Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Adventure with Isabey and Strathmore

I have a natural curiosity when it comes to art supplies. This has cost me dearly. I have invested way too much money in supplies that have not been suitable for my purposes. But sometimes my curiosity works out well! I invested in some Strathmore 400 Series Drawing Paper for sketching but quickly became impressed with its capabilities for ink. It is smooth 80 lb. paper and recommended for dry media.
I have not yet used this drawing pad for my sketches, but I did try my pen practice on it and I was pleasantly surprised. It reacts beautifully to both the pointed and the edge pen.
I can practice with walnut ink on this paper and it does not bleed. I loved the warmth of the cream colour so I tried small gilding experiments and it came through beautifully. I use miniatum ink on this paper without it buckling. Beyond that, it will take watercolour, pastel and coloured pencil. This past week I put it through a strength test with a very ornate piece. I applied mulitple washes of watercolour and detailed inking.
The paper did not buckle. I use a moist brush technique rather than a wet brush which worked perfectly on this paper. I even tried correcting work with a tiny bit of sand paper and pumice powder and the paper did not bruise. However, a heavier application of the sandpaper would likely erode the paper completely. This is extremely lightweight paper. I wish it was just a bit heavier, but it serves its purpose for me when I want a creamy coloured background. I was previously using Somerset Satin Paper for this purpose but it had its own challenges! I will continue to look for the perfect weight and texture of cream paper, but I remin impressed with the Strathmore Drawing 400 Series. My big surprise was the purchase of an Isabey Retouching Kolinskly Sable brush.
This winter I noticed that I needed to replace some of my tired brushes and started shopping online. I have never had to buy a sable brush online before. I prefer to see the brush before I purchase it. But sable brushes and art stores are scarce in my area now! I had seen an Isabey brush at the Dick Blick in Philadelphia and I have been regretting not purchasing it ever since! I ordered a size 4 retouching brush throug DeSerres in Canada and had to wait weeks for them to locate it. I was initially disapointed in the size of it. This brush is far bigger than any I use for miniature painting, so I gave it a cozy home until I finally tried it this week. What an awakening!! I am in awe of this brush. It has a tip that is fine and pointed enough for me to do precise lining and detail work. But the shape of the brush allows for incredible pigment and moisture storage. I could go on and on with a single loading of this brush and it was giving me more precision than my Raphael pointed round brushes. I have a new treasure in the studio!!! This little brush is worth the price. Yesterday I ordered the size 0 and size 2 to add to my collection. I will let you know how they work out. I think I have found the perfect brush..at least for my method of application on miniature work.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

A Hybridized Script

Early on in my penmanship journey I was instructed to have my Spencerian Script conform to someone else's style. I tried hard to do that and for years I tried to conform my writing to that of A.D.Taylor or Daniel Ames. They both have tighter spacing and slightly rounded turns in their script. But in my mind, I always wondered if this Spencerian is handwriting..why am I trying to copy someone else's script? I know others have the same question as I get lots of email inquries with similar thoughts. Somewhere along the line, I added English Roundhand into my studies. The forms of George Bickham were so appealing to me. I loved his freedom, I loved his expression. Now, when I work on a piece that is to be my signature script...it is neither Roundhand or Spencerian but a blend of both.
It does not conform to the style of anyone else. It truly is handwriting. It retains the nuances of my own style while being subtly influence by Spencer, Bickham, Ames and Taylor. If there are Spencerian Police or Roundhand Police both would have warrants for me. But this is the script that flows from my hand naturally without conforming to any system. It evolves daily. It is a picture of the rhythm of my writing. I am sure it will look different in future years. I encourage my students to practice daily, work on being consistent in slant and texture throughout the page, bear the shapes of the letters in mind...and Write. See what happens.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Pens...Pens and More Pens

Creating custom pen holders was something that Chris and I were doing to take care of students in my classes. But we have been overwhelmed with requests for special painted designs and colour combinations. I love the ideas that have been coming from the customers. The designs are stretching me. We currently have a 12-15 week waiting list to get the pens done and shipped. Hoping to bring some to IAMPETH this year as well. Here are a few recent pens. I love the bunny pen!!!
It was created after I posted an Easter illuminated design. I will probably make one for myself in the future. Chris turned the pen out of Holly and it is a dream to work with.
The Pink Princess pen is done on Canadian Curly maple.
This Cyclamen pink pen is also done on Canadian Curly maple and embellished with offhand flourishing. Having fun with these designs.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Haven is Ready

Winter has given up and the outdoor studio is set up and ready for work!
Seasons go by too quickly here for me to stay indoors doing my work in my little studio. I love to be surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature as I work. This year, study time is with a new Botanical painting book by Muriel Thurstan and Rosie Martin.
The book has beautiful step by step instruction and is worth the price for the colour mixing section alone. I am not a huge fan of the double primary mixing system but I am giving it a try with their recommended colours.
I think the colour that always me threw me off in that system was having Cerulean Blue as my warm blue. The authors have recommeded Prussian Blue as the warm blue and I am enjoying the variations it is capable of. Spring and Summer are my busiest seasons but I am looking foward to the lessons I can continue to learn in my little outdoor haven.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Mini Retreat

I recognize that I am in overdrive work mode seven days a week and sometimes looking for an eight day week! As an artist I am always gratful for the work but recognize the need to take a break.
I spent the afternoon with my daughter at the Butterfly conservatory. What a beautiful time letting the images soak into my soul!! Nature is so healing.
It's not quite warm enough here in St. George to open my outdoor studio for the season and I needed to be surrounded with the flights of birds and butterflies and see the bright flowers. Spring can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Feeling Blessed

Feeling so blessed after a weekend workshop for Capital City Scribes in Austin, Texas. What a delight to come to such a well organized guild!!! They took care of everything that I could possibly need and even had time to show me the Bluebonnets that line the highways and fields! It was such a joy to escape from the brownish muddy landscape of a still thawing Ontario and get into the warmth and full spring temperatures of Austin!!! Pure magic and so restorative to see the greens and the blooming plants. I was happy to share my Enchanted Letter class and look forward to the rest of my workshops this year. I seldom post pictures of myself but my dear friend Trish Taylor captured this picture and I will always cherish this memory.
A few more pictures captured from the weekend of the beautiful blooms on the roadside
. Austin you will be cherished in my heart and memories.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Room of Requirement

The artist's studio is their workspace. Their workroom. Their place of study. That space is sacred. My space is small. It is somewhat shared space. The workhorse computer is in there and is sometimes accessed by others in the family. It is my cat Oscar's favourite space.
He is often beside me as I work. He gets the most comfortable chair in the studio, and has a way of getting me to move off of it if he wants a nap. It is my library. I am surrounded by books that I love and reach for on a daily basis. It contains precious tools. Ones that I reach for every day, care for and depend upon. It is quiet. I can shut out the world here and become engrossed in my work. There are times when it is a battleground as I struggle with messes I have neglected to clean up or a task list that is too big to tackle. It has seen my greatest artistic achievements and my greatest failures. It is where the muse lives and I am grateful for this little space.I never apologize for the condition it might be left in if I am called away from it. For Hogwarts people...this is my room of requirement. Today I was up at 4 AM with an eagerness to tidy the space and get it prepared for the next project. I found the results of this weekend's work still strewn on the desk. Play pages of Vertical Script writing that loosened up my hand before I worked on a commission.
My journal opened to a page of favourite quotes.
A stack of books I looked at this week just for fun...just to draw me to a different place. Walter Crane's The Old Garden,
Irene Wellington's More Than Fine Writing
and Russian Lacquer Legends and Fairy Tales.
"" This is a place of creative incubation. At first, you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, take advantage of it, something will happen." Joseph Campbell

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Gently Does It

Busy weekend. So thankful for an abundance of work. I spent most of the day working on this small gilded piece. I encountered some obstacles with it. My original design was lettered in a dense black ink. I felt that the lettering was too harsh for the gentle quote. I defaulted to my favourite McCaffery brown and used a split nib to tone down the lettering. This piece is gilded with 23K gold leaf. I used instacoll for the capital T and miniatum ink for the gold throughought the flourish. I was nervous about the instacoll but it worked and shone brilliantly when the gold was burnished. Swarovski crystals are embedded throughout the piece. On its way to its new home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Hoping for Spring

The calender is into March but snow abounds!!! I took a little time out to work on this wingless cherub. Experimenting with glues to adhere the Swarovski crystals. Beacon's Gem Tac seems to be working well. This design went from sketch stage to inking with McCaffery brown.
It was then gilded with 23 K Czech gold leaf and embellished with watercolor.
Miniatum ink still proving to be a favorite in my studio. A delight to work on and a breath of Spring for me on a dismal day.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tools We Love

As I was cleaning up my studio this morning I was struck by how ritualistic I have become with my work and my workspace. I have a very small studio. Not much more than a corner to work in. I am surrounded by books that I refer to constantly and very special tools. After each piece is completed in my studio, I clear off the clutter that has encroached my space during the working process and wash down the work surface. It seems to cleanse my mind from the previous project and prepares my little space for the next project. My Valentine card this year was created with some precious tools that I don't think I have shared before. Some small detail brushes and containers have been very helpful in my illumination work. The Size 1 Detail Sable Brush is from Dick Blick. I picked it up on my first trip to Philadelphia to teach Enchanted Letters. I had forgotten my brush box and although I don't mind borrowing tools when I am away, I am very particular about my brushes. Lucky to have a Dick Blick near the workshop it was my first trip into that store. I don't remember the brush being very expensive but it has held a perfect point for a few years now and is the best Sable brush I have ever owned. I realized how attached I was to it and it was only purchased out of desperation. I would normally have chosen a Winsor Newton Series 7 but the store did not have them in stock. It was a lucky purchase! The aqua Princeton Select 18/0 brush was purchased in Nashville this past October. Again, lucky to be teaching a workshop in an artstore and I needed a detail brush. This was a new discovery for me and now all outline work I do is done with this little brush. It too retains its point and is easier for me to manage than other liner or monogram brushes. The Royal & Langnickel 20/0 acrylic brush was recently purchased at Michaels. Another desperation purchase for applying gold size. The brushes used for gold size can deteriorate very quickly but this one is my new studio iron man! It has already survived multiple miniatum ink applications and the perfect point has been retained. I am very impressed with all of these very inexpensive brushes.
I also wanted to show you two of my favorite gilding tools. A little Victorian salt dish complete with mini tongs! I don't use the mini tongs for gilding but I do use the salt dish to capture all my stray bits of gold leaf. So far there has never been enough in there to much with but now and then it is exactly what I reach for if I only need a touch of gold or need to make a correction. It is always by my side! The leakproof widemouth Nalgene jar is my new best friend for the Miniatum ink. No more leaks or painfully sealed jar lids! A dream come true!!! Before I cleaned up my desk I wanted to share these gilding and miniature illumination favourite tools with you. Happy February 15th!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Believe in Angels

First in a special series I am working on that will be printed into note cards.
As I work on Designed Flourishes for my Victorian Pen workshop, I can't help but be guided by Kate Greenaway once again. She remains one of my biggest influences. Her biography is fascinating. She was highly critiqued for her illustrations yet she kept on painting. People thought her little children looked mournful but I found them serene an peaceful. Walter Crane was an outspoken critic of her work. I have often wondered what she thought when she heard Walter Crane's critiques. Yet she kept on. He was a powerful and influential illustrator who did not appreciate her work...yet she forged her own path. As I painted the face on this little angel, visions of Kate's little cherubs were in my head. The book that influences me is the Kate Greenaway Treasury.
I have had it since I was a child. It's not even mine!!! It belongs to my Dad who got it as a part of a book club. But I adopated in and in case he is looking for it....I absconded with it years ago! It teaches me and it instructs my students. Years ago, my dear friend Anne Sheedy gave me a first edition Kate Greenaway book. Engraved by Edmund Evans and very precious to me. This is the page that has influenced my embroidery and my Victorian Line and Wash techniques.
Recently, my dear friend Ann Cobb blessed me with a page from one of the first editions of Kate Greenaway's Language of Flowers book.
It should be framed and on my wall but this piece travels with me as I teach my workshops. The brown signature outlines of her watercolours influenced me to choose McCaffery Brown ink. It is always the perfect colour. It is not technically waterproof but it has never failed me in this technique.
The Victorian in me loves her gentle subject matter. I love the subdued tones of her watercolors contrasted by the brown outline. I could sense Kate's influence in this piece but the vinework and the cherub are coming from Baroque studies. My little angel is on his way to his new home. Gilded with 23K Czech gold and painted with soft watercolours, this piece measures 4 1/8" by 2 3/4".

Friday, January 23, 2015

January 23rd.....National Handwriting Day!!!!

The letters are sealed and on their way!!! A joy to write with the pen! I have attached samples from my Palomino Blackwing Journal of my normal everyday handwriting in its pure form and unaltered form.
It has mistakes. It has letters that are not perfect or uniform. Some words are less legible than others. It does not conform to any system of writing. It is written at my natural pace. It captures my thoughts with ease. I do not try to change it to make it conform to Palmer or Spencer. It is uniquely mine. Just like the sound of a voice or your fingerprint, your handwriting is uniquely yours!!! My favourite handwriting surface is a gridded journal. I am partial to the Leuchturrm1917 and the Palomino Blackwing. I am never without pen, pencil and paper. It is always with me. A constant friend. A comfort to return to. My favourite pens are pictured here.
A Viscontil Rembrandt Fountain pen, a slicci pen and a Plaisir Platinum Fountain pen. They all fit my hand well and I love to use them. Capture your thoughts, share your words with a friend, send a letter to someone who is not expecting it and preserve the love of writing. Conform to no one. Let your style be your own. It's handwriting!!! Whether you lean toward cursive or italic styles, block printing, or stick letters, be yourself and enjoy the writing you produce on the page. There is a time and a place for striving for perfect forms, for striving for perfect lettering. I am a firm believer in taking steps to improve legibility in handwriting, but I have never believed in forcing a system of writing on anyone. When I teach handwriting classes, I spend the first class with students showing them how to befriend their current writing. Find the charm in your own writing!! It is there!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Oblique VS. Straight Holder

I have been inundated with questions lately about the straight holder vs. the oblique holder. I post quite a few pictures on Instagram and many picturers display a straight holder. I love both types of pen holders and switch between the two quite often.
I encourage students to try both for the lettering and flourishing and see what they prefer. There are unique qualites for each tool and more than anything else, I believe the decision should be based on which is more comfortable in the hand of each student. Based on my own experiences, the look of my work is more slender and refined if a straight holder is used. But if I want more dramatic swells in the shades, I will use an oblique holder. My recommendation for students is to put the same type of nib in a straight and oblique holder and experiment with the shaded strokes. I have a less extreme angle on my paper when I work with a straight holder. See what you prefer and have fun experimenting with both.
In response to questions about the holders that my husband and I make, you can contact us through heather@heathervictoriaheld.com. We make custom oblique and straight holders in exotic or hand dyed woods. I also hand paint floral style and flourished holders as well. Happy writing!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Thoughts from my Day

I had an interesting day today. I had an opportunity to see some gorgeous fair trade artwork. I loved seeing hand woven purses,scarves and soapstone carvings. I thought of the artisans in Thailand and Kenya who had produced the work. What was their struggle? How can charging so little for this piece of artwork possibly help the artisan? The work was so intricate and detailed. Far from perfect yet it all had such a charm about it. I felt connected to the artist. I wanted to take it all! I came home to an email from a student who wanted some thoughts about her work. As soon as I saw her work, I felt instantly connected to her process and joy as she produced something she was proud of. I could see the rhythm and the movement of her work. No signs of struggle in the pieces that conveyed so much beauty. I was honoured to look at it and share my thoughts. As a teacher, I feel like I have such a sacred trust with my students. They are so precious to me. They are my peers and my friends. I learn from their process as much as they learn from mine. I am grateful for that opportunity. Beyond anything I do as an artist, I learn and grow from seeing the work of others. If you have crossed my path as a student, I want to thank you for what you have given me.