Four years ago yesterday, my friend and mentor Brian Walker passed away. I still feel his loss so acutely. When I am embarking on a new project, I still want to talk to him about or ask his advice. He was always so patient with my slow progress and constant questions. Time and experiences are so precious my dear friends. Cherish the moments that you have. Beyond penmanship and calligraphy, Brian was a gifted artist. He helped me to understand that there is so much more to our work than ink on paper. We need to understand and explore the mediums we work with. We must patiently craft our work. We must try and fail, but constantly learn and evolve. We had fascinating conversations as we both worked on our artwork. Brian would make his own ink and if the batch was not to his liking, he would discard it and start over. He would make his own gesso for gilding. He patiently crafted his recipe until it was perfect. Nothing was rushed. It took as much time as needed until he got the result he wanted. Although Brian was not a huge fan of flourishing, he would often include a leaf or two with a small flourish alongside his penmanship. He encouraged me to try to make my own gesso and gild small parts of my flourishes. Yesterday, I worked on a small flourish with a hint of gilding in it. I worked on different paper and tried to figure out how the papers reacted to my gesso.
I tooled the gold and then reflected on the piece. Over the course of the day, I redid the piece several times until I was happy with the result. Once again, this was true Brian Walker process. He was so precise with his vision and the work on the paper, that he would continually re-do his work until it was up to his standards. The final piece utilized a rendition of a John Ruskin quote. The quote has different variations but it is along the line of "If you can paint one leaf, you can paint the whole world." Brian was a member of the John Ruskin society and would often talk of Ruskin's work.
The quote not only reflects some of Brian's philosophy, it has become a cornerstone of my own teaching as well. My email inbox gets a lot of traffic with inquiries from students who want to progress more quickly. They have very specific projects in mind and want to create masterpieces that match the vision that they have in their head. My advice is always to proceed with patience and with passion. Rather than speeding up the process, try slowing it down. It seems as if every day, I learn a bit more on this calligraphic journey each day at my desk. Skills will catch up to your vision. I wish so much that I could discuss William Morris ideas with Brian. We talked about Beatrix Potter but not William Morris. I am sure we would have interesting discussions. And I would love to show him my research ideas. I will always miss him, but his influence continues to shine with each class that I teach and each avenue that I explore. I am amazed at how much I recall his lessons and recognize them when the crop up in a workshop that I am teaching. I am so grateful to have experienced such a wonderful friend and mentor. I will never forget him. I wanted to take time and post what has been on my heart as I have been working in the studio this week. I have heard from several students trying to register for the William Morris class at Ardington that sold out quickly. We will run an encore presentation. If you are interested in being notified when that class opens up, please contact Gemma at Ardington to be added to the list. The lecture portion of the class will be conducted by Martin Beek who reminds me so much of Brian. I hope you have a wonderful week. Even if projects you are working on are not quite to your liking, don't be afraid to start over. Learn the lesson that each piece teaches you! Hugs all around!