Archive | Calligraphy Work

Calligraphy: Share the Craft, Preserve the Trade

Blog Post from theflourishforum.comThere is an interesting distinction between the senses in the ability to judge quality. Though tastes are vastly different, most people will know a good gourmet meal when they eat one or recognize an out-of-tune song when they hear it. But when it comes to the visual arts, there is a much wider, more subjective range, of what constitutes quality. We can see art but our thought processes and collective experiences combine to interpret the judgment of what we see.

With calligraphy, photography, and many other visual arts, there are two common things which make the business a little more vague: the ease of its accessibility in both producing and offering it as a business, and the seeming inability for many viewers to discern quality work. We can certainly look at some art and know instantly it is “good.” But there are many people who still scratch their head at artwork that hangs in galleries around the world which don’t really look like they took much skill but have broad appeal and are often highly valued. This can be seen in a variety of visual arts, including photography and calligraphy.

I have held a camera in my hand for about the same time I have held a calligraphy pen. Through high school and college, I spent hours in the darkroom developing my own prints and spent countless dollars on film and developing. Prior to launching my calligraphy business, I was already earning income as a photographer. I was one of the first calligraphers with a website and one of the first photographers in my area to “go digital.” The invention of the digital camera walked hand-in-hand with the rise of the internet. Thus a whole new group of people who didn’t have the desire, time, or money to learn the intricacies of a manual camera, developing film, and/or printing photographs could now become photographers.

What we saw with that was a huge range in the quality of work being produced. Those of us who had already been at it for years and knew the difference between an F-stop, ISO, and shutter speed thought, ‘they’ll never stay in business because they can’t offer the quality we can.’

Two interesting things happened. First, some people who had never picked up a camera before became amazing photographers producing some enviable work virtually over night. But second, and more so, we learned many customers could not or did not discern what made a quality portrait. We watched in earnest as our business dwindled as every mother with a camera opened up shop down the street. Fast forward fifteen years later and many good quality, professional photographers are now out of business. Sure, there is still a market for photographers and always will be, but it is a much smaller one as brides and grooms have friends take wedding photos with their phones, moms can now shoot their own children’s portraits with a digital camera, and most other school or major events are overwhelmed with amateur paparazzi.

Following a few years behind, and previously much more unknown, calligraphy is now experiencing a similar internet heyday as more and more enthusiasts pick up a pen. This is great in terms of the love of our craft and sharing that love with others, but perhaps not so good in terms of being able to make a living as a professional calligrapher. Apart from its accessibility, in comparison to other work-from-home trades, the practice of calligraphy takes very little supplies or money to get started. This makes it very appealing to the enormous group of young adults looking for ways to earn income in a challenging job market or while juggling the demands of raising children. And with the creation of “modern” calligraphy, nor is much time necessary in terms of learning the techniques either.

Like with any artist trade, there will always be varying levels of skill, talent, and experience. For the most part — of course there are always exceptions — time, money, and dedication spent on the craft will follow the adage of ‘you reap what you sow.’ However, as the past few years have shown us, with modern calligraphy, (as it was for photography) this isn’t always true. There are some extremely successful modern calligraphers who still make some more traditional scribes sit and scratch their head as they wonder why. (And kudos to them for whatever media, marketing brilliance, or sheer creative genius allowed them to use their skill successfully in a whole new way!)

Additionally, the internet has not only accelerated the spread of calligraphy but also made learning it easier. Over the decades previous to the world wide web, the exposure to calligraphy was few and far between, and instructional books and classes were minimal. Today, eager scribes-to-be can see literally thousands of examples and videos allowing a much swifter learning curve. I’ve watched in awe as some artists on Instagram have learned and perfected Engrosser’s script in just over a year; something that took me years to learn and two decades later I’m still trying to improve.

As we see the rapidly changing environment, easier-to-use nibs, a plethora of paper choices, and  accessibility to learning options, new people are picking up the pen daily. This is both exciting and frightening. It’s exciting to finally have people even know what calligraphy is, let alone share your passion for it. It’s scary because the market for calligraphy was small to begin with and we all know what happens to trends — they die a quick death after everyone becomes entirely sick of it. History has shown us traditional calligraphy will always stand the test of time. The question is, will modern calligraphy drag the entire art form down with it when (or if) it becomes passé.

It’s clear there is a calligraphy trend happening or more definitively, a new calligraphy era driven by modern styles. And with good reason. It’s energetic, fresh, and people resonate with its less formal appeal. It makes a once formidable looking craft in terms of learning, more approachable, just as digital cameras did for photography.

Since I love and practice both traditional and modern calligraphy, one of the things I desired to do with Flourish was bridge the gap between modern and traditional calligraphers. I believed us to all be the same in our love and pursuit of lettering. But as time goes forward, one distinction has become very clear. Whether they create more traditional styles like Copperplate, Gothic, or Italic, and/or other contemporary styles of pointed pen, generally traditional calligraphers study the craft, the history, the tools, multiple styles, and moreover, are dedicated students and stewards of the trade. Small industry circles equated to careful, thoughtful action within the community in terms of teaching or business. Many have spent decades learning and practicing before ever considering starting a business or teaching others.

Modern calligraphers are more apt to practice one style of their own pointed pen script, spend minimal time studying letter forms (as modern calligraphy has no one form), and feel ready to start a business or teach others soon after picking up a pen. Overall, I’m painting with a narrow brush and there can be exceptions to both, however, this has been my and others, general observations over the past few years. Not to say there aren’t those who are dedicated students or contemplative in regards to business, there definitely are. Thankfully, the craft of fine calligraphy will be carried forward by the growing segment of newcomers who bridged the gap by starting with modern calligraphy and then decided they wanted to go deeper and learn traditional styles.

The distinction though, also means something else; perhaps something more significant than just the sharing of a love of letters. The craft and trade of traditional calligraphy takes years, if not decades to learn, hone, and share. The basics of modern calligraphy can be learned in a couple of hours and in turn is often sold and taught in rapid succession.

So does it matter? Some would say no as we always need to adapt and change with the times, and like it or not, this is how it works in our world today. I would argue it matters a great deal. It isn’t about the differences between us, it’s about the quality of work we produce and share with others. It’s how what we do effects not just us, but an entire industry. As a calligrapher, I have always felt a great responsibility to do my best to help preserve the integrity of both the craft and the trade. I do not wish to drive a wedge between calligraphers and I would never discourage anyone from pursuing their dreams. Nor do I think one must study for years before deciding they want to start a calligraphy business.

However, I hope people will take an honest look at their work, solicit constructive and forthright feedback from other professionals, and ask themselves if they can offer a quality service and product which upholds the value of not just the market, but the trade as well.

I endeavor to continue to be a good steward so the practice and art of calligraphy will withstand the trend, be more about love of letters than love of money, and continue on as a meaningful expression of words. And I hope those who take up this craft, whether as a traditional or modern calligrapher, will do the same. While it may not matter to some, it will matter most to those who have made their living as a modern day scribe, those who have dedicated a lifetime to its study, and those who truly love not just the look of any given script, but the tradition and beauty of the craft itself.

Truly,

Erica

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New 2015 Sharing & Caring Exchanges Announced!

As the year draws to a close, I am relishing in all the new friends made, new knowledge gained, and pure joy Flourish forum members have spread throughout the globe.

It’s been equally as fun preparing for the new year ahead. I’ve updated the homepage with some new colors and a new look. And I’ve published our new Sharing & Caring Exchanges for 2015!

This year’s exchanges were a smashing success and members shared beautiful calligraphy all over the world. In total, we sent over 2,000 calligraphed envelopes and cards! Next year promises to be even bigger with lots of fun themes and opportunities to share our creativity and love for calligraphy.

You must be a member to participate so if you haven’t registered yet, sign up now. Our first exchange, the ever popular Valentine’s Exchange has just opened up for sign ups and our first ever Advanced Exchange, “Mimic a Master” has just opened up as well.

Wishing everyone a very happy New Year with much health, happiness, and success in 2015!

Flourish Forum Calligraphy Exchanges

 

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Fantastic Year at Flourish!

Hi Flourish Friends!

It’s hard to believe Flourish is now one year old! And what an amazing year it has been. We now have over 2,600 members and are growing daily. Our members are amazing. I am continually impressed with the gracious way in which everyone shares and cares here at Flourish, from welcoming new members, to helping with questions, to just being a friend. Calligraphers are the nicest people!

We’ve had a fabulous year with awesome tutorials and even better calligraphy exchanges. Every exchange is such a delight. We know getting beautiful mail is the best way to brighten someone’s day! Our holiday exchange was the largest to date with almost 100 participants! Next year’s exchanges look to be even better with some creative topics and fun ideas!

Now that the year is coming to a close, I hope to freshen up the place a bit in the very near future, so look for updates and additions soon. As always, I welcome any input for changes, improvements, etc. Just drop me an email or PM.

Lastly, if you haven’t ordered yet or you’d like to send a gift to a letter lover in your life, Dasherie Magazine is still shipping right up until the holidays!

Dasherie Magazine | Issue 2

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and I wish you all the best success, happiness, and good health in 2015!

Truly,
Erica

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UPPERCASE Magazine #23 – “The Calligraphy Issue”

This is one of those “pinch me” moments.

I am a HUGE fan of UPPERCASE Magazine which is published, edited, and designed by Janine Vangool. Janine is seriously a creative genius. Issue after issue is so incredibly inspiring and so full of creative content. It is really quite remarkable how one person can do all that she does and do it so well.

So you can imagine how excited I was to see Issue 23 was scheduled to be “The Calligraphy Issue.” But you can’t imagine how over the moon I was to be asked for a feature. I am incredibly humbled to be included among some of the calligraphers I most admire.

I highly recommend you purchase not just this issue, but a full subscription. And as a sweet deal to all you letter lovers out there, Janine has offered this fabulous discount. Use the discount code, “letterlove” for $15 off subscriptions until October 31st. You can purchase here.

Erica McPhee feature in UPPERCASE #23

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How far we’ve come!

Now that the video tutorials for pointed pen have wound down, I have been concentrating on bringing Dasherie Magazine to the calligraphy community. The first issue is overflowing with gorgeous calligraphy. If you love letters, this is a can’t miss issue. I will be posting more details about how to purchase the premiere issue very soon.

In the meantime, the wonderful thing about procrastinating now is that I can still be doing my job by procrastinating on the Flourish Forum! The forum has now welcomed over 1,300 members! And I would like to take the time to say thank you to all the wonderful letter lovers who have joined our community. This is an amazing group of generous and kind people and I am truly blessed to call you all friend.

Flourish has had 9,300 posts! We are welcoming almost 10 new members every day! Hooray! This surely demonstrates calligraphy is alive and well! With so many members and all the wonderful posts it is no longer possible for me to keep up and respond to every post. This is a good thing as this community is about all of you – not me! But I would like to let you know if you have posted and I haven’t responded it is solely because I haven’t had time to yet. I do hope to be able to continue reading every post even if I can’t respond.

I’ve been working on my Pangrams that Make Sense series. This is number 4 in the series. Having a 16 year old in the house, I came up with this ditty which still makes me giggle! The style is a pointed pen variation created by Mike Kecseg. Mike’s copperplate variations are really one of the forerunners to the contemporary/modern calligraphy movement. If you ever have an opportunity to take one of his classes I HIGHLY recommend it!

Pangrams that Make Sense, #4

Last but not least, thank you to all the fabulous members who continue to greet our newcomers by posting hello in the introduction board. Even if you just say a quick ‘hi and welcome’ it means a great deal to newcomers to feel recognized and welcomed by the group. And a very big thank you to all our “regulars” who are so kind and respond to questions and posts with enthusiasm.

Things are flourishing at Flourish!

Truly,

Erica

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Practicing with Precision

Hello Flourishing Friends!

For those of you interested in modern calligraphy, if you’ve been following along with our copperplate tutorials, you now have a general background with which to branch out into your own style. I hope this tutorial series has helped you understand how to use a pointed pen and the basics of learning copperplate.

For those looking to learn a more formal copperplate, I highly recommend Dr. Joseph Vitolo’s Script in the Copperplate Style ibook as well as IAMPETH for learning Copperplate a/k/a Engrosser’s Script.

For both groups looking to hone their skills, I have added a quick tutorial to our Pointed Pen Nirvana board about practicing with precision. This video outlines the next steps for studying a more formal copperplate, specifically how to square off the tops and bottoms of your letters. It also includes tips for paper, pen, and hand angles. It includes a detailed, slow motion, close up of how the nib creates the squared off tops and bottoms.

I hope you find it helpful. As always, you know where to find me!

Truly,
Erica

 

How to Practice Copperplate with Precision

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Capitals E thru H!

Hello,

Lesson 8 is a super quick video teaching capitals E, F, G, and H as well as spacing tips. It’s only about 4 minutes long but gives a few more letters to practice. You can never have enough practice of capital letters! I hope your calligraphy is coming along. Several members have posted their work for critique and received excellent feedback from our more experienced members.

If you aren’t a member, sign up, membership is free and is the only way to view the Pointed Pen Tutorials in the Pointed Pen Nirvana board! So click the “Enter the Forum” box, register, sign in, and learn calligraphy!

Truly,

Erica

Learning Capitals E, F, G, & H at the forum

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Happy Valentine’s Day

The day of love! I just want to take a minute to say thank you for all the wonderful members who have joined the forum and made it such a warm, sharing environment! This is really a fantastic group and we have already touched on so many topics. I look forward to our membership growing and flourishing. Just a few things our members are saying about the forum:

“Thank you for gathering such a positive, talented, and supportive bunch of people!”

“Your teaching style is so informative, patient, and warm. I can’t thank you enough for the time and effort it takes for you to put these tutorials together.”

“Thank you for your excellent lessons, your calm & lovely voice, and the amazing wealth of information that you’ve made available in the Forum.”

“Calligraphy and cats … is this heaven?!”

“This forum environment is amazing. You more experienced calligraphers really do want us newbies to succeed! Thank you!”

I think it’s kind of rare to have a forum like this that is so positive and full of good will. Everyone wants each other to succeed.”

Every post I read gets better and better for answering ALL the questions I once had! I feel like I’ve hit the jackpot and it’s all FREE?!! Cannot thank you enough and beyond humbled that you are SO GRACIOUS AND GENEROUS!!

Come for the supply tips…stay for the people.”

We have now welcomed over 600 members from all over the world:
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Canada
England
France
Germany
Philippines
Vienna
Singapore
Sweden
USA

I’d like to wish all our members a very Happy Valentine’s Day and simply say thank you for sharing your love of lettering!
Truly,

Erica

Valentine from the Flourish Forum

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Donut Sunday – Modern Calligraphy Exemplar

I can’t wait any longer. 🙂 I intended on sharing this exemplar and demonstration video for Valentine’s Day but I just finished my Valentines for the forum exchange and I’m excited to share. Plus, I decided some of you may want to use this new alphabet to create your own Valentines so this gives you a little head start.

This is really more of a demonstration and an exemplar hand out, than a tutorial. There were many requests for a full exemplar of a modern calligraphy style so hopefully this will help. It doesn’t stray too far from a traditional Copperplate so those of you who have been following along with the tutorials in the forum, should find it vaguely familiar.

While it is fun to play with different styles, I always recommend taking a class in person if you can with an experienced calligrapher. There is so much to learn from seeing it done in person and having someone there to give you instant feedback. It speeds the learning process immensely.

I have posted the video and the handouts in the Pointed Pen Nirvana board. This is a member’s only board but membership is free. So if you haven’t signed up, this is a great time to do it!

And Happy (early) Valentine’s Day!

Truly, Erica Donut Sunday Modern Calligraphy ExemplarModern Calligraphy Exemplar

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Virtual Calligraphy Christmas Card

I just want to take a minute to say thank you to all of the wonderful support for the forum. When I started this venture, I had no idea what to expect. There were a few rough spots, but overall, I am so happy I decided to jump in and launch the forum. I already feel like all of the work was well worth it and I have received back so many blessings in return. We have a wonderful group of calligraphers I am happy to call friends.

I am busy putting the finishing touches on the next pointed pen lessons. However, they probably will not be posted until after the holiday. Thank you for your patience. Clients and Christmas cards have taken precedent over the past two weeks.

So with that, I leave you with my virtual Christmas card. I’ve been practicing flourishing. I have a ways to go and maybe some day I may actually get this balanced but in the meantime, this is the best I can do! I’m sorry the video isn’t better quality but this took long enough!

To all who celebrate, a very Merry Christmas to you and may you have many blessings and much good fortune in the year ahead!

Truly,
Erica

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