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Topics - Matthew H.

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Open Flourish | General Discussion / Coping with perfectionism
« on: October 09, 2023, 09:49:26 AM »
Ö I'll confess, this is a slightly tricky topic for me. Iím a recovering perfectionist (although, some days, I wonder if Iím still closer to the latter than the former). Iíd also love to become a professional calligrapher some day. Perhaps my greatest worry about making that leap, though, is knowing when and how far to reign in my perfectionistic tendencies.

As much as I'd like to pretend otherwise, the precision calligraphy requires is one of the things I enjoy most about it. (Well, maybe not on those days when itís all going wrong!) But I'm mindful that professional calligraphy involves more than just writing (hopefully ;D) beautiful letters, but also things like handing in work on time and working within a budget.

And so I wondered Ė do you struggle with perfectionism, and if so, how do you cope with it? What do you consider realistic to aim for in your work? If you were, say, three-quarters through a long piece of prose when Ė horror! Ė you included a bad space or a shaky stroke, would you begin again? What would be your threshold for rewriting something shorter like a place card?

More than anything, I think Iím just hoping to understand whatís realistic and, maybe more importantly, whatís sensible.

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Open Flourish | General Discussion / Illumination with PVA
« on: January 25, 2023, 03:39:24 PM »
I've been desperate to try illumination since Ė well, since I began learning calligraphy, really! Over the Christmas break, I thought I'd finally give it a go. I'm working mostly from Timothy Noad and Patricia Seligman's The Illuminated Alphabet. The trouble is, I've run into a problem I haven't seen mentioned before and can't seem to solve.

I'd love to use gesso but I'm faintly terrified of using something with such high lead content. I knew I'd therefore have to content myself with a mix of PVA and water.

The book advises that the PVA is brushed around the edge of the shape before the centre is filled by 'spooning' the PVA into it. But a valley almost always develops Ė usually in the second or third layer Ė somewhere as it dries. As you might imagine, applying gold leaf doesn't exactly make it inconspicuousÖ

The groove seems to form where the PVA has sat drying the longest. I've found that if I can use a thinner layer of PVA (though still deep enough that it forms a smooth pool), I can usually eliminate the ridge. But it seems that for certain shapes, there's almost always a line or dimple that appears at some point. I've attached two photos that hopefully show what's happening. (Please forgive the questionable sketches Ė I've been quickly drawing shape after shape to test out different things.)

I would be incredibly grateful if anyone with experience of gilding with PVA might have any advice, please? I've experimented with increasing the PVA content (from 50:50 to 60:40) and using a watercolour block to avoid cockling, but neither made a difference, unfortunately. I live in a cold and mostly wet corner of the UK Ė could the slow drying at this time of year perhaps be playing a part?

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Open Flourish | General Discussion / Gouache opacity
« on: August 10, 2021, 11:49:13 AM »
In May, I began working on a birthday card for my mum. Iíd hoped to include some calligraphy on the front and was aiming to write in a pastel pink. Iíd bought some gouache a few months previously and thought that this would be the ideal time to use it.

I fear I now have a few more wrinkles and a couple more grey hairs than I did before.

Seemingly no matter what I've tried Ė and I really have tried! Ė I canít seem to get the gouache opaque enough. My pencils lines remain stubbornly visible beneath the paint. The list of things Iíve experimented with is a long one, but Iíll try to run as quickly as I can through everything I can remember: Iíve made the consistency only just runny enough to flow from the nib, used a 4H rather than HB pencil (and as lightly as possible) for the guidelines, used Winsor & Newton rather than Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache, and switched Zinc White for Permanent White. Iíve also tried lowering my deskís angle from 45 degrees, writing both with and without a reservoir attached, using Leonardt instead of Mitchell nibs, and even using tap rather than distilled water Ė it seemed a long shot, but at this point, Iím willing to try anything!

The problem isnít only occurring when I mix paints to a lighter shade. Iím having the same problem with more saturated or deeper paints straight out of the tube. Itís particularly confusing because each of the paints Iím using is listed on the W&N website as opaque.

Iíve attached an image of a letter written with some gouache I mixed up recently. Itís Winsor & Newton Permanent White with a small amount of Cadmium-Free Scarlet added (which ended up more of a coral than a pink). Strangely, if I ignore the pencil guidelines that are showing through, the paint otherwise appears opaque.

I wondered if this is simply the nature of gouache and Iím looking too closely, or if Ė as I imagine is the case! Ė thereís something Iím doing wrong? I would be hugely grateful for any advice you may be able to offer, please.

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Introductions / Hello
« on: August 08, 2021, 11:29:18 AM »
Hello everyone,

Iím Matthew and I live near Manchester in the UK.

I first came across calligraphy as a child. At school, weíd been asked to complete a project on the Tudors, and I think it was my mum who suggested that I try learning calligraphy to decorate my work. My parents bought me a Parker calligraphy fountain pen set and I tried to teach myself using the instruction booklet included with the set. So began a lifelong love of blackletter! I canít recall following the stroke-order diagrams, and Iím not sure that I even learnt all of the letters, but it was something that I loved doing.

Over the years, Iíd occasionally find my calligraphy pen, spend a happy half hour trying it out again, and then, inexplicably, forget all about it.

In 2019, I was going through a difficult period and wasnít able to take part in my usual hobbies. Although I wouldnít want to repeat that time, I canít help but be grateful for it in some ways: it forced me to look at what else I could do. I realised that I had the perfect opportunity to learn calligraphy again Ė and properly this time. Since then, Iíve been taking correspondence courses with a wonderful teacher. Itís made me happier than I could have imagined. (And, though I perhaps shouldnít admit this, itís allowed me to indulge my love of stationery a little, too. My favourite part of any school year was choosing new pens and pencils each September.)

Iíve now learnt the basics of uncial and am currently working on italic. Iíve enjoyed exploring modern calligraphy, too. And I hope I might one day make it back to blackletter Ė and that Iíll learn to follow the stroke-order diagrams this time!

Thank you for having me on the forum. Iím excited to be a member and look forward to getting to know everyone.

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