I suspect that there is some magic and some joy waiting for you there.

 I will be launching some new courses in the Spring. I am getting ready for a Holiday version of The Dancing Line with The Gentle Penman the first weekend in October. This expands on flourishing techniques that merge with the upcoming festive season. At the request of many, we will be adding birds to our designs. Hopefully there will be time to explore the tonal values that can be built up in monochromatic designs. They are such fun to do and you don't need tons of art supplies for them. 

 

We had a great response to Fascinating Flourishes and Luminous Letters for The Ardington School online. In February and March, I hope to help you welcome Spring with The Flowering Flourish and a Spring Edition of Alphabet Garden. These classes will be very small. I am able to work a bit more closely with the students and you will have time to refine your designs as we work on the projects. I always revise my notes as I prepare for each course. I know there is more in the notes than we can possibly cover in class, but my ultimate hope is that you will create your own designs. I hope to be just a starting point for your own creativity. 




If you love Spring time and Florals, these courses will brighten what can be dark wintery months here in Canada. I am perpetually looking for Spring no matter what season it is. 
I know there are tons of courses online for you to explore and your time and treasure is precious. Whatever you choose to do, I encourage you to find joy in the journey and take all the time you need for your own particular process. I have said it before and will say it again. This is not a race! There is no finishing line when it comes to acquiring skills. Just allow yourself the time it takes for the magic to emerge. It will happen!!!  I wish you all the best in whatever you are pursuing. Email me at anytime! heather@heathervictoriaheld.com

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!