1500km. Six days of calligraphy. Heaven.

Happy New Year, everyone!  My holidays have drawn to a close and I’m very ready to jump back into everyday life feet-first. This year’s going to be a good one – I’m sure of it.

The more that I learn about calligraphy, the more that I see how much I have to learn. It really is the craft that never stops giving – there’s always more to learn, further to go. In comparison to where I want to be, I sometimes feel like a toddler fingerpainting on the walls. So I spend all my free time learning and studying and thinking about lettering to the point of just being a little bit too obsessed … but I’m happy.

 

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I was lucky enough to spend the past week studying the Italian hand of Bennardino Cataneo with Gemma Black at the Sturt Summer School in NSW. I could have flown up there and saved myself the drive, but I really wanted to be able to carry all my gear, so I hopped in the car around 4am on a chilly Sunday morning and hit the highway.  I sort of love long drives, or long train rides, or long bus rides; there’s something very peaceful about being on the road.

And I learned so many things over the week! A lot about Bennardino Cataneo, and the 1545 manuscript we were studying; a lot about handling a pen and making decisions about where to place words on a page; even some rudimentary bookbinding. I had a fantastic time – it was fully catered and the accommodation was on campus, so it really was just a week of rolling out of bed, being given all your meals, and doing nothing but art every day. I wish it could have gone on for ever.

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One thing that I am learning over and over again as I study: an hour with a good teacher is worth about a week of studying at home. Although the studying at home helps!  I feel like I also made some strides in understanding how to analyse a script this week, and now I need to attack my books all over again and look at all the manuscripts I can find and learn them all … it never stops. And I never want it to.

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Contemporary Pointed Pen with Margaret Schmidt

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I really should work out a better way to photograph lettering. I think that half the joy of calligraphy is the texture of the paper, the shine of the ink – things that can’t be reproduced (or at least, not easily) by digital art or even prints. The above ‘Congratulations’ is a pale gold (the Finetec, again, from John Neal Booksellers – I just really love it) on a smooth black card.

The lettering style is a modern version of copperplate with a bit more bounce and movement. I tend to struggle with modern pointed pen because it’s so much freer than the traditional forms – and I’ve never been particularly good at improvisation. Not that I’m particularly good when I’m following the rules, but when there are rules, it’s much easier to know how to fix it. When all you can come up with is “that just seems wrong, somehow …” things get tricky.

So, of course, I took a class today* on contemporary pointed pen, and on how to break the rules.

*”Today” being the first of June … but since I’m scheduling blog updates only around once a week, not “today” the day that you’re reading this. ;)

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Margaret taught us several excellent scripts, all of which I imagine you will see in upcoming posts as I work my way through them. This second picture is a pointed pen Italic script that’s quite condensed and has some really cute touches – I think it could be really useful on invitations in particular. Another weapon to add to my arsenal!

(The lyrics, of course, are from Wicked, which I was lucky enough to see at the end of May and which is probably still in my head two weeks into the future …)

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