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Topics - Ergative

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Show & Tell / Some feather flourishes
« on: April 10, 2017, 02:47:17 AM »
Just learning. I like the one in the bottom right best; it seems to turn out the most reliably good. Also, some Robby Burns, because his words seem to resonate more these days with me.

Well, illumination, to be precise. I just had the pleasure of finishing J. V. Jones's The Barbed Coil, in which a young woman with an eye for patterns is pulled into a swords-and-sorcery fantasy world where her abilities mean that she is able to make magnificent carpet pages of the sort seen in the Lindisfarne Gospels, and by following the knotwork and patterns, magic happens. It is not as well-built a magic system as Triad (by Terry McGarry, which I've also recommended here on FF), but the craft of illumination is much more realistic. The author is either a calligrapher herself or has done a great deal of research. We learn about the preparation of quills, pigments, hides, gesso, how scribes copied patterns from one manuscript to another (which turns out to be a key plot point: how one secret carpet page pattern got smuggled out of a monastery, and the steps that were taken to prevent it), and, which I particularly liked, the nature of the magic allows for the fact that creating illuminations takes a great deal of time, and unfolds over hours.

It's not all lapis lazuli and glair, however. Like most swords and sorcery books, it is brutal and bloody and violent, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone younger than, say, 12. (If I were a parent, I'd probably say no one younger than 15, but I remember what I liked reading when I was a youngster, and I think a 12-year-old could handle it). But if you like swords and sorcery, and calligraphy, which I do, it's a great book, and I will most definitely be reading more by this author.

Show & Tell / French Batarde written with a quill
« on: April 09, 2016, 07:17:42 PM »
One of my first loves of broad nibbed calligraphy was the cursive gothic scripts that proliferated during the 13-15th centuries. David Harris's book THe Art of Calligraphy has a really nice set of pages describing the differences between Bastard Secretary, an English version, and Batarde, a French version. I always quite liked the Batarde, although I was never particularly good at it (except for a brief period of a few months back in college when, shockingly, I worked hard at it and got better). The Bastard Secretary seemed to flow more naturally from my nib, while the Batarde seemed to require a certain command of hairlines that I never could get good at. Harris recommended using a quill for better expressiveness, and last summer I collected from a California beach quite a lot of seagull quills, which seemed big and sturdy. I've been hacking at them with an Exacto knife recently, and today I managed to get a nib on one that seemed to work well, especially when paired with a William Mitchell nib reservoir. Below is my attempt at Batarde.

Please note: the following post reads a lot like a publisher's blurb, but that's because I enjoyed the book I'm about to describe so much that I can't say enough good things about it. I have no affiliation in any way to the book I'm about to describe, and I am posting about it here because I hope to share it with like-minded calligraphers.

I have just had the pleasure of reading one of best fantasy novels I've come across in quite a long time.* It is called Illumination, by Terry McGarry, and the magic system of the world works through creating illuminated manuscripts. Mages work in threes: there's a wordsmith, who does the lettering, an illuminator, and a binder, who is responsible for preparing all the materials (slaughtering animals, creating vellum, cutting quills, mixing pigments). To cast magic, they create a magnificent manuscript, which then disappears as the spell takes hold. The plot is driven by a renegade mage, who is performing sacrilege by creating manuscripts which do not evaporate, but persist! Of course, everything turns out to be much more complicated than that, but the story develops so nicely that I hesitate to say anything more for fear of revealing the various surprises.

It is a wonderful, rich, well-told story, created by someone who truly loves illuminated manuscripts, (even if she fudges a bit with the amount of time it takes to create one). I highly recommend it to anyone who needs to rest sore fingers, and I'm going to treat myself to buying the two sequels as soon as the semester is over.

Has anyone else read this book, or other books in which calligraphy or illuminated manuscripts play a large role?

*Barring Brandon Sanderson, of course.

Click the book to see on Amazon:

Kind Critique / Italic practice
« on: April 12, 2015, 10:34:02 PM »
Ever since I got Salman's exquisite card in the Broad Pen exchange, I've been inspired to work on my Italic. I've been massively busy in a really dismal chore that finally came to an unsatisfying end last week, so I now have the time to return to my calligraphy, which is a much more satisfying way to spend my time. Below are some photos of my Italic, and I'd be very grateful for suggestions on how to improve it. Here is some self-critique:

1. I really need to work on keeping a constant pen angle.The Brause nibs give gorgeous thickness contrast, and I'd love to be able to control it better.
2. Interletter spacing. Always.I'm developing a sense of rhythm, but I'm still not quite sure how to fit in the letters like x, z, and y, which don't have the same relationship to the line slant as the others.
3. Figuring out the right balance between pointy-wedge, pure oval, and rounded rectangle in the a/d/g/b/p/o series. I love it when they're done right, but I haven't got the feel yet.

What else should I work on?

Show & Tell / Another Jane Austen spiral
« on: December 19, 2014, 10:03:19 PM »
The flourishing in the middle shows how far I have to go, but overall I'm pleased at how well it turned out. My sister, who has the drawing ability, is going to illustrate it with period-appropriate silhouettes of women in dresses and men in top hats and horses and carriages and so on. It's going to be my mother's Christmas present. I'll post a picture of it when it's complete, but for now my part is finished. (Yes, I know I forgot the "e" in "large." I'll squeeze it in later.)

Show & Tell / Jane Austen in a spiral
« on: August 23, 2014, 09:32:09 PM »
I have embarked upon a project to copy out the first lines of all Jane Austen novels in Copperplate spirals. Ideally they will be surrounded and ornamented by flourishes, with the name of the book exquisitely decorated in the center. Until I learn flourishes and decorations, however, I will focus on learning how to do the spirals. Here is the first sentence of Emma. You can see that I learned the hard way that you sometimes get around to the start of the circle before the previous round has fully dried!

Show & Tell / White-and-gold on black cards
« on: August 01, 2014, 01:04:28 AM »
Here are some cards I made with white gouache and gold sparkly ink. I figured I'd make up for my still-fragile copperplate skills by adding lots of glitz and a really pretty knotwork border. (You can see that I figured out between the first and second card that I should center the name in the box.)

Hi! This is local to my parents-in-law, and they've agreed to put me up for the week while I attend! Does anyone know anything about the Passionate Pen calligraphy conference in summer 2015?

Registration just opened today, and maybe it's a bit too early for them to have selected teachers for the workshops yet, but I'm curious to know more about what, exactly, I'm registering for.

Show & Tell / Cave Dwellers, by Al Poulin Jr.
« on: July 24, 2014, 12:03:35 AM »
 All throughout my adolescence my mother would type up poems she came across that she liked and post them on the kitchen cabinets. I have a whole folder of my favorites in my desk drawer, and here's one of them that I copied out this evening. I made a few errors (due to listening to my husband read aloud from Tales of Beedle the Bard), but I didn't feel like breaking the flow. The script is a Caroline Minuscule, and the inks are gouache, mixed to blend from grey to blue to green.  The color really doesn't come out at night, but I'll update with a picture taken in natural light tomorrow morning. (The spacing is a lot better than it looks in the first picture. The angle and the wave of the paper makes the lines look wobbly, but they aren't. I need to get a scanner!)

Here is the text:

Cave Dwellers

Iíve carved a cave in the mountainside.
Iíve drilled for water, stocked provisions
to last a lifetime. The walls are smooth.
We can live here, love, safe from elements.
Weíll invent another love that canít destroy.
Weíll make exquisite reproductions of our
selves, immortal on these walls.

                                                 And when
this sea that canít support us is burned clean,
when the first new creatures crawl from it,
gasping for water, air, more wondrous and more
wild than earthís first couple, they shall see
there were two before them: you and me.

-Al Poulin

Kind Critique / What else? Feedback, please!
« on: July 18, 2014, 01:06:34 PM »
Greetings! Here is a practice sheet I finished yesterday. As you can see, I'm working on W, V, Z, and H capitals. The x-height line is 1/2 centimeter, and the slant is 55 degrees (I used a protractor!)

Self criticism:
1. I'm having difficulty with lowercase f and p: I love the look of them, but I can't keep the long downstroke consistent, and with f that little cross-stroke never seems to fit between the main downstroke and the hairline connector to the preceding letter (see "Waffle" at the end of the eight line).
2. I'm having difficulty figuring out where to start the downstrokes of the ascenders on letters so that they hit the minim line at the right spot to connect up with the preceding strokes.
3. I believe I have a tendency toward broader letters than in my exemplar, and possibly my shades are bit thick for the writing size.
4. Oh, those squared-off strokes!

That's what I'm working on. Is it accurate? What else should I work on?

Introductions / Greetings from Berkeley
« on: July 18, 2014, 12:52:12 PM »
Hello! I've been learning Roundhand for about two weeks now. I've done broad-edged calligraphy since middle school, but I'm having a blast learning this completely new thing, whose technique bears approximately zero relation to the broad-edged stuff.  From a slightly perverse desire to be old school, I've been working from E. A. Lupfer's old lessons (posted on IAMPETH here), and I'm very happy to have found you, along with the various instructions on how exactly the different strokes fit together, which are supposed to be up-strokes and which down-strokes, and recommendations for pen and paper. Lupfer might have been a legend, but he doesn't give much guidance on ductus.

 I started out with a crow quill, which I utterly destroyed, and then moved on to a couple of Gillott 303's, which I bought over ten years ago the first time I decided to start playing around with this. They certainly live up to what I now read to be the primary objection --- namely, the scratchiness --- but the shading is beautiful, and if I pay careful attention on the upstrokes I can usually avoid terrible catches. I've been using a recycled drawing paper from the local art store. It's not great, but it takes the ink nicely (without feathering and bleeding, the way printer paper does), and since I have limited desk space I figure I'll use that up before I move onto the fabled Rhodia 80gsm that I've seen recommended so often. I started out using Higgins Eternal ink (which I bought for the broad-edged work), and now I'm adding a few drops of gum arabic to it. I think I'm not really experienced enough to tell the difference, but that will come!

New playing around will include different inks -- either gouache or some beautiful fountain pen inks thickened with gum arabic. I might also try to get a few other nibs to play with, like the Nikko G or the Principal. (I also have a Hunt 101 that I bought ages ago with my 303s, but it's not holding ink so well and keeps dumping huge blobs on the paper. I don't know if that's a problem with my nib, or me, or my ink. I'll try it with the gum arabic solution to see if that helps.)

I'm really pleased to be a member of this community! I'm going to head over to the Kind Critique thread to get some advice on further improvement!

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