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.