Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Wed Letter Day

The letter "R" brought to you by all the rain that seeped into the basement this month. Turquoise watercolor with Dr. Ph Martin's gold and silver dropped in while the background was still wet. Reminds me of the rainbows sometimes seen in oil slicked puddles. The letter was done with water soluble pastels. Since the letter was finished around 1am while the last band of heavy rains wrapped around us, and I had nothing better to do,  I took the piece outside, stood in the rain catching raindrops. Glad it was pitch dark outside so no one would see I ain't got enough sense to get out of the rain. The rain made interesting spots on the letter and the colors ran a bit in the upper left hand corner.

Have you done any crazy things for your art? Writers, have you walked in a public place going over character dialogue out loud?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Wabi Sabi

Sometimes, the hardest thing about starting or working on a project is the worry or fear it won't turn out right. Each stroke must be perfect. The whole must be perfect.

While reading the Villari's Martial Arts fan page (Himself is a 3rd degree black belt), I came across the discussion of Wabi Sabi. Simplified, it's a Japanese philosophy that nothing is perfect. The imperfections are what make an object beautiful.

In the beginning of our training, calligraphers slavishly copy the exmplars of various hands. Hours and hours of trying to make each stroke of each letter perfect. And always that nagging little voice saying this letter is no good, that line is ugly.

I found the concept of Wabi Sabi to be freeing. There will always be the pursuit of perfection, perfect letter forms, but the imperfections in a piece will breathe life into it and show the growth of the artist as s/he develops his or her own, distinct style.


Friday, March 26, 2010

The Friday Five

Last week, I ranted about 5 things I don't like about Spring. This week, 5 things I do like.

1. What a delight to bite the ears off a chocolate bunny.

2. White chocolate.

3. It's not dark at 3:30 pm!

4. Can shed the heavy jacket, gloves, and boots (though I have a feeling there's one more snow storm lurking around the corner)

5. We can move into the sun room! All the pleasure of being outdoors without the black cloud swarms of May flies.

What do you like best about Spring?

Thursday, March 25, 2010


What can I say? I love bad puns. Stick ink, Nikko G, buttons, cotton ball

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wed Letter Day

Another go at the brush. This time a flat brush, walnut ink and while the ink was still wet, I dropped in some Dr. Ph Martin gold ink. The ink acts like a resist, and the shine gives the letter a diamond in the rough appearance.

So, do you say "aitch" or "haitch"?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Spring has sprung. The crocus has 'ris. I wonder when the next snow storm is?

Any signs of spring in your backyard? Any snow?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Work In Progress

Here's my rough draft. Can you find the mistake? What? You thought letters flowed from my pen in perfect form every time I sat down to work? I wish. Rarely, does a piece turn out on the first go. At least for me. Either I make a mistake (put my hand in the ink and smear the writing or spell a word incorrectly) or I'm just not happy with how it turned out and know I can do better. I may re-do a piece several times before everything falls into place, much like writing and editing a novel.

This piece won't go to waste. The back is still good. The paper will be cut up into small pieces to use as ATCs (2 " x 3" cards to be traded) or the 2 3/4" squares for the project A Letter A Week in 2010.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wed Letter Day

A few days late, the letter "z". This was written with a round brush and watercolor. I'm not adept at brush lettering as you need a very light touch. It's a very different feel from steel nib. Picked a letter that looked like it might be easier for me. Using the brush was like flying over the paper. Will have to give this a whirl again.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Friday Five

The Vernal Equinox occurs tomorrow. Though I'm anxious for the warm weather to arrive, five things I don't like about Spring.

1. Here in the Northeast, we don't seem to have many days where you can just wear a light sweater or jacket. Spring tends to be cold and wet. A lot like winter, but without all the snow. We seem to go from cold to hot without interim mild temps. (Though we've had an exception to the weather the past few days. Sunny with temps in the mid 60s. I've been spending the past couple of afternoons in the sun room. (-: )

2. Heavy rains that supersaturate the ground and flood the basement. We lucked out this past weekend and were able to keep up with a bit of seepage. Not many others especially close to Boston were so lucky. Your heart breaks to watch the news. Some people had 5 or 6 ft. of water in their basements. But for the grace of a sump pump go I.

3. Mud season

4. Potholes that swallow your car whole.

5. As the growing things begin to grow, pollen will become a bane of my existence. Even the non-drowsy allergy medications, knock me out.

Are there things about Spring you don't like?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Work In Progress

Art is a contact sport, and like any sport, it requires a warm-up period. I warm up by sharpening my pen. Think of cutting paper with scissors and after a bit, the scissors are dull. Same thing happens with steel nibs dragged across paper. To sharpen the nib, I can use an Arkansas stone (on the left) or a piece of crocus cloth. The stone is similar to a honing stone or whetstone for sharpening blades and is a very fine grit. The crocus cloth is a very fine grit sandpaper and can be used wet or dry. I like to lightly drag the pen up and down on the crocus cloth about a dozen times. Then dipping the pen in ink or plain water, I'll make a few "i" strokes.

I will test the sharpness of the pen by writing a few marks and letters on grid or scrap paper. This helps to warm muscles and also provides a center. For some reason, there's a bit of fear associated with making the first mark on paper. Maybe it has something to do with marring the pristine surface.

When you begin a project or a novel, are you worried by that first mark, stitch, or word?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stick Ink

So many commented on the ink stick. Before the convenience of bottled ink, ink was made by collecting soot from burning wood, bone, or oil. The soot was then mixed with a binder like rabbit or fish glue or shellac. The goop was then poured into a rectangular mold and allowed to harden. To use, the scribe or artist would grind the stick with a bit of water on a very smooth stone like slate. The resulting ink could be used with a brush for writing or painting. The stick was very portable and the scribe or artist could grind just enough ink to use for a particular project. In some of the monasteries in China, monkeys were taught how to grind the ink. After the stick is used it's dried and stored in a wooden box to prevent cracking.

Ink sticks come from China or Japan. The characters on the stick tell whether the stick was made from wood or oil and whether the stick is a high quality stick. Colored characters indicate whether the stick can be used for painting. The stick I have is a student grade ink stick. Was recommended by an instructor who said for the cost, it would deliver a good bang for the buck. It gives satisfactory results for both writing and painting.

Do you use an old tool for your work? Any of you writers banging out your novels on an Olivetti or Smith-Corona manual type writer? Do you write your manuscripts long hand with paper and pencil or ink?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Work In Progress

With layout and design decisions made, another consideration is writing fluid. There are many options. Any number of bottled inks, gouache (opaque watercolor and a favorite of lettering artists), bottled sumi ink, and stick ink. Each has pros and cons to use as well as personal preference.

For convenience, I mostly use bottled sumi ink when doing fine work. That and the fact that people generally want a poem or quote written out "yesterday." Since I have time, and this piece is for me, I'm opting to use stick ink which I will grind on a slate stone adding a drop or two of water as needed. When enough fluid has collected in the well, I'll use a pipette to transfer the ink to a small cap which fits neatly in knothole from an end cut from the log siding in the sunroom. The act of grinding ink has a meditative effect. The rhythm of grinding, the pleasant earthy smell of the ink help me to focus.

What things do you do to help you get "in the zone" before you begin working?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day!

Today is March 14. 3-14. Get it? Today is Pi Day. You remember Pi? 3.1417... The number that is the relationship of the diameter to the circumference of a circle?

On the menu here will be pizza and banana cream pie. Today is also Albert Einstein's birthday. So wish Herr Professor Alles Gute zum Geburtstag.

Have a geek celebration today. Have a piece of pie, or round food: pizza, doughnuts, cookies, M&Ms... You get the idea.

Happy Pi Day!

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Friday Five

Tomorrow, The Eldest leaves for her Spring Break trip. The tour is part of her college's Capitols Around the World. Each year, a group from the school travels to a world capitol. This year the destination is Rome. I'm both excited and nervous about her trip, her first steps outside her own back yard. Some thoughts I have about her trip

1. The deal for The Eldest to go was she had to pay for the trip from her job earnings. She had to take care of the cost of the tour and her spending money. She managed to come up with half of the cost of the tour. She was awarded a grant which paid for the remainder of the trip. I'm so proud she went after the grant and won the award.

2. There's an awful lot of free time on the trip. Time to explore the city. I'm worried. She's my first baby. I'm worried about her being in a foreign city where she doesn't speak the language.

3. More worries. It's a mom thing. I've been following the Roman weather. It's been in the 50s and rainy. Hope she'll be warm and dry. And she'll have enough money to pay for her meals and trinkets.

4. I've never been to Italy, homeland of my grandparents. I'm excited to think of the sights she'll see. The Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, a trip to Florence to see Michelangelo's David, shopping on the Ponte Vecchio, a side trip to Tuscany for lunch and a wine tasting in Torgiano, the ruins, the Trevi Fountain. I can't wait to see her pictures and hear about her trip. I hope she comes home with a lot of happy memories.

5. I'm jealous. Hopefully, she'll be able to see the inscription of Trajan's Column up close. These carved Roman capitals are the letters calligraphers/lettering artists aspire.
Have you worried about loosening the apron strings?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Work In Progress

A sheet of Diploma parchment, at least I think it's Diploma parchment, it feels like Diploma parchment and looks like it too, was cut down to 10 inch. square. The guide lines were laid out. The text lightly penciled in. The piece is ready to be inked.

I can see some raised eyebrows, hear a tisk of the tongue at lightly penciling in the text. Being lefthanded, I write over my own writing. Fact of life. So I must letter a few letters or words, be very patient, and let the ink dry thoroughly or I'll end up putting my hand in the wet ink and smearing the writing. Not a happy picture. Because of having to start and stop frequently, I can lose the rhythm. The pencil text helps me keep the rhythm so the piece looks like it was done in one sitting instead of piece meal.
I haven't penciled in the dragon illustration in the center of the circle. This in case I make a mistake while lettering the text. Rule of thumb, letter first and artwork last. It's easier to fudge a mistake in the artwork, but sometimes one mistake in the lettering and the entire piece will have to be done over. And that mistake always seems to happen on the last letter of the last line.

Oh, the Diploma parchment isn't that parchment paper you might find in craft stores. That stuff is nasty. Ink will just bead up on that paper. This is a beautiful weight paper with a creamy color. It takes both ink and gouache well. The paper got it's name because this was the paper diplomas were printed on a long time ago. At least that's the story I heard. I have no clue who the paper mill is. Just hope they don't discontinue this paper or change the formula.
How's your work in progress coming along? How do you keep the rhythm in what you're working on?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wed Letter Day

Week 10. Knotted letter with crow. I tried transferring a laser printer crow image using an iron, but the image looked more like a smudge of dirt. So, I just colored it in with Ziller's Glossy Black.

Last week's letter painted with gouache and Pearl Ex Interfence Gold. This is the test coloring for my work in progress. The shine of the gold doesn't show up on the scan.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Work In Progress

With the size and layout determined, time to think about the illustration for the inside of the circle. Taken from the book How to Draw Dragons and Other Mythical Creatures by Emmett Elvin, is my rough of his sleeping dragon. Still needs some work. I want the eye to look sleepy and half opened. At least this dragon isn't smiling. Color choices still remain. Most likely I will work in the traditional red, blue, green.

How's your work in progress coming along? What decisions are you making?

Monday, March 8, 2010

Pop Up Birthday Card

Lambie's birthday is at the end of this week. So I made a fun pop up card using some colorful scrapbook paper, ink, some cool dimensional colored markers from Elmer's and odds and ends to come up with this muppet like creature. Not sure of what to write for the inside sentiment. Maybe "Did someone say cake?"

Directions for the simple pop up can be found at children's book illustrator and pop up artist, Robert Sabuda

Need to get this in the mail before it becomes a belated birthday wish. What's on your to do list for today?

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Friday Five

By Twitter Buttons

I don't move fast in the morning. I like a leisurely pace to ease into my day. Not always possible when you're the shuttle pilot for kids going to school or driving Miss Daisy. Since Himself is on sabbatical this semester, and he gets up early enough to milk the chickens, The Little Princess can putter. Five things I do to start my day.

1. Boot up the computer.

2. While the computer is booting, I nuke a cup of tea, get The Young One up for school, see if there's things for lunch or dole out lunch money.

3. Back at the computer with cup of tea in hand, I go online to check the bank accounts.

4. Then a cruise by Twitter and Facebook because these sites enable the nosy (-;

5. While sipping tea, I like to read the blogs on my blog roll.

What's your morning routine like?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Work In Progress

Now that I've decided on a layout, I need to determine how big this piece will be. Since the cost of framing can be quite expensive, I try to work in standard sizes ( 8" x 10", 11" x 14", 16" x 20") Since I'm going with a round layout, the frame will end up being custom made. A square frame with a mat with a round hole in the middle.

Another factor to determine the size will be the hand or script used. I'm familiar with four classic, broad-edge hands. Italic. Standard go to hand. Easily read. (Look at Lucida Calligraphy in your computer fonts). Uncial (Un-shell (USA) or Un-see-ell (GB)) also called Celtic. Nice rounded shapes. Blackletter. Think Gothic. Closely spaced, angular letters. Would give a nice, medieval feel to the piece, but sometimes difficult for modern readers. Carolingian. What eventually became our lower-case letters. Copperplate which uses a pointed pen and what most people would recognize as cursive penmanship. There are also variations of hands and variations using different tools.

Since I want to write the quote in a circle, I think I would like the very rounded Uncial shapes. Uncial is generally written at 3 nib widths in height. Think of a screwdriver blade as a nib. If you have a large screwdriver, you'll end up with a large letter. And a tiny, jeweler's screwdriver will give you an itty bitty letter. Looking at my pens, I'm going to use a 2.5 mm Brause nib. At 3 nib widths high, this will give me a letter approximately 1/4 inch tall.

To figure out how big a circle I will need, need to write my quote out. I'll rule up a piece of scrap paper, pencil in the quote and then using pen and ink will write over the pencil lines. The pencil lines are a bit of a guide for me. One of the drawbacks about being lefthanded is writing across the writing line. If I'm not patient, I will put my hand in wet ink and smear the writing. So I have to write a few letters and wait for the ink to throughly dry. What happens is when I come back to writing, I have lost the rhythm that righthanders have because they write away from their writing.

With my quote written out, I'll measure the line. This will give me the circumference of the circle I will need. The length is 15 inches. This number divided by pi (3.14) will give me the diameter. Because I spent most of my time in math classes practicing my penmanship, I'll divide the line length by 3 to make the math easier. I will need a circle with a diamter of 5 inches. This is actually a tad larger than using pi, but the extra room will give me some wiggle room I may need. Add an extra 1/4" for the size of the writing.

With a 5 1/4 inch diameter circle, I'll want enough room outside the circle to leave enough space to mat the piece. Just to be safe, I'll work on a 10" square piece of paper. The piece can always be double matted if there is too much "air" between the outer edge and the mat. Any artists or framers out there with suggestions?
All this work, and I've yet to put pen to paper. How much preparation do you?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wed Letter Day

One of the great features about Blogger is being able to schedule your posts ahead of time. One of the downsides to this feature is when you forget to add your text and graphic as I did earlier because I didn't have the project done or ready. What a maroon! LOL

Week 9. To go along with the current work in progress theme. The letter D with a dragon's head. Copied from the cover of the book I'm using for reference. I just finished the illustration and haven't decided how to color it yet.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Work In Progress

Now that I have my quote, I need to decide what it will look like and where/how it will be used. Since I will be given a space to hang my artwork, this piece will be a framed work instead of making a small book, box or some other 3D piece.

I draw quick and dirty thumbnails of various ways to write out the quote. I don't need to write the quote out. Just a few lines and squiggles to indicate where things will go. This gives me an idea of what it will look like before going through the trouble of writing it out in pen and ink with the illustration. Thumbnails are a big time-saver. If I hate the layout at 2 inches big, I'm not going to love it any better when it's 10 inches big.

I can write the quote in a circle with the illustration in the center. Write the quote in a straight line or lines with the illustration above. Write the qoute in a curve above the illustration. Write the quote in a curve below the illustration. I can divide the quote into four sections and write each section along an edge of the paper with the illustration in the center. I can go on and on with possible layouts by tossing in how I will hold the paper: portrait or landscape.

The previous layout of this quote was done in a circle with the illustration in the center of the circle. This is the layout I like best and the one I'll use.
How do you go about planning your work?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Work In Progress

In June, the museum will be having their faculty art show. Time to get working on a piece to submit to the show. I thought I'd detail the steps that go into producing a piece. Might surprise some about all the prep work. First, the quote. "If you can't stand the heat, don't tickle the dragon." - Unknown.

I've done this quote before, and I had painted a dragon with it. The lettering on the quote was fine, but the dragon was meh. I had done the dragon with watercolor pencils and the drawing didn't stand out. The dragon also seemed to be smiling, a very happy smile. I find I have to be in a very good mood to produce work I like. Otherwise, my mood comes through my hands. The smiling dragon wasn't bad, I just wanted a dragon with a fiercer mien. I drew the dragon a couple of times, and each time I ended up with a smiling dragon.

To draw inspiration for my dragon illustration, I've been looking at a drawing my Young One drew and then enhanced using Paint Shop Pro X2. Her drawings are awesome, in my not so humble opinion. I've also been using a resource book of hers How to Draw Dragons and Other Mythical Creatures by Emmett Elvin.
Where do you draw inspiration from?