Friday, May 25, 2012

Seeing Myself in Print and Online

I am very excited to announce that I have been published again, both online and in print. An envelope I did was included in a new calligraphy book, and an article I wrote is the current blogpost for Paper and Ink Arts!

It was a good mail day at my house recently. My new copy of Bound and Lettered (with articles about and by some friends and colleagues of mine) arrived along with my publisher's copy of Peter Taylor's new book, Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking. Peter's publisher sent me a copy because I have an envelope in it. What fun to see my work in print again! And what a nice book to see it in.

I quickly turned to the index to see if my name was listed - it is!

And here is the simply scripted envelope that was requested - no elaborate flourishing, just a clean simple script. (I wish I'd taken a better photo.)

To order Peter's book: If you put the title, Calligraphy for Greetings Cards and Scrapbooking in a search engine, you'll probably find several online stores offering copies at a range of prices with a range of publication dates. Some are saying 'pre-order - published June or October 2012', but all sources should soon have them available.

Publisher's site (the price printed on the cover, probably plus delivery) - available now.

Amazon UK - cheaper - free UK delivery with supersaver (if buying more than one copy or other books as well) available now with delivery overseas possible.

Book Depository - Good price (the best price?) as it includes free delivery worldwide - available now. - cheapest price, but says pre-order for release in October.

I have ordered books from both the Book Depository and with no problems.

According to Peter, this book contains advice, alphabets and images intended to encourage beginners to begin their calligraphic journey. He hopes it will encourage beginners to pick up and use pens rather than buy pre-cut lettering and rubber stamps for all of their projects. More experienced calligraphers will also find many ideas. From my first perusal of the book, it is exactly what it's meant to be, and will be a good resource for instructors as well. The skeleton alphabet is very nice with excellent instruction, as are many of the other alphabets included in the book, such as Celtic, Neuland and Versals. There are good instructions for embossing, making pens from bamboo and balsa wood - including making reservoirs for the bamboo pens - and many other practical tips for calligraphers and craftsmen of all skill levels. As the name implies, it has tips for making greeting cards and for scrapbooking too. It would make an excellent gift for a young person (or anyone) who wants to learn calligraphy or how to make greeting cards.

In other news, it's fun for me that an article I wrote for Paper And Ink Arts is on their blog this month. It's about the Fons and Porter white mechanical quilting pencil - wonderful for ruling lines on dark papers because it erases without a trace. Photos showing projects with lines and with lines erased are included. I'm currently working on a project on silver envelopes, so the pencil is a godsend. You will be able to access this article by scrolling down through more current ones if you're reading this after a new blogpost is up. Recent articles there include excellent tutorials on various topics. The blog is well worth a visit. I am pleased to be in the good company of the previous writers.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

So Many Lessons to be Learned

Yves Leterme taught a gestural writing workshop in Memphis following a stint at Cheerio and one in the Washington DC area, where he had elite students (Peter Thornton and Sheila Waters to name-drop two.) Mary Lou Sherman and I had decided Memphis (being friendly and slightly closer) was a great place to take the workshop too, and our nearly six hours on the road flew by with lively - mostly calligraphic - conversation. (Thanks, Mary Lou!) I spent most of the week in Memphis TN and in a small town in MS. The Yves Leterme workshop was in Memphis (at a Police Station, no less...did we feel safe? Yes!) and I stayed with beautiful Judy Sproles in her lovely home in Mississippi, only 30 minutes away, while Mary Lou stayed with our friend Maggie Naylor and her perfect (everybody said so!) husband Bob. I was totally key-free and responsibility free for the five days, chauffered from Monday morning to Friday evening by Judy and Mary Lou. How lucky can a girl get?
(This is NOT the Police Station.)

The gestural writing of capital letters is not an easy thing. I would have preferred to learn the lower case letters since that's what we mostly use and since the joins are what give the gestural writing their flowing look, but the class was about capitals with one day of lower case and joins thrown in. I normally don't care for the look of many capitals together, and in internet-language, all caps is shouting. Not my style. When he introduced the lower case on our last day, it helped the rest come together a bit more for me. What is gestural lettering? Free-looking lettering with changes in slope, size, joins and more. Did I achieve success? No, but I will. As Yves, who was classically trained for years, said, "It took me twenty years to learn this; don't expect to master it in three days."

I thought about that this morning as I was cutting grass. Background - my husband has hurt his back and is getting epidural shots every two weeks to help ease the pain. I will not let him try to cut the grass. So, for the past three weeks, I have put my grass cutting clothes and shoes on - one pair of white running shoes now green-stained and dedicated to yard-work - and am learning one by one the many lessons of grass-cutting.

Week one, lesson one...I learned that it's tougher than it looks. I cut front and back yards and trimmed my bushes and hauled the cut branches and weeds to the yard waste bin. I was sore for two days after that. I can relate the first lesson to the many times I have tried to learn a new calligraphy style. So much to learn that it's almost a physical tiredness. It's exciting to discover new things, but it also wears on the mind. Study this stroke, study that one, pull this stroke, flick that one. How do I hold the pen for this? Dip the pen, brush the nib? Does this letter relate to that one? Whoops - A letter from a different style sneaked in there. Pay attention! With gestural writing, which I was learning this week, the different styles sneaking in are actually desirable, imagine that! But who'd have thought it would be so difficult to keep this lawnmower running, or to make these wild looking letters look graceful? Here are two of Yves' sampler sheets:

Week two, lesson two...Remember what you learned before. Dang it! I cut half the front yard before my husband noticed that I hadn't pulled what he calls the 'four wheel drive' self-propelling handle. Without it, pushing that mower is like trying to push a mule. Very stubborn. I went into week two, refreshed with muscles strengthened and no longer sore thinking week two would be a breeze. Hmmm - expectations thwarted. It was similar to day two of gestural writing. Well, I got past the worst of it, surely today my letters are going to develop life. I'm no dummy. I've learned new styles many times, have many in my repertoire. Ummm - how come this is so different? Well, I am so schooled in formal writing styles and also have some contemporary styles in my bag of tricks. This gestural writing is another animal altogether. It requires tossing out the old and learning completely anew. And yet, surely the old adds some value to the process. Knowing the 'correct' letterforms IS important in order to retain the gracefulness of letters as you create new forms. What may look like total cacophony to some, in actuality has a good deal of grace when done well. Yves's work was a perfect counterpoint to my own plodding attempts. Where were my thins? Missing in action. Why were all of mine so staid and stuck in the mud? I do beautiful pointed pen work, which is full of thick and thin variation, I do gracefully executed flourishes as natural and subtle extensions of my letters. I pride myself on 'good taste', which is something Yves mentioned as important many times. And yet...

One of our exercises was to write the word Knowledge. This is not my sample, it's Yves' - as if you couldn't tell.

Week three, day three...Something new is always being added. I was once again almost halfway through the front yard this morning before my husband showed up to tell me the grass might be too wet. We'd had no rain, but the temperature is hot and we have a lot of humidity. The grass in the morning was indeed full of dew. I was trying to beat the heat of the day and risking the wrath of late sleeping neighbors by mowing at 9:30AM. Once again, pushing that mower was a huge effort. I had to clank it up and down several times to loosen wet grass from the underbelly that was slowing it down. My goodness! How many lessons are there yet to be learned about that stinking mower? Ah yes. Frustration over my own ineptitude creeps in with both grass-cutting and lettering. Then behind the garage I once again had forgotten about the four wheel drive handle. Had the moisture under control, but the self-propelling lever was forgotten. It is the same with the lettering. Remember this. Yes! I have it now! Oh no! I forgot THAT! One day, when I have time to play/work at it again, I will 'get' the secrets of gestural writing. I know I have it in me to write expressively. And I already have the first three lessons to build upon.

Here are a few of my attempts to gesturally letter the Our Father during class:

A bonus to the grass cutting - I was able to hear and see chirping bird-babies in their birdhouse, and I cut the grass near their home as quickly as I could so Mamma could come to feed them. It was fun to see and hear the new life along my back fence. One day I think I will see the life in my lettering. Not just in the gestural letters, but infusing all of my lettering. Life begets life. A bonus to the workshop - authentic New Orleans Jambalaya and bread pudding with bourbon sauce prepared by the culinary genius Sam Rabinovitz and devoured by Yves, me and several other class mates at Sam and Ann's beautiful home. Another bonus to the trip - I was able to see some of Mary Lou's original work at a frame shop in Jackson, TN...Ooooh, nice!

Side note, my husband asked who I was writing to (as he was trying to fill me in on his week at home alone.) I said, "No one, I'm just writing a blog about cutting the grass and learning gestural writing." He laughed and said, "Well, any fool can cut the grass." I have a new respect for the brawn in my house who usually cuts the grass, but I won't show him the many practice pages that make it seem that I can't even write the ABCs. But I'll show you:

Week four is yet to come, but maybe I'll have had a moment or two by then to attempt the gestural lettering again, and maybe the grass-cutting will only yield some staining wet grass to make some kind of ink experiments with. I will see growth in the birds in their nest and also in my lettering skill. A girl can dream.

Here are two examples of student work with Yves' renditions beside them to the right.

One exercise was to letter a name in a rectangle - gesturally. When Yves asked what I'd done I mentioned three nieces' names. He said Andrea was the one who got lucky. A nice way of saying that's the only one that turned out well, ha ha. Andrea's is the starred one lower left.
He took pity on Celeste and did hers his way for me:
Now Celeste is the lucky one.

Here's a good one. It was my attempt to letter a quote about the sword in the stone. I labeled the version Yves did so I wouldn't get it mixed up with my own. I am laughing uproariously right about now.

Here is one of Yves' intriguing gesso pieces with assorted gestural marks peeking out. He demoed this for about 15 minutes, but we did not get to play. It was interesting to see how very differently he works with gesso than I do. These effortless looking pieces take lots of thought to pass his muster.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Yves Leterme, Here I Come!

I am looking forward to attending a workshop sponsored by the Memphis Calligraphy Guild and taught by Belgian calligrapher, Yves Leterme. I first saw Yves Leterme's work a few years ago in Louisville at Laurie Doctor and Steve Skaggs' "Five from Four" exhibit. The 'five' were five calligraphic artists (Monica Dengo, Maya Huber, Steve Skaggs, Laurie Doctor and Yves Leterme) and the 'four' referred to the four countries they are from.
As a means of explaining his work, here is Yves' artist statement from that show: My work has passed through some stages to arrive where it is today. Having spent a decade mastering and refining letterforms and classical scripts, I turned my attention towards composition and painting techniques. My early works show clear, legible texts on colorful, unusually structured backgrounds. I wanted to arrive at a happy marriage between abstract paintings and gestural or drawn lettering. Due to the gesso and the many layers of pigments involved in this technique, the backgrounds tended to have a rough texture, and this forced me to abandon the fine gestural and formal writing of nibs and to work instead with brush or pencil. Then, later on, not entirely satisfied with this combination of rude painting and fine calligraphy, I decided I had to show more daring in order to get the harmony between the elements I was looking for. Therefore, I deliberately alter characters to the point they become hardly legible or downright illegible. Very often now I prefer the awkwardness of rude letters to the elegant writing I used to do. There’s beauty in rudeness, but not all rudeness is beautiful. I find myself erasing lots of things because they don’t have the right clumsiness. However, I should add that although the text may not be readable, perhaps because of my philologist background I always choose my texts carefully. Very often the quotes reveal something about my vision on art and perfection. The work itself then is somewhat an illustration of the thoughts expressed in it.

One of my friends bought a few of his pieces (and I loved them!) when she took a workshop from him in Chicago a year or so ago, and I again saw some of his work in a Carmel Indiana gallery earlier this year. I did a couple of pieces using his 'style' of covering much of the background painting with a thin white coat of gesso, though I didn't attempt his gestural lettering style. This one won second place in Calligraphy at the Kentucky State Fair last year.

I ordered Yves' book, Thoughtful Gestures, to try to understand his style of working. His personal inscription is in Latin: Quid est enim dulcius otio litterato, which means, "What is more beautiful than letters?" Here is the cover of his book with the folded cover page opened out.
Here are a couple of pages from his book. I love his abstract style.
We will probably learn to do some of these gestural strokes.
We will probably do some of his backgrounds with gesso and letter on top and into them.
We may even do something like this whimsical airplane.
But I doubt we will do any body painting. Not on mine anyway - but if I looked like this...

A pdf of the Five From Four catalog is available here:

Friday, May 4, 2012

Ribbon-tied Booklet Tutorial

Here's a tutorial I created on making a ribbon-tied stapled booklet of just a half a sheet of cardstock, a scrap of scrapbook or other decorated paper, one sheet of copy paper and a small length of ribbon. The only other supplies needed are a gluestick (optional), a craft knife, scissors and a stapler. The above supplies are based on the size booklet I made. Adjust for larger or smaller sizes.

First, cut or tear the 8.5 x 11" cardstock in half lengthwise.One half of this sheet will be the cover of your booklet.

Fold in half, then fold each end in toward the center fold.

Halfway up the center fold cut a 1/4" slit (vertically, but about 1/8" from center fold.) This slit should go through both the back and front covers. (See top photo.)

Open the book out to half size with loose inner edges together. (Trim these edges to allow ribbon to freely go through the booklet...I cut off about 1/8 to 1/4".)

Cut matching slits in front and back covers at the first fold (not at the center fold, which is already slit.) You now have four matching slits in the folded cover.

Cut 1/8" wide ribbon to about 18 inches in length. Thread this through the cover beginning at either outer edge fold, then though the matching slit on the same cover, back out through the next slit, and finally out the other folded outer edge slit. The ribbon will only show at the outside spine and the outer cover edges where it will form a tie. The ribbon will lay inside the folded covers of the book.

Cut a scrap of scrapbook or decorated paper to 4 x 5" and fold that in half to 2.5 x 4". Cut one piece of copy paper to two strips of 4 x 11.5" Trim each strip to two 4 x 5" pieces and fold each in half to 2.5 x 4". Nestle the folded copy paper pieces inside the decorated paper to make your signature. Insert into the folded cover and from the outside staple halfway down the top half right on the spine, and in a similar position on the bottom half.

If you have a scrap of the decorated paper, cut a small piece and glue onto the front cover. If you like, emboss or deboss the front cover around the decorative paper. Tie ends of ribbon.

You can use other papers, and you can adjust the sizes. You can also stitch the signature to the spine either by hand or machine rather than staple. You can use it as a tiny little gift, as a notebook or even as a greeting card. If using as a greeting card, you might want to make it to fit an existing envelope, or make an envelope to match.