Friday, March 13, 2009


My friend, Erica, an author and I have had several conversations comparing writing a novel to calligraphy and art. The latest conversation had to do with preparation. Many people are under the delusion that it doesn't take much planning to write a book. One just sits down and belts it out. That misconception certainly applies to calligraphy. Nothing to it. Just take your pen out and voilá.

Visit Erica at On the Write Path and read Confessions of a Reformed Writer to see what she does to bring her stories to life.

Planning, plotting, writing, editing, tweaking, fine tuning...writing a novel or creating art, the process is surprisingly similar.

I've received a commission for a tattoo design. So with Frauee's kind permission, I'll go through some of the steps I've gone through with her design.

First, there was a conversation about what she had in mind. She wanted "hope". I told her the traditional symbol for hope was an anchor and the color is green. Nope, didn't care for that concept. Frauee did a search and came up with "hope" found at Zibu Angelic Symbol It's a nice design and would lend itself to a flourish and the artist, Debbie Z. Almstedt graciously allows people to use her designs.

Next, how big? She thought 1" x 2" would be a good size.

Then Frauee decided since German is such a large part of her life, "hope" should be in German. Ok, what's the word? "Hoffnung" Yup, nice short word to fit into a 1" x 2" space. (-; She thought maybe there was an abbreviation for the word, but there wasn't one. Keine probleme. No problem.

I began thinking about the flourish and some things I could do with it. I sketched out some ideas and the Young One gave me some other symbols of hope: a candle, a shooting star, a butterfly, and an acorn. Thank you, Young One for bouncing ideas around. Your concepts were clever and amazing. I made a list of the things we talked about so I wouldn't forget.

Today, I worked on layout and design. Did a bunch of roughs to size. First, doing pencil sketches and then inking over. I added color to a couple of them just for an idea though color will be up to Frauee and the tattoo artist.

Some people view what I do as "just playing" meaning not real work. Though I sometimes refer to what I do as play because I enjoy my work, it's still work, and it takes time, a very valuable commodity. So far, I've spent a total of 6 hours on the project, and I don't have a finished piece yet. (Seven hours if you count blogging about it (-; )
I'm painfully out of practice with my Blackletter, but other than that, I'm pleased with the results. I love my job especially when working on an interesting project and working for a delightful patron.
Frauee, watch your snail mail for a hard copy of the designs. Let me know what you decide and then I'll work up a finished piece to bring to the tattoo artist.


  1. Dang, now I'm feeling guilty that you're putting so much time into this. I suppose it helps (me)that you consider it 'play.' And just think, your work will be forever a part of me.

    The horrible part? I've got several in consideration. It was supposed to be easier. Thankfully, I have time to decide what will adorn my skin for the rest of my life, right?

    I for one, am VERY GRATEFUL, there is a process behind the creation! Any teacher will tell you it improves the outcome.

  2. Don't feel guilty, Frauee. I wouldn't be happy just slapping something together. I take lots of pride in what I do from envelopes to commissions. When you show off that puppy, I want you to say CJ did this. Isn't it gorgeous? :-D

  3. All art takes preparation, training, talent and desire to make it the best it can be.

    I envy your ability with a pen...but not enough to work on my penmanship. :) That would be too hard and take too much discipline. I'd rather write novels.