Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Personal Process

Early on when I began teaching in 2010 I had a dear friend question me about doing so. Why would I teach? Why would I share? Why not just keep it to myself? The only reason I teach is to give someone else the joy that the process of creating gives me. Back in my embroidery days, one of my first teaching engagements was to teach silk ribbon embroidery at a women's shelter. The women had been abused and many of them had fled their homes without anything other than their clothes. The director of the shelter wanted the women to make something pretty that they could hang on their wall or put in their room to add a spark of beauty. The class wasn't long. Just a few hours. But that's all it took with Silk Ribbon embroidery to make a little bouquet to hang on their wall. For those few hours, stress was relieved. Pain was gone for a little while and their minds were free. Now, when I teach calligraphic art, I know I meet people from all walks of life. Each has their story and many have incredible hurdles and stresses in their lives. The artforms I teach are therapeutic. Not overly complex. Hopefully the classes spark joy with the student and they go on to create their own artwork putting their own unique stamp on their work. That is why I teach. Every workshop I teach is a result of a personal process. The Enchanted Letter class is the result of personal study and exploration.
I see the little Victorian Letterforms as my own children! They have a personality that evolved over a year of study as my friend Dana Cochran and I both worked on illustrative letters throughout the year. We kept each other accountable. My process had many failures. I was not happy with my first attempts and the style of Victorian letterforms that evolved out of that year were my search for finding a style of illuminated lettering that would augment my pointed pen script. After I developed the letterforms, I started working on Victorian foliate extensions to add to them. The extensions could act as border designs or meander around corners.
The inspiration for the designs came from Persian illuminated manuscripts, Victorian scroll engravings and Florentine paper patterns. I love to create the designs and I love to share them with my students. I am happy when students take what the learn and create their own works of art. It does catch me off guard when I see others take the Enchanted Letter workshop and teach it as their own brainchild. If I can explain my feelings clearly, these workshops and their content are like an entry in my diary. Seeing my personal work taught by another is like having someone write their own notes in my diary. Do they have the same feelings for the work? Are they explaining my thought process? If they have their own process of creating the letterforms, why are they copying mine? I don't understand this part of my field. I don't think I ever will. The process of creating a workshop and taking care to pass on the elements of the style with passion and clarity are deeply personal. I asked a friend to share their thoughts with me about this. She is very wise. She was in an art class and the teacher took the students to the window and showed them the sun. She said..."this is the sun...and there is nothing new under it." So true. As artists we all borrow. Ideas and inspiration are all around. The ideas are all floating around out there and with the convenience of social media, work is being shared readily and the ideas merge together. I get that. I also see incredible influence from my embroidery days and floral days influencing the designs that I create. I recognize the derivative nature of the work. I also recognize the elusive nature of artwork and teaching. That being said, I am so grateful for the commission work that comes my way for these intricate designs. They are probably my favourite initials to create. Each design is a puzzle waiting to be solved. Although they start with similar elements they all take different twists and turns. I create every one the same way...starting with a detailed pencil design. I never rely on an initial that was previously created even if the client points to previous design as the one they want. I work it out carefully in pencil and then commit to the painting process. These days, I add more gilding and swarovski crystals than my previous work. This design was created for an upcoming child's baptism. A work of joy to share from my heart.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Connecting Thread

Many of you know that for years I spent hours of my time doing Victorian embroidery. Once in awhile, I still miss the the bright embrace of that wonderful artform. In the dead of winter one of my escapes is to visit antique shops. Every time I see a piece of lace or hand crocheted doily I stop to look at it. I have rescued dozens of vintage laces, handkerchiefs and doilies. I take them home and gently restore them to their brightest form. I seldom pass them up. I always feel a connection to the artisan who created the original piece. I want to give their work a life again. This little round doily was originally from Paris.
The crochet edging is done by hand. I wanted to revisit my freehand embroidery days and adorn it with flowers and glass pearls. As I worked on this piece, I realized that beyond my floral background, my flourishing technique is also based in my embroidery days. I seldom worked with a pattern. I just wanted to adorn things with some Victorian touches. The same is true of my flourishing. I stare at the blank page and see what emerges. With embroidery and with flourishing, you start with your biggest elements of the design and add your smaller elements around it, filling in with accent strokes and stitches as you go. The little visit back to my embroidery stash helped me to see the connecting thread between the two art forms much more clearly. Both require peace of mind. They both bring on a sense of peace and meditation while working. Both require you to completely engage with the medium. Both are very tactile. It was a bright diversion to revisit needle and thread. The heart flourish clearly reflects some of my embroidery experience.
Neither the flourish or the embroidery reflect perfection. They both meander freely and organically. Nothing is preplanned or designed. Both are the result of happy play and just letting the creation process happen. Happy flourishing. Just play!!!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Putting Ink On Paper

January 23rd is National Handwriting Day!
A day to be celebrated and savoured for many reasons. I have shared my thoughts with my handwriting class students many times over the years. I believe that handwriting flows rhythmically with the thoughts and feelings of the writer. If you are tense and jittery, your handwriting will reflect those feelings. If you are relaxed and at peace, the connection between thoughts in the mind and the journey to the hand seem to flow unimpeded. No emotion can hide from the tip of the pen. Handwriting and calligraphy are my daily reset buttons if I should use such a digital term for an analog skill. Even the word analog looks out of place when I am writing about handwriting. The digital age has affected our minds. There is no way around that and some will argue that our minds are better for it and some will say that are minds are worse for wear. I recommend the book The Shallows by Nicholas Carr if you want to dive into his thoughts on the matter. My copy is tattered, heavily underlined and laden with post-it notes where I jotted some responses to his thoughts. His book caused me to stop to think about the effects of the digital age. My response to digital overload is that daily reset button of handwriting and calligraphy. Both skills allow my mind to rest, to pause, to breathe. Thinking back to my cursive writing lessons in elementary school, I don't think I would have agreed that handwriting was rest for my mind. We had daily drills, practiced letter forms on guidesheets, often did our drills to a metronome to keep us writing rhythmically. Our handwriting needed to match the guidesheets as closely as possible. We needed uniform slant of letters, consistent open loops and flowing exit and entry strokes. Every elementary school teacher I can remember had impeccable Palmer Penmanship skills. I wanted my cursive writing to look like theirs but it really didn't conform. We had to apply in writing for our Pen License before we could graduate from pencil to pen. The world of pen offered bright colors of ink, different sizes of pen tip and even a fountain pen option if we could prove we wouldn't have ink blots all over our work. The goal of achieving that pen license was monumental at the time and I remember feeling stressed, and worried that I would ever get that license! I eventually got the license and remember my favourtite pen was the fine Bic with the schoolbus yellow barrel and the blue cap. My penmanship skills in no way called me into my future career choice. My thoughts about handwriting are often different than those of my colleagues. I see beautiful cursive writing as well as beautiful italic writing. I believe that handwriting is a very unique extension of our own personality.
Each person's handwriting is as unique as their voice or their fingerprint. No two people will write identically even if they started with the same system of penmanship. My goal in teaching handwriting was always to increase legibility while helping each student find a practical rhythm and pace to their writing. If they can't read their own notes or keep up with their own thoughts on paper with ink, they are going to abandon the pursuit of the skill. I do find that the digital age can bombard my mind. The harsh bright screen of the computer, the beeps I hear it make while I am trying to concentrate on getting my thoughts on paper, watching little messages fly across the screen, and in the back of my mind, often wondering what else is on. So I temporarily switch from my writing document, see what is happening on facebook and instagram, linger there often longer than needed ,check my email, respond to those and then try to remember what I was working on before the diversion. I wonder..... is this healthy? When I pause and shut down that computer screen and can sit at my desk with only ink and paper, my mind breathes. It rests in the comfort that the paper will not distract me. The paper does not have a delete button. It does not autocorrect my words and thoughts. Errors are captured and recorded on paper but with the safety of knowing that the recycle bin can carry those mistakes into oblivion. I can rest and take comfort in the thought that I can create something on the paper that can bring joy to someone else.
I can brighten someone's day with a note of encouragement or a brightly flourished envelope. I can let the feelings I have for the recipient come to the surface and flow out of the tip of the pen. It is a unique experience. It is meditative, it is peaceful, it restores my focus and refreshes my mind. It is my daily push back against the bombardment of the computer screen.Neither my handwriting or my calligraphy is perfect. It is not a font. It reflects the human who picked up a writing instrument and united with the process of putting ink on paper.
It's a celebration of a skill that can be used to bless someone else. It is a practical way to say thank you that means far more to the recipient than an email. When a handwritten letter arrives for me, I savour the experience. I pause and breathe while reading the note. The note does not intrude. It did not beep at me as a text message. It waited quietly on the desk until I was ready to open it and read the thoughts of my friend. I feel connected to my friend as I read their words.It's an entirely different connection than what comes to me on my iphone as a text message. It feels different than a digital message. It did not get lost in a huge group of emails that came to my inbox. It found a quite place and soulful time to visit with me. The process of sending handwritten notes continues to be part of my life. In many ways, I think in ink. Happy National Handwriting Day!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

English Roundhand...My Personal Philosophy

I don't intend to be preachey all of 2016 but I feel the need this first week of January. Bear with me for now! When I want to convey something cheerful in script writing my default setting is English Roundhand. From the minute I picked up a pointed pen, my natural tendency was to produce rounded letterforms with weighted shades on the downstrokes. English Roundhand was not the first script I attempted. My first love of writing was Spencerian Script! My introduction to Spencerian Script came in 2003 at the IAMPETH convention in Cleveland, Ohio. That is where I had my first class with Michael Sull and my journey and love affair with the pointed pen truly began. I attended my first Spencerian Saga in 2005 and attended several more over the years. The Spencerian Saga continues to flourish under Harvest Crittenden and her directorship and I recommend the Saga experience to anyone who wants total immersion in the Geneva On the Lake experience of Spencerian Script in the setting of Platt Rogers Spencer's home base. It will not be forgotten. I worked with Spencerian Script alone for many years. It was my correspondence hand and worked well with my style of flourishing. But when I was exposed to the work of George Bickham in The Universal Penman, my heart skipped a beat! This is my worn and battered copy. I had the spine of it removed and a heavy duty coil binding added so it would open flat on my desk. It remains my most used resource in my studio along with Tomkins and Milns Ornamental Penmanship. Both of these monumental works are available as Dover Reprints. If you don't have copies of these I recommend you run to get them!!! Inside the books, I was mesmerized by the content. The forms are voluptuous and elegant. The lettering brings me so much joy. Both volumes contain not only fine examples of English Roundhand but also my beloved Italian Hand which has become my favourite lettering style. In the back of Bickham's book you will find pages with various styles of lettering. Terminology is a weird and scary ride in the calligraphic world. I have witnessed divisive and derogatory behaviour over terminology. I don't dwell in the land of division. My hope is to build bridges and encourage the lovely art form. If you are an educator or artist who is promoting the love of lettering and sharing your skills with others, I applaud you. As an educator I feel that part of my calling is to bring others into the joyful relationship that can be found with the pen. My personal love is the pointed pen. That being said I see work being done with the broad edge that is positively breathtaking. I love the beauty that can be found with that remarkable tool. Most of my time though is spent with the pointed pen as I flourish, practice English Roundhand, Spencerian or my beloved Italian Hand. Yes... Italian Hand is my runaway favorite and I will be commenting more about it in future posts!!! For anyone interested, I will teaching Italian Hand at Binders in Atlanta this coming March. I still consider myself to be a relative newcomer to the calligraphic world. Lettering holds surprises for me every day and I am still filled with the same sense of wonder and awe that I had when I first picked up the pen. It didn't take me long though to encounter opinions and ideas that some people found superior to others. I remember being taken aback at some heated discussions and opinions arising over the word copperplate. I didn't understand it then and I try to avoid the division over it now but I don't shy away from discussing it. I did dive into years of research over the term and I came across a variety of ideas and opinions. One book pointed to 'copperplate' as the reason for the decline of Western Calligraphy. I don't share that opinion and choose to elevate this script lettering as one of the most graceful and elegant styles that can be created with a pointed pen. I recognize that others think differently but see no reason to divide over vision of a script hand. Maybe I am missing something, but I think if we love lettering, we are on the same team and all do our parts in promoting the lettering arts. Each of us adds our own chapter to the story and we bring with us the ideas and experiences that shape our opinions. No one taught me or told me to use the term English Roundhand, I just landed there. I remain there because for me, it is the most descriptive and accurate term for the style of script that I want to emulate. This is just my opinion that I have arrived at through my own personal reasearch. I recognize that there are many incredibly talented script artists who have arrived at the conclusion that the best term to use is copperplate. I still love and respect their work. Despite all of us having our love of lettering, we will all possess diverse opinions. That is to be celebrated and encouraged but never feared.This plate from Tomkins and Milns explains it best for me. "Beauties of Writing exemplified in a variety of Plain and Ornamental Penmanship. Designed to excite Emulation in this Valuable Art." That says it all!!! Free the caged bird! Learn what you can from others but never think that is the only way to learn. Never shy away from original research, if your opinion is different even from someone you respect, its ok to express yourself. Never underestimate what can happen when you study for yourself. Take what has been printed before with a grain of salt..including this! You will come to conclusions that no one else can lead you to. Love what you do and do what you love!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Nurturing Hope

2016 has started off strangely. My Dad took a bad fall and is recovering from hip surgery now. I am no where near as caught up on my work load as I thought I would be but I am working hard. As I sat at my desk today I found myself thankful for those who choose to share their love of writing with others. Expressing yourself to someone who is on your mind is such an important step to take. Our friendships are precious and people's feelings are so fragile. I have been bombarded with emails from people who find social media overwhelming and don't want to post their work online for fear that everything they want to do or say has already been done or said by someone with more skill. Here is my word of encouragement to all of you who think you will never reach further in your studies of this art or who feel their skill level has reached a plateau.
Never give up! All that matters is that you enjoy what you are doing with the pen. The absolute desire and determination to go further will fuel your practice sessions. Continue to believe in yourself, look at what you create on the paper after each session, take what you delight in and discard the rest. This journey is a long one. Don't compare yourself to the skill of others! We all progress at different times and each journey is so personal. Enjoy each stage while it lasts! Weave your dreams as you work to improve, and nurture hope not only in your own work but in others. Forgive me for being preachy...... I just see so much potential in your work and dont' want to see anyone give up. I am reminded that on my own journey, I would have given up if it were not for some kind words of encouragement from those who have since become some of my closest friends and mentors!! Finally if you sense discouragement in someone else, send them a handwritten note to cheer them on. Love you all! Please write to me if you want an encouraging note sent out! I would love to do that for you!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Welcome 2016

Sending heartfelt blessings as we embrace the New Year. This flourish was done with Old World Iron Gall Ink on Rhodia paper. These days, I can only find the smaller blank pads of Rhodia paper here in Canada. But they are a great size for smaller flourishes. This design will be worked into my handouts for an upcoming workshop called The Vintage Garden which launches in Portland, Oregon. Although I am not one for resolutions, I am hopeful that 2016 will be filled with "Work From The Heart". Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Snowflakes and Flourishes..No Two Alike

Still enjoying the wintery flourishes in a very mild December here in Ontario. I enjoyed creating this large snowflake flourish this past weekend.
It is done on midnight blue cardstock with Bleedproof white, Swarovski crystals and an Esterbrook 358. The original will go into my portfolio and be included in a 2016 workshop for Festive Flourishes. I created a second design this afternoon and my thoughts came together about the individuality and creativity in both the snowflake and offhand flourishing. I apologize in advance that this post is more opinionated than most, but I get very passionate about this discussion.
In its height of form in the late 1800's, offhand flourishing was anything but unique. Most pen artists were utilizing and repeating the same designs. We saw birds, plumes, quills, scrolls, more birds, leaping stags, horses, swans, still more birds, a few angels and a zebra or two. The ornamental work was part of the skill set of the penmen of the day. Instructions in my 1884 edition of Real Penwork Instructor in Penmanship emphasize copying and tracing. The book states that"leading penmen and pen-artists" would use this method for a quick and easy way to make an exact copy of ornamental penwork. The book states that this has been kept "sort of a secret". It goes on to state that " a child can make an exact copy of any kind of ornamental penwork and do it to wonderful perfection." What struck me when I did the second snowflake flourish, was that the instructions given in the 1884 manual are still living on. I am seeing lots online of copied works utilizing the tracing process. I think it was bad advice in 1884 and remains an unnecessary and restrictive process to what should be a freeing and creative form. I also don't agree that the end result should be "wonderful perfection." If I wanted wonderful perfection, I would buy a rubber stamp. The process of offhand flourishing has an organic feel. The line is natural. It meanders. It can have many repeated elements and create wonderfully varied results. I have never achieved perfection with a design. I hope for excellence, but perfection and offhand flourishing just don't seem to go hand in hand in my mind. When I started flourishing back in 2003, all I had as a reference was Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy by Dover publications. Later I added The Ames Compendium. I loved the Victorian looking designs and tried to emulate the strokes I saw there, but my mind did not enter into the realm of thinking that I should trace them. I tried my best to discern the shapes and made some hideous looking flourishes. But the both the journey and the process were very authentic. It took time, it took brain power and it took determination. I had many failures. My recycling bin was always filled with the trials and errors. It didn't take me long to realize that I did not want to repeat the historic forms. I wanted to use them as inspiration but find my own voice with them. As offhand flourishing artists, we owe no allegiance to repeat those designs. Use them as a springboard. be inspired, but move beyond the tracing process. We are truly free to create what is in our heart and mind's eye. Experiment and play. Realize that just like snowfkakes no two will ever be alike. See what evolves naturally. You will like some and toss some. That is all part of the process. The tracing process recommended in the book is a straight jacket for the artist and shackles true expression. Just play!!! I really believe that playful exuberance was the beginning of offhand flourishing. Over the years, the true offhand flourish evolved into the rendered flourish which begins as a detailed pencil drawing. It is more formal, can be very striking and impressive, but is an entirely different skill than offhand flourishing which is not preplanned. To be even more technical, I see three types of flourishing. True Offhand which has no preplanning or pre-penciling. The Constrained Flourish, which still is offhand in that it is not preplanned but is constrained to falling with the lines of a shape such as my previous post with the peace border, or any of my cookie cutter flourishes. Finally the Rendered Flourish which is predrawn and then flourished over the pencil lines. The only way I see the Rendered Flourish as being successful is when the pencil lines are used as a light guide rather than slavishly traced. Whatever method you choose, be playful and free and allow yourself the time and patience to take the journey. Happy Playful Flourishing!!!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pensive

It's been a busy month so far. Always busy in December. This week has been particularly pensive for many of us here in St. George. We lost dear little Evan Leversage to his battle with cancer. His story can be found online. As I traveled this October and November, I was stunned that people in Columbus, Ohio and Victoria, British Columbia knew of Evan's story. He galvinized our community with his wish to celebrate Christmas early this year. St George has been touched by his story and he has left a definite impact on my thoughts this Christmas season. I put my Christmas tree up in October in honour of Evan. Back when I learned about his story earlier this year, I created an angel card called Evan's Hope.
Happy to mail one to anyone who writes to me with their address. Hoping my blog readers find time to slow down and breathe this season. It can be overwhelming and full of pressure. Do something just for you that brings you peace and joy this season.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Welcoming December

It must be the mild weather we are experiencing these days that gives me the false impression that I have plenty of time to get all of my tasks completed this month.
Despite the Christmas tree being up, Christmas music playing in the stores and lights everywhere, the sight of shoppers in shorts and flip flops in December really throws one off track! But I am keeping that delusion for the moment. The Christmas Season is always a mixed blessing for me. I feel overwhelmed at times, pulled in multiple directions and on sensory overload as I see glitter and bling everywhere. Trying to remember to slow down this year and write to as many people as I can. Each envelope I address
has me cherishing that friendship while I write the note and finish their envelope. It is a small way that I can reach out and visit them this season even though we are miles apart. Hope my blog readers can slow down a bit this season, put pen to paper and revisit a friend.
If you want to view the Christmas video this year, it is posted on youtube.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Sneak Peek Just for My Blog Viewers!!!!

Chris and I have been working dilegently completing orders while trying to launch a new website which adds a feature for Held Pens..
It is an upgrade from our old site as it should be easier to view on ipads and iphones and it has the ease of being a wordpress site which I understand much more than my old site. I wanted to create some artwork specifically for the site and for the studio and began working on the Held Pens sign a few weeks ago.
My initial idea was to do an art nouveau style but once again the Victorian Muse took over!
So far Chris is being a good sport about all the pink Swarovski crystals and glittering stardust emebellishments. More to come soon!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Desert Island Hand

I am home. It is safe to unpack and put all of my treasured supplies away in their proper spots. All of my workshop engagements are wrapped up until the New Year. Time to breathe. There is a huge workload here at home but it will be easier to see to it without a suitcase waiting by the door.
I just completed a week of classes in British Columbia.
Starting with The Victorian Pen, then The Artful Flourish and finishing with The Poetic Pen....my workshop in Italian Hand! Italian Hand remains my favorite script hand!
Historically, it has been around longer than any other script hand. It is firmly rooted in the Italic
and has a grace and beauty that completely captivates my soul.
I prefer to study the European influences and exemplars of the hand rather than the later American versions. My hand is now hybridized. It has some nuances about that borrow from my Spencerian roots and I definitely gravitate to the English Roundhand capitals over the reverse shaded capitals!
After three years of study and exploration, this is the script that I would take with me to a desert island. There is a sense of delight to it. A playful exuberance that is reflected in the bounce of the strokes. A lack of rigidity and preciseness that gives it a whimsical look.
Although Ambrose Heal may call it 'bulbous and degenerate" I choose to disagree and call it pure magic! All of my study sheets and exemplars stayed with the guild members in Britsh Columbia, but I did get a few shots as they were being written.
If you have never tried this hand, I recommend the starting place of The Universal Penman and Penmanship made Easy by George Bickahm. Both are available from Dover Publications. Also try the exemplar here by Becker.
You can see how he contrasts it with English Roundhand. I owe my study and passion of this hand to my friend Don Marsh.
 Don's passion for reviving the history of this hand sparked my interest a few years ago. Now I can hardly imagine my life without with this incredible hand. Let it into your soul...see what evolves. Remember this is handwriting...it will take on the quirks of the writer. Let that happen. In the end, you want a script that is positively dripping from your fingertips. Play, Breathe, Write.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Me and Strathmore

When I designed the Writing logo for Strathmore papers they were kind enough to send me one of everything in their Writing line!
What a treat! For a person with an already serious journal addiction, this was heaven!
Last week I had wonderful intentions to fill one of the blank journals with nothing but floral flourishes for my students to look through at an upcoming class called The Vintage Garden.
The class is designed around Victorian ornament that is inspired by their ornate curvilinear engravings. With our ink and pointed pens, we almost sculpt the dimensional flowers. I wanted the Strathmore paper because it is more ivory in colour and the pages are slightly heavier than my other journals. The black ink against the cream background reminded me of Toille fabric.
I thought that it would be an image rich journal for students to flip through. By page 2, my precious journal had met with a slight ink mishap! My McCaffery Black ink cap was not on quite right and the ensuing leak wiped out the edges of my new journal as well as 4 older ones!!!!!! So I have ink black edges on the journal. A few pages are less than pristine coming up, but I will continue to see what I can produce in the journal. More ornate designs coming as the curves meet lines!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Study, Practice, Reflect

It's been a little while since I touched on this theme but the emails I am receiving are calling me to comment. I am so thrilled at the enthusiasm and passion I see in the calligraphic world. I see young people who are becoming enthralled with pen and ink and passionately practicing. I get a lot of emails asking how to progress to the next step of their journey or how to "level jump" quickly. I would respond by recalling how one of my mentors responded to me in my penmanship journey. I credit Brian Walker as the penman who brought patience to my penmanship journey and gave me discerning eyes to really see my work. Practice is great. I believe in it whole heartedly. Early in my penmanship journey I often devoted 3 hours a day at least to practice. But the practice was not necessarily intelligent practice. I needed to step back from the practice time and really devote equal time to study. So the pen was put aside for equal time spent in truly observing letterforms. I made this a daily ritual until the letterforms were so clearly in my mind that I could see them before writing. After devoted time to study and practice, I would save time for reflection. I would look back over my daily and weekly practice papers and cast a critical eye over the work. Where did I need to improve? What was strong? What was weak? Were my forms consistent? It was through this three pronged approach that I finally saw improvement. There was no level jumping or quick progress that I could easily discern but there was steady progress. Occasionally I would hit a plateau and need to call in other eyes to look over my work. I can't recommend this process highly enough. It still helps me develop instincts and an eye for detail. As I continue to study new techniques, I never depart from what Brian instilled in me. Study, Practice, Reflect.  As autumn settles into my area of the world with its vibrant colours and cooler air, I am finding myself very reflective of changes that are happening in my work. I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Watching the Changes

Fall is a great time for changes!! My beautiful Pagoda Dogwood tree is giving me gifts of vibrant leaves every day! As I go outside, I find that I just want to pick up every one of them and bring them in to paint. Seriously...my kitchen counter has an "area" filled with acorns, conker chestnuts, leaves, bittersweet berries and maple keys! Usually I am not a fan of autumn because winter follows so closely and leaves us with grey skies for so long! But I feel like a squirrel storing up painting studies to get me through the winter!

This weekend, I spent time outside with my viola plant. I captured some sketches in my sketchbook and then went on to do a vellum study. I struggled on the paper as well as the vellum trying to get a smooth transition between the shades of purples and periwinkles and different yellows! Lots of mixing going on. I recognize the importance of a transparent palette when working on vellum. The Daniel Smith dot card is a great guide right now as I consider which pigments to eliminate in my palette as I try to create one that is transparent. My new favourite Daniels Smith Colour is Rose of Ultramarine! Here is the completed vellum study.
This is my first little leaf study as well.
As I painted outside. I was surrounded by so many bluejays! I keep their peanut feeder filled and they keep me entertained. I wanted to capture one of the young bluejays in a Victorian meets Medieval setting. The sketch and the foliate work were painted in the evening.
I used my dry brush techniques on the bird and traditional illumination and painting skills on the rest of the design. I am seeing these two worlds merge together. The little Bluejay is part of my Enchanted Meadow Series. More to come as I expand that series and prepare to teach that workshop in Birmingham next year. The pen work on this piece was done with Ziller Buffalo Brown. I appreciate that it is always as fresh as a brand new bottle without any of the surprises of McCaffery Brown. But the line quality is thicker so I use a very light touch and a very stiff nib in my pen holder. This was the final result of my painting day.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Progress so Far

I have been on this butterfly journey since early August. They are incredibly detailed to paint but I am finding that I love attempting the detail. I combined dry brush vellum painting techniques on this Peacock Butterfly. I was working from photographs for this subject rather than a specimen and I noticed a difference in how I could see the detail.
Much easier with an actual specimen! So much to learn and enjoying every step of the journey. Sometimes I find the vellum easy to work with and other times I need to coax it to behave. The dry brush technique is rough on the brush as well so I am taking extra care to condition it properly after using it. More soon with progress on my botanical subjects. I am looking foward to incorporating these techniques into my pen work.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

In Process

Busy fall for sure. Mulitple teaching trips and many workshops on the go. But I am loving this diversion into the natural world to study painting on vellum. My butterfly class took a little detour as we looked at other insects. Meet Chrysochroa Buqueti Rugicolis.
What a beauty!!! A coppery metallic head, metallic purple markings against a shiny flax coloured body. I am in awe of this creature. I wouldn't want to see him in the kitchen cupboard but we are friends in this format. I did the initial drawing on graph paper as I still find the measuring process to be a bit challenging.
Drawing straight lines has always been a challenge so the graph paper keeps me in line! Also part of the study process is testing the paint colours in a sketch book. I purchased the Stillman and Birn Zeta series hardbound sketch book for these studies.
The paper is heavy and very smooth and able to take watercolour washes. The process of testing the subject with a small sketch and colour swatches eliminates the process of trial and error at the colour stage. The thinking and planning are done in the sketchbook. It also slows me down and makes me much more deliberate in my thought process. A real change from the free forming of offhand flourishing. The metallic copper and russet in the head are not in any of my watercolour tubes but thankfully the Daniel Smith metallic dots came to the rescue.
They are awfully tempting to use but I can see that I need to be very careful in applying them. He is still in process. I am enjoying the process of learning new techniques and getting over my fear of insects at the same time!