Monday, May 9, 2022

Still Enchanted!

 Seems like a blink since my last post but we are 9 days forward into the month of May. I jut had a glimpse of a gorgeous Baltimore Oriole and I am constantly amazed at their splendour. I got up early this morning to take a botanical art class through Ardington School online. Although I had to get up at 4:00 AM, I feel so blessed to be able to put aside some precious time to study. As an instructor, it is so important for me to refuel and refresh and enjoy the process of another artist. I spent the morning exploring a freshly picked Narcissus and hope to bring it to life in a drawing. One of the joys of drawing from life is really getting to know your subject and appreciating it for all it is worth. A flower fades quickly and deserves to be enjoyed for all the magic it brings to us. 

I am also so grateful to be able to teach for Ardington School. The classes are kept very small and the experience is like being part of a small community. For an introvert like me, it works wonders. This year, my only offering of The Enchanted Letter will be through Ardington in September.

This will be a very small class. For those of you who would like to build on the skills we explored in Fainting Fancies, you will love this class. I have been designing Enchanted Letters for eleven years now. I fell in love with illuminated letters back in 2003 at my first IAMPETH conference. Traditional illuminated letters are meant to enhance broad edge lettering are are usually on the heavy side. Although I love the beauty of broad edge calligraphy, I don't practice it enough to be really confident with it. I use it whenever necessary but  Pointed Pen scripts are much more intuitive for me and they are the scripts that charmed my soul. Over the years, I developed letterforms that could be drawn, gilded and embellished with florals and flourishes. They were delicate enough to augment script lettering and could carry the opulence of gilding. I wanted letters to sparkle and shine and dance with Victorian ornament. Eleven years of playing with these forms and I am still Enchanted and still Intrigued with what they can offer. I encourage my students to approach each of these designs as mini challenges.

Allow them to push your skills to a new level. Even if you are new to drawing, a script letter is fairly easy to draw. If the gilding process seems out of reach or too complex, these letters are the perfect entry level project to get you comfortable with that process. I feel as if one of the reasons that I have stayed so enchanted with these letters is that they are small and can be finished in a couple of hours. They have built up my confidence over the years and still bring a smile to my face. The Love is Forever piece was created for Gilded Age Greetings several years ago and it still sparkles, shines and brings me joy.

Whatever your stage of learning, I the work on your desk brings you joy. Stay Enchanted with the work you do and even if you have an hour or two for a project, it will teach you lessons that will stay with you for years. Registration is very limited for this class but I would love to share the beauty of these letters with you. If you are new to Ardington, explore their catalogue and see if there is something that interests you. Happy Monday May 9th dear friends. 

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Lessons from my paint box

 May welcomed me this morning with grey skies and rain. Slowly buds are emerging on the Pagoda Dogwood tree and the rain seems to illuminate those buds. No matter how busy the days are for me, I take time to pause and look at the changes each season brings. Spring is my favourite season. I feel a bounce in my step as I walk around the garden and a sense of relief that the winter season has passed.

Here at my desk, there is an unending stream of work. I am so grateful for my private students and my online classes that allow me to work from home. Commission work has come in and I am catching up on pen orders as well. Now and then, despite the work load and deadlines, I encounter creative blocks. Sometimes, there are just too many things going wrong to work in any sort of practical way at the desk. Recently, my paint box taught me a valuable lesson. 

My paint palette has travelled to my teaching locations with me. It has been to Europe, Asia and all over North America. When I worked  in my little Harry Potter Cupboard Under The Stairs, Oscar would sleep on top of the palette as I painted. It was constantly filled with cat hair but I never had the heart to wash it out. I would top up paint as needed,  but I would never remove paint that was giving me a hard time as I worked. It just seemed wasteful to get rid of it, but even as I demonstrated on camera, I could feel the paint giving me trouble. But this past week, I actually cleaned the entire palette out removing the good paint along with the bad paint. It took me two hours to remove the old paint with hot water, paper towels and a butter knife. I scraped off what I could and then scrubbed the rest off. I was actually procrastinating from working on a challenging pen request when I decided to clean the palette. After the paint was removed, I refilled the paints with the understanding that I would never get my palette back to exactly the same way I had it before. I did not have to purchase new paints, I refilled my palette from tubes of paint that I have accumulated over the years. 
The palette is now free of all Oscar's cat hair, the paint is refreshed and responsive, and I have a general idea of the positioning of each dollop of paint. The refreshing of the palette helped free up the creative block because I wanted to try out the paint right away. I let the paint dry in the palette for full day before working but what a difference the fresh paint made to my work. No deadlines or pressures had changed, just the paint. I was not fighting with old paint. The new paint was flowing so well. I have many paint boxes and paint palettes, but this little Mijello palette is the workhorse of my studio and shows up for most of the jobs I have to do. If I want to use different paint, I pull out a different paint box with other pigment choices. I systematically change things up when faced with a creative block. Sometimes a new colour in the paint box is all I will need to work through an idea.
The first project of the refreshed palette was a Glittering Vine for my Edmonton Calligraphic Society class this weekend. I experiment with colour variations as I worked through some ideas for this vine. 
One vine led to another and the refreshed paint helped me finalize some ideas for my July Captivating Curves class with The Gentle Penman. Captivating Curves a more casual look at scroll designs with some Rococo influences while intensifying the drawing and painting techniques for acanthus. Fresh paint helped to refresh my ideas. The procrastinating detour was actually a time saver and frustration reliever.


It's ok to struggle and give in to defeat when faced with a creative block.   Sometimes " a change is as good as a rest." In this case, fresh paint worked wonders. As a teaching artist, I have to repeat my process and content to new groups of students over and over again. I have never been bored with my work but sometimes there are ideas I want to get out on paper that need to take a back seat to an urgent deadline. This can be difficult to manage at times. No matter what deadlines or pressures you are facing, sometimes you need to back off a bit and just do something else. Normally a stroll through the garden, a trip to the flower shop or browsing through antique shops will refresh my senses and bolster my soul. But this time, the sheer satisfaction of indulging in fresh paint brought an unexpected refreshing.  As I end this post and get back to work on another deadline, I hope you can hear me cheering you on as you go about the work in front of you. Remember to nurture yourselves in your creative process. Take the breaks you need as you go along.  Sending hugs across the world on this first day of May, 2022.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Glittering Vines and Captivating Curves: Workshop Evolutions

 Happy Easter Weekend dear friends. I hope you are enjoying a beautiful weekend. We had lots of storms here yesterday but today the grass looks green and there are lots of birds at the feeders. The dogwood tree is starting to bud and the hope of Spring is here. The studio desk is cluttered but still my happy place. I am preparing to teach Fainting Fancies for The Gentle Penman next weekend. The updated handouts are completed so I was able to check that off my "to do" list. I look forward to sharing the flourished lettering techniques and hope they bring joy to the students. 

As one task is completed, it opens the way for the next task. As I begin to work on the course Captivating Curves which will open in July for The Gentle Penman, I started to think about how the course evolved. In 2011 I developed the course The Enchanted Letters. That course evolved out of my quest to develop an illuminated letter that would work with script. The letter C here was the one that helped me carve out my vision for these letters. It was one of the first foliate letter forms I created so many years ago.
As I expanded ideas for the letter forms, I wanted to be able to addd cascading foliate extensions that could form borders for the letters. 
When I was able to travel and teach for guilds, the ideal format for presenting these Enchanted Letters with foliate extension was over a 3 day period. That way I could go into all of the details for creating the foliate extensions as well as Leaf Script Letters and the Embedded Letterforms. I would often see students struggle to add the extensions to the letters, so I would teach the Foliate extensions on their own. When I taught the foliate spray as a separate element, I could see that the students grasped the concepts much more readily. My favourite expression of these foliate extensions was based on a delicate Florentine ornamental design which is pictured below.  It has a tiny bit of gilding added to it and remains one of my favourite designs. 

The concepts for the Florentine Foliate Spray were kept simple but the results were effective. I would be invited back to the same guild many times over the years and the Florentine Foliate Spray was often requested for the entire weekend focus. The guild wanted a deeper exploration of the acanthus designs so I developed a course called Captivating Curves. In the Captivating Curves class, we would look at the acanthus leaves historically and then over the two or three day weekend, we would design borders that were painted with different techniques. It was a way to explore all things acanthus without worrying about a letter form or even a final purpose for the ornamental designs. The designs were rooted in Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts but always had a touch of the Victorian era mixed in. A sketchbook study shows my clustered florals embedded in the Captivating Curves. 
The acanthus as a decorative element provides worlds to explore and the possibilities are absolutely endless. One curve leads to another and as you learn to see and leverage those curves in your designs, you will start to see the world of ornament with new eyes. I remember going out to dinner after the first day of the weekend workshops and watching the students see acanthus designs everywhere. I believe the image below is from a library in Milwaukee. 
The Acanthus is such a delight to explore and I am working on updating the Captivating Curves course to present online for The Gentle Penman in July. Lots of focus will be given on drawing the acanthus and learning how to harness the curves. Workshop info will be posted soon.  I think the curves for Acanthus Foliate designs look best when they are based on circles rather than elongated ovals but we will explore the possibilities of the designs. We will also learn how to paint the designs with an illusion of depth and form. Captivating Curves really singles out the acanthus as a point of study as we develop foliate designs. 
The acanthus shows up in my offhand flourishing, my Enchanted Meadow, my Glittering Vines and my Enchanted Letters. 

With each workshop evolution, I am able to focus more one one detail or the other. The Enchanted Meadow pictured above does a deep dive into the drawing and dry brush painting technique of the animals with only a nod to the foliate setting. The latest workshop evolution of the foliate ornament was Pencil Lines for Glittering Vines. I developed this course first fore Texas Lettering Arts Council when I presented The Glittering Vine for the Legacies Calligraphy Conference last summer. The recording is available up until June of this year. The Glittering Vine lets me share my gilding technique for very delicate designs that can augment pointed pen work. Opulent gilding, delicate colour schemes, filigree and straight lines are featured in this course.  The components that I get to drill into are really the pencil process and the ability to make a curve harness its power when it meets a straight line. The compositions are striking, yet very simple. 

I will be teaching this course online in May for the Edmonton Calligraphic Society. There is a common denominator in all of these courses. Curves create beauty. Curves can be explored in foliate forms. If you understand how to turn a curve into a foliate expression, a whole new world will open up to you. Simple drawing skills augment our calligraphic world and take us to new levels. Gilding puts our work over the top and does not need a complicated approach. You can transform your compositions into glittering pages as you learn these simple skills. All of these skills can be broken down into simple components that you will evolve for you over time Your eye will find ornament everywhere once you start looking for it. Start with one simple step a time and watch your confidence grow as you explore foliate designs. I hope you all have a Happy Easter Weekend. I will close this post with another bunny from The Enchanted Meadow. Stay positive and stay inspired dear friends.

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Story of Fainting Fancies


April is here but I feel like I am still waiting for Spring. Migrating birds have returned home and I am watching a little Carolina Wren settle into a small bird house in the oak tree. I look forward to her chattering songs over the summer months. The days at my studio desk have been as busy as ever. I just finished teaching The Artful Flourish for the Pendragons Guild in Kalamazoo through Zoom. I will never get tired of offhand flourishing! Later this month, I will be teaching Fainting Fancies through The Gentle Penman online. Registration info is here. I recognize that the name of the class is strange and I wanted to share the story behind the class.

Harry Potter fans may recognize Fainting Fancies as a confection of the Weasley brothers. Years ago, my local calligraphy guild was hosting a Harry Potter themed retreat. I needed to come up with a clever name for my class about decorated script capitals. Fainting Fancies seemed to work for a Fanciful Script Letter that could be embellished with flourishes that would make you faint! At least that was my idea at the time.  As I continued to develop and teach this class, I realized that the name could play a bigger role than just writing Harry Potter themed words and flourishing within capital letters. 

As I continued to teach the class, the content expanded to more decorative script letter techniques. Foliated or Floriated letters are possible with a very delicate pen etching technique. The soft application of colour can be used for faint highlights in the letter. Although the letters are ornate, the process is subdued. They are a joy to create and I am finding them highly addictive. 

As I continue to explore the letters and possibilities and I am becoming more and more engrossed in the process.

The Victorian in me is having such fun researching letter designs and bringing vintage techniques to a new era.

Research and a sense of play can bring ideas forward. With every flourish of the pointed pen, I appreciate the process of putting ink on paper more and more. The flourish is to play and and grow! Working on small and simple projects can be a welcome pause from the noise around us. Calligraphers wield a lot of power through the pen and an simple name flourish can bring so much joy to a friend. 

Although the techniques are subdued but the effects can be profound. I hope you find time to put pen to paper. Flourish throughout the day and send kind words and thoughts to you friends and family. I will be cheering you on as you work at your desks. Happy April dear friends.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Treading Softly


As March seems to race by I notice changes through the studio window each day. Sometimes I am greeted with morning fog, other days there is still bit of frost on the ground and occasionally there is a warmth in the wind which promises Spring will be in bloom. The walk from the house to the studio can be muddy or icy and I am careful of my footsteps. I tread softly asI figure out the pathway.  This season seems to wake up slowly and then surprises me with such joy and life. I have been spending long hours in the studio preparing for classes. Notes need to be written for the new classes that are in the works and artwork is constantly being created.  In person classes are still not a reality for me but I have been continuing to teach small groups, private students, guilds and large classes online. It is working for me and I am happy to continue as well as explore some longer term programs for my students. I tread softly with my students. I have received so many emails from students and friends who are having such difficulty navigating the news and the bombardment of negativity coming their way. Our world has been going through such a difficult time and as we respond with compassion we can get so overwhelmed.  Our work with the pointed pen is delicate and quiet and I am constantly reminded of the need to focus as we work on our projects. For me, the pointed pen, flourishing, drawing and painting  provides a pathway of peace. It is also an outreach as I put pen to paper or flourish an envelope to send to a friend. This tiny act of caring can brighten someone's day and bring a sense of joy, even for a few moments. It's something within our reach, inexpensive, and an outlet for our flourishing, drawing and painting studies. I want to thank all of you for your notes of encouragement through mail and email. Your notes to me have been such a kindness and a blessing. I am so grateful for your kind words and you encourage me to send out notes of my own. Keep treading softly in these delicate days. The thoughts and words that we share can be so powerful. Sending hugs all around. I hope you continue to flourish!!

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

Welcome March!!!

 I love the month of March. I know it is unpredictable here in Canada. Sometimes it is a stormy, snowy and icy mess and at other times, it just gently unfolds. Already, the garden sounds different as I hear more and more birds. I continue to wait for the ongoing wonder of this season to begin to emerge. 

I feel so grateful to have work to do in my little studio. I have been intensely working on new workshops. This weekend I will release Nature Sings through Acorn Arts classes online. This class will dive into the wonders and beauty of nature expressed through offhand flourishing. I have also been studying the effects of different mediums on paper and how to build luminosity into the flourishes. The butterfly explorations have been so addictive.

There are times when I am amazed at the results on the paper through very simple techniques. My Faber Castell Polychromos pencils continue to bring a lot of delight as I work with them. If you have never experimented with them, I encourage you to give them a try. They layer beautifully and each layer remains transparent. Their quality is excellent. The core pigment is bonded all the way to the bottom of the pencil so you won't have problems with the core colour falling out. I can use these pencils all the way to the bottom if I use a pencil extender. The are excellent quality for the money and can be mixed with watercolour and watercolour pencils. John Neal Booksellers sell an assortment of some of my favourite colours. I always buy these open stock rather than in sets so I can select my favourite colours. Your favourite art store should have these in stock and you can enjoy looking at the wonderful colour range.

I will be using these coloured pencils in my April Fainting Fancies class through The Gentle Penman as well. The piece at the bottom of the post explores some ideas from both Fainting Fancies and Nature Sings. I hope you treat yourselves to a few colours and explore their possibilities. Just looking at them in the pencil case brings a sense of expectation to my work these days. 
Even as I work at my desk, surrounded by bright colours and and a mind filled with hope, the news of what is happening in the world is overwhelming. As artists, we reflect what is in our minds and hearts when we work. I struggled with whether or not to post about the classes that are coming up. There are so many pressures and concerns in the minds of my dear friends, students and colleagues. My hope is that this type of quiet work with your hands will bring you a sense of peace, hope, and focus as we bring beauty to the page.It can't fix the world but it can realign our thoughts and give our minds a haven from the storm. Wherever you are in the world and whatever is surrounding you, I am sharing a gentle message of Hope to our delicate world. Hugs all around. 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Pink is Always a Good Idea

In the midst of dark days of news and an enduring winter I find that anxiety creeps in a little bit. I find I need to dig a little deeper to find a sense  of peace when I work at my desk.  When I worked in the fabric store, just seeing the bright colours of the quilting fabrics lifted my spirits! The shop is long gone but the joy of colour remains with me. This week I came home with the most gorgeous miniature rose. Seeing the pink colour instantly brought a smile to my face. There is joy in colour and for me the colour that releases joy for me is pink. It came up in conversation as I was teaching The Flowering Flourish class this week. Pink is always a good idea, at least for me. 

I don't know what it is about the colour but it just lifts my spirit and brings a sense of calm no matter what is going on around me. As I continue to prepare for the class Nature Sings class, a pink bunny emerged. I guess it was just a matter of time before it happened!
Even the gilded butterfly has hints of pink in it. I can't escape how much joy I find in this colour.
Surround yourself with the colours that bring you joy and see if that can bring you a little lift of happiness even if you are going through something dark or stressful.

I have had some wonderful emails, letters and phone calls from those of you who share the love of special colours and flowers. Pansies are another favourite and I have been exploring them with my private students and will be painting pansy initials as part of the Alphabet Garden course at Ardington. The classes were sold out but we expanded the capacity a little bit to open up a few more seats and take care of the waiting list. So if you would like to join in either March or May, I think you will enjoy the pansy letters and other explorations we can do with a brightly painted Illuminated Letter.

The Ardington classes are kept quite small to allow for more feedback and I have seen some absolutely remarkable work in the Luminous Letter and The Flowering Flourish. My hope is that students will be able to find peace and joy through the work of their hands. If I can play even a small part in bringing them happiness, I will feel so grateful. No matter what happens in external environments and things that are beyond our control, there are small things we can do to nurture peace and joy. Sending hugs all around and I hope you have a beautiful weekend!


Saturday, February 5, 2022

From Glimmer to Glow

 I wanted to add a quick post to the blog on a bright but cold February afternoon. I taught an intense class yesterday for The Gentle Penman online. We tried an extended single class of 3.5 hours along with an ambitious project called For the Love of Birds. I loved working on the project and trying this teaching approach. It is fun as well as challenging to figure out the best approaches for the online classes and I am learning so much in the process. The project itself was to demonstrate some drawing, inking and painting techniques and I was thrilled to see what students could accomplish.

I could not complete the design in the class time but several people did and I hope they continue to explore the techniques and bring their own vision to the new designs. One of the things that seemed easier to navigate in an online format is having the students in their own homes where they don't compare their work to others. Yes, we miss the energy of the other students in the class, seeing what unique supplies people bring to class and the social interaction that can really add to the experience. But as an introvert in these social settings, my senses could often be overwhelmed and I would find time to take walks outdoors to recalibrate my mind. There can be a pressure on the student to think that they need to be able to absorb content and gain skills at the same rate of the other students. I want to encourage my students and students of any instructor that you are uniquely you!!! You have a vision, voice, instinct and skill set that is yours alone. You hear things your own way, judge things with your own ideas and have a desire to push your skills where you want them to go...or not to go. This journey is for you alone. As we continue to navigate this world that has so much content for us to explore and devour online, I want to encourage you to find the glimmer of joy in each success and even in the  failures along the way. As I was teaching this intense class in this online format, I remembered how different my own experience has been over the years.

I did not have the choices of online classes that are available now. I had images from a book to study, sought out pen pals and mentors, looked for articles to read and if I could find a class that I could attend in person, I would make substantial investments to attend. I failed a lot. But I kept my successful projects and never lost the passion and the peace that the journey was brining to me. Even as I failed at my desk, I was continuing to explore and learn. Always remember, that this is not a race. There is incredible joy to be discovered out of sheer curiosity of a subject. The art work you create as you play and explore would never be created unless you do it. The smallest note that you can write to someone can bring them joy or hope. Whether you design a whole composition or add a rosebud to someone's initial, you have placed your unique signature on the design.  As I continue to work with my students and prepare for new courses I hope you can celebrate the successes and even the failures as your skills begin to shine and glow. Be patient. Honestly, when I see how quickly some people can catch on to these skills I am reminded just how slow I was to learn and catch on. But I have no regrets. I am just grateful to share what helped me learn along the way and then enjoy seeing your unique creations. Happy Saturday dear friends! Enjoy the journey and allow you skills to grow slowly over time. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Welcome February!

 The calendar page turns and I always adjust my thoughts for the new month ahead. Outside my studio window, the squirrels are digging through lots of snow and don't seem to be the least bit bothered by it. I start to become so hopeful for Spring as soon as I get my first glimpse of February. I have an amaryllis blooming on my desk to keep me company and I continue to bring home flowers from the florist.  I seem to need flowers more and more these days but I appreciate each moment of joy they bring and keep them as long as I can. I have just finished teaching The Enchanted Meadow for The Gentle Penman online.

I was completely overwhelmed with the response to the class and watching new skills come to life for my dear students. Although I continue to teach privately and work individually with my precious students, I am grateful for these larger platforms and watching a community of painters, illuminators and calligraphers continue to hone their skills. I feel genuinely honoured to be part of your journey. This coming Friday night I will teach my For the Love of Birds class for The Gentle Penman.

 I have worked so hard on the course material and the class will be 3.5 hours long online. I am really looking forward to exploring the Cerulean Warbler with this group of students. I am so excited about this class!
Looking forward to March, I will be launching Nature Sings through Acorn Arts online. I don't think the site is ready yet online, but it will be updated shortly. I hope to explore the awakening of the garden through a grisaille technique on dark paper that I have been playing with. The image below is a glimpse at the beginning stage of the technique.

We will explore birds, blooms and pollinators in this class.

I will build on these techniques in another flourishing class for Acorn Arts again in the fall.  As I am creating these courses I find new ways to explore the flourish and bring more luminous techniques to the page. I hope the content will help you grow as an artist. Flourishing is all about possibilities as well as tapping into the peaceful flow of thought that it can bring. It really is the most powerful pointed pen skill that I have in my skill set and I love working with it. Looking ahead to April, I will be sharing my Fainting Fancies class with the Gentle Penman. Any Harry Potter fan will recognize the name Fainting Fancies. I designed this class for my local guild when we offered a full day Harry Potter themed calligraphic retreat. Although the class content has evolved, the name continues to be a fun title! A fanciful script capital letter is embellished with faint or subtle techniques at first and gradually becomes more and more complex. The magic of offhand flourishing can be added to your script lettering in very playful ways. You can create simple embellishments for envelopes or small quotes or work on complex monograms. I hope this class will be the beginning of many hours of personal study. 

Part of the subtle effects of these letters is the use of white on toned paper, There are delicate details that can emerge when we choose a mid-tone paper.  We can also add subtle details on light coloured paper. Honestly, I wish I had weeks to explore all of the possibilities but the online classes are a great starting place for exploration. 
I am so happy to share these classes with you and I am genuinely delighted to see what you are producing,. If you would like my 2022 schedule, please email me at Enjoy the first breath of February and the subtle signs of spring emerging. I have to look a bit deeper right now in the midst of all of this snow but I am grateful for the Hope of Spring. Wherever you are  and whatever circumstances you are facing, I hope you find a glimmer of light that brings you hope and joy and that you can celebrate the work that you do with your hands. I will be cheering you on from my studio desk. Keep looking for signs of Spring!