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Topics - Dries

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Show & Tell / Calligraphy and music
« on: August 24, 2018, 01:28:50 AM »
I was practicing flourishing while listening to Pavarotti singing "Nessun Dorma" – this was the result:

Show & Tell / Uninspired
« on: February 10, 2018, 01:15:26 PM »
I was trying to get inspired to write something, so I started with the word "Inspiration"and ended up with this:

Open Flourish | General Discussion / Digital calligraphy
« on: January 20, 2018, 03:32:38 AM »
It's quiet around here, so I thought I'd post something.

Does anybody else use a tablet for calligraphy practice? If so, what apps do you use?

I use Calligraphy Art for IOS on an iPad Air 2. I've been thinking of upgrading to an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, but its a little too pricey.

Introductions / It's been a while...
« on: January 13, 2018, 09:07:24 AM »
I haven't been active on the forum for quite some time, so I thought it would be proper to re-introduce myself: I am Dries from Pretoria, South Africa, and my interest in calligraphy started in my early twenties – I'm in my mid-fifties now.

The reason for my prolonged absence was a serious motorcycle accident a year and a half ago, in which I broke three vertebrae, several ribs and suffered a collapsed right lung and a little spinal chord damage. Over the past 18 months I've progressed from being paralyzed, through walking with a Zimmer frame and later a cane, to walking unsupported.

It took some time before I could sit for long enough to do calligraphy, but for the last month or two I have been able to spend several hours at a time practicing (albeit with a break every 40 minutes or so). I am extremely grateful for not not having to give up my favourite pass-time.

It is good so see that so many of the people I knew before are still here, and that there are so many "new"people who have joined since. I look forward to spending a lot of time on this forum again.

And yes, I am riding bikes again

Kind Critique / Experiment in acquiring a new hand
« on: June 19, 2016, 10:10:12 AM »

Rather than learning a new hand the usual way of copying from an exemplar, I've tried to "figure it out myself". Using only a short sample that contained a few different letters, I recreated the rest from memory based on work I had seen before. Where I couldn't, I postulated (based on those I have already figured out) what the letters should look like. Now, after working at it for a few days, I am satisfied with the minuscules and working on the capitals.

I am happy with the results, but have I actually achieved the aim of developing my own variation of an existing hand? You be the judge.

Excuse the inconsistency; I am still developing muscle memory for this hand. That aside, criticism and tips for improvement are most welcome.

Show & Tell / Display error message
« on: June 11, 2016, 03:06:15 AM »
When I turned on my computer yesterday, I got the following error message:

Guess you can tell that I found a way to keep busy while it was being fixed.  :)

Digital Design / More calligraffiti
« on: September 25, 2015, 01:53:40 AM »

A quick recap of the technique:
  • Get rid of the background by making white transparent
  • Find a suitable texture to use as a background.
  • Create a new layer for the lettering
  • Adjust the lettering layer's  transparency until it looks right.
  • Change the transparency type to "fractal" to get the uneven fade effect.

Open Flourish | General Discussion / On the endurance of skills
« on: August 10, 2015, 06:00:06 AM »
Recently, while calligraphically doodling on my iPad, it occurred to me how ironic it is that I would use a tablet computer that costs hundreds of dollars to simulate something that I could do on paper with a dip pen that would cost a few dollars at most.

It didn't take long before I realised that opposite was true as well: how wonderful it is that modern technology would not only allow me to practice an ancient skill, but also conceivably introduce the art of calligraphy to a wider audience.

I readily admit to being a technophile. I have great appreciation for the way in which technology has enabled and enhanced the revival of my long-lost interest in calligraphy, with the likes of this board, Pinterest and Instagram (to name but a few) giving me ready access to an international community of people who share my passion – something I didn't have in the isolated South Africa of the 1980s.

In her post "Sad state of affairs?" Erica said:

I was at one of my favorite places yesterday. Of course, I'm speaking of the post office. Three young teens (around 16 or so as one was a driver) came in behind me. The postal lady that helps people in line came over and asked if they needed help. One boy held out a form and said, "I need to send this piece of paper to NY. How do I do that?"

Call me old fashioned, but I think that is sad. I began writing letters to my grandparents and great aunt around 3rd grade. We corresponded for over three decades. I suppose email has replaced that these days. But there is nothing like digging out one of those old letters, seeing their handwriting, and reading a memory from a sunny summer day in Maine.

Yes, it is sad that writing letters has become another victim of progress, but many of these "old-fashioned" abilities have proven extremely resistant to modern technology. Calligraphy itself has survived the invention of the printing press, the desktop publishing revolution and the ubiquity of e-mail. Despite these "killer apps", calligraphy – like other age-old skills – continues to be enjoyed, appreciated and admired.

Perhaps we shouldn't be sad that some children today don't know how to read a clock or write and mail a letter – perhaps we should be happy that there are ways in which they, too, can tell time or communicate with others.

And along with that, we can celebrate the fact that there will always be the few who are capable and passionate enough to ensure that craftmanship will continue to endure.

Digital Design / The writing is on the wall
« on: July 02, 2015, 05:54:03 AM »

This originally started as a black-on-white piece I did simply because I liked the contrast between the formality of the letters and the "street"-ness of the wording. When it was done, I thought it would look a lot better on a wall. Since I'm not the sort to go around tagging walls, I opted to do it digitally.

Here's how I did it:
  • I used a vector app called Xara, but the same basic steps should work in Photoshop or Illustrator as well.
  • First I got rid of the background by making white transparent
  • Then I changed the colour of the letters to dark red.
  • I found a suitable wall texture to use as a background.
  • I then created a new layer, on which I placed the lettering.
  • I adjusted the lettering's  transparency until it looked right.
  • Lastly, I changed the transparency type to "fractal" to get the uneven fade effect.

Show & Tell / Inspired by music
« on: June 07, 2015, 07:45:15 AM »

Up to now I have been hesitant to post my own work because the standard of work on this forum is so high. However, I am quite happy with how this came out, especially since it was a spur-of-the-moment doodle while listening to music.

The image is from

Digital Design / Review: Calligraphy Art for iOS
« on: June 03, 2015, 08:12:31 AM »

The term “digital calligraphy” seems to have become more applicable to creative typesetting of decorative fonts than skilful hand lettering, but it is actually possible to come close to traditional calligraphy using a tablet computer and a stylus. In this review, I am looking at Calligraphy Art for iOS, and app that is remarkably good within the limits imposed by not using an actual pen. A complete review of the app would result in a very long article, so I will limit myself to the most important features.

On opening the app, you are briefly presented with the splash screen before going into the main menu:

The majority of the icons take you to practice pages where you can learn and practice the different hands, complete with applicable ruling. The example below shows the practice page for what the developers call “Foundational Italic”.

Tapping the left-most icon on this page takes you back to the main menu. However, there are actually
additional lessons, which you can access by tapping on the right-most icon.

For me, the most useful feature is the “free-writing” page accessed via the left icon in the bottom row. This presents you with a 1024 X 768 pixel “digital practice sheet”. You can change both the background texture and the width of the guidelines in this view. The screenshot below also shows the pen nib selection menu.

From left to right, the icons along the top of the screen have the following functions:
  • main menu
  • nib size (I assume in pixels)
  • nib angle
  • flat nib type
  • round nib
  • brush type
  • eraser
  • cut-and-move tool (allows you to move a selected are to a different position, resize it, flip it or copy it).
  • background and grid selection (it is possible to import your own backgrounds)
  • decoration (flourish) selection (again possible to import your own)
  • undo
  • “ink” colour
  • redo
  • options and settings
  • “ink” textures and effects
Among the nib types, there is something almost like a copperplate nib (bottom row, right; I think the developers call it a flourish nib). This I've found to be counter-intuitive, because quick movements create a thicker line and slow movements a thinner one. I would have preferred it to work the other way around.

And that’s about that – you select your pen (or brush), its width and angle and you write away. The “ink” and the backgrounds are treated as separate layers, so erasing the “ink” doesn’t affect the background, and changing the background doesn’t affect the “ink”. On the downside, the app is a little aggressive with the anti-aliasing of some pen types which results in a lack of sharpness. However, it saves your work as a standard .png file, so it is possible to sharpen it in an image-editing app.

The image below shows a quote I wrote using the default background, which I changed to an image of a scroll before saving my work.

Unfortunately it is not possible to change the defaults, so if you prefer a different background or nib, you have to change it manually each time you open the app.

The app is inexpensive, costing less than a decent fountain pen, but worth every cent of the price in my opinion. I credit Calligraphy Art not only with rekindling my interest in calligraphy, but also with allowing me to practice, experiment with layouts and design flourishes with the benefit of being able to undo and erase with ease.

If anybody else has experience with this or other calligraphy apps, I would love to hear about it.

Coffee & Nib-bles / Thank you very phonetic
« on: June 02, 2015, 02:36:00 PM »
I just had an amusing thought: rendering various languages' versions of the term "thank you very much" phonetically in English. To start, here are my attempts – please feel free to add:

  • Afrikaans: Buy a donkey (baie dankie)
  • German: Feelin' dunk (vielen Dank) or Dunk a shin (danke schön)
  • Spanish: Moo chows grass yes (muchas gracias)
  • Dutch: Dunk yer Val (dank je wel)
Any takers?

Open Flourish | General Discussion / With Iron Resolve
« on: November 25, 2014, 01:16:03 PM »
"Absolutely not," I said. "Out of the question – get someone else."
"But it's not that many," she replied. "And we'll pay you the same we pay our usual calligrapher."
"How many?" I asked, despite myself. "Not that it matters – I'm not doing it."
"I'm not sure; I'll have to check," she said. "But it will be easy – it only a name and the date on each certificate."

Easy. Yeah, right. And by easy you mean using actual pen and ink, something I have done very little of over the past three decades. By easy you mean finding time in an already tight schedule, perhaps moving some prior commitment. By easy you mean pouring my very soul onto the paper, leaving it open and vulnerable for all see and, who knows, perhaps even sneer at.

When I took up calligraphy again after my almost-thirty-years break, I promised myself that this time I was doing it for myself, for my own pleasure and nothing else. I would write when I felt like it, and put my pens aside when I felt like it. No clients, no deadlines, no pressure – just my own enjoyment.

It was this selfish resolve that was now surfacing. I refused. No arguments, no appeal, no begging could sway me. I was not going to do it, and that – as far as I was concerned – was that. I would not capitulate, I would not reconsider, and I would give the request nothing but the disdain it deserved. I was that determined.

But I wrote them anyway.

Introductions / Hello from South Africa
« on: November 17, 2014, 02:40:50 PM »
Hi  there

I look forward to sharing my passion with like-minded people.

A few words about my background: I started teaching myself calligraphy in my early twenties, but because my priorities changed after I got married, I spent less and less time practicing until I stopped altogether. Fast-forward a quarter of a century, to when I discovered the iPad app Calligraphy Art (more about this in a future post). I promptly bought it, and it rekindled my interest to the point that I went out and bought new pens to replace my now long-lost original ones. In the immortal words of Arnie: "I am back".

How I discovered this forum: I used to own a copy of the Speedball Text Book (from which I learned most of the hands I can write). I decided to try to determine which edition, and after some searching and correlating dates, I came to the conclusion that it was the 21st edition. An image search led me to a post in this forum, with the result that (with due apologies to Julius Ceasar) – Veni, Vidi, and I decided to stick around.

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