The Calligrapher's Life

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Archive for the tag “gouache”

Taking a Crack at Illumination

modern illuminated proj
If I were to say that I found the nerve to start this project from my inspiration and self-study, I’d be fibbing. When I caught my first glimpse at illuminated lettering in a new calligraphy book, I couldn’t wrap my head around sitting down to try it on my own. So, guess what? As usual, it took my art class to force me out of my “scary zone”.

Illuminating letters can be serious, scary stuff for a newbie. Most calligraphy books that touch on the subject, display artists working with paints, inks, gold leaf and gesso. That can be very intimidating. And, unless a newbie is truly enthusiastic about illuminated lettering, she’ll balk at its complexity and move on.

But, illuminating letters doesn’t always have to be “scary”. Actually, artists can create illuminated letters simply designing them with a few colors or covering them in complex drawings that’ll usually make a novice’s head spin.

Illuminated manuscripts gained popularity in the 7th century to document stories and events in the era. Calligraphers use the term to describe brightly colored pages highlighted in gold. The illuminated letter is meant to attract the eye to the page with various designs and colors among dark, gothic-style lettering.

When I finally practiced this letter, I grew fascinated with its versatility. Creating large letters with an endless supply of colors and design varieties brought hours of fun and experimenting with paint. But, I most enjoyed working with the gold gouache.

The gold goauche lit up the page making it look fairly similar to the ancient manuscripts I tried to emulate.

Any calligraphers ready to try illumination don’t need to start on a full-size project like I did (see photo above). Try one letter first, like an initial. It’s much easier to get acquainted with illumination with a small project and, then gradually build onto it with a favorite gothic-style lettering for a simulated manuscript like mine.

Note: All images are copyright and must not be used without permission


Copperplate Handwriting: Considering a Classic

What can I say about Copperplate handwriting? Well, for starters…it’s the most romantic, yet dramatic lettering, I’ve ever seen. Its flamboyant flourishing grabs the eye and steals your heart thinking about the time it took to create such a lovely word or line. Classic and dainty, it’s no wonder brides around the world consider it a “must-have”. I call the Copperplate hand “the letters of love”.

The ornate, delicate design looks like loads of love went into writing this hand. You certainly can’t scribble out a name in two seconds and get it to look graceful. Maybe that’s why Copperplate is synonymous for formal occasions, especially weddings.

A few years ago when I started my calligraphy journey, my original exposure to this art stemmed from a friend’s impending wedding and Copperplate writing became my ultimate goal. I’ve been hooked to calligraphy ever since.

As you develop your own calligraphy journey, add Copperplate handwriting to your list for hands to learn. It’s a beautiful and challenging art; you’ll take pride in learning.

What is Copperplate?          

Copperplate is a cursive handwriting developed in England, which spread quickly throughout the English speaking world around the 18th century. The lettering is characterized by looping majuscules (upper case letters) and minuscules (lower case letters), which are usually written with decorative flourishes.

Unlike Italic or Roman hands, Copperplate handwriting requires a 55 degree slope and they’re normally linked together since the release of the 1770 copy manual by John Sealy called “The Running Hand”. Although it’s an ornate and fancy letter, Copperplate started out with bolder lines for business use called “Round hand”. It’s counterpart we know and love today, offers lighter, narrower lines called “Italian” or “ladies” hand, which we use today for commercial and personal art.

When did it start?

Copperplate writing originated in the 16th century and grew in popularity in England around the 18th century. When Copperplate started, Americans wrote with feather quills to dip in ink for document preparation. Later, dip pens with sharp flexible nibs became popular.

Creating the slim, delicate lines and loops of the Copperplate letters worked better than the heavier nibs, which is common for the Italic hand. After the inception of the Declaration of Independence, the Americans used Copperplate handwriting for business and personal use until other hands like Spencerian prevailed in schools around the latter part of the 19th century.

What to use?

For most hand lettering, ink reigns. On the other hand, if you’re working with lightweight invitations or envelopes, depending on the grade of it, it might cause trouble. Certain paper grades (or weights) are too light to handle average calligraphy inks, so go with paints, like gouache. Gouache is versatile and fun for artists who don’t mind the added preparation for mixing paint (with distilled water) and placing it on the nib.

Although black and white inks offer dramatic and formal appeal, brides these days prefer color to matching wedding announcements with a specific theme.

Who should try Copperplate?

Any artist interested in learning Copperplate can do it. But, it’s not something you can master in one day. Whatever your skill level, dedicate yourself to practicing consistently to master this hand with confidence.

In my experience, I found classroom instruction worked better compared to using a practice manual. Unlike the italic hand, it’s not easy to learn Copperplate alone because you need to know where to place the thin and thick lines that characterize a proper Copperplate hand. And, believe me, class instruction helps, but frustration still reared its ugly head with me.

If you’re an extreme newbie to calligraphy, prepare yourself with mounds of patience and dedication. For the moderate artists with minor exposure to lettering, you’ll find Copperplate a joyful challenge.

Have you tried Copperplate writing before? If so, what was your initial experience like?

My First Book-binding Project

Maybe it’s me but class appeared slower than usual this past week. Since the semester is coming to a close, I guess things are starting to wind down. As usual, we couldn’t leave class without having another homework assignment.

Based on the explanation, I believed I could handle the homework with no problem – but it had its challenges.

Earlier in the week, Rosie and I purchased the paper for the assignment – a medium weight vellum paper. The paper has a translucent, off-white appearance that allows the letters to show through the other side. When the sheets were layered,  the letters appeared to have a shadow effect between multiple pages.

Before I started the project, I nearly panicked when I found the written sheets of paper needed binding into a book. She asked that we use Japanese book binding to create the book, but I had never tried it before, so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out.

Well, thank goodness for You-Tube. Within five minutes, I picked up the process with no problem. I added the front and back cover and finished with the Japanese book binding. Luckily, it turned out better than I expected. And, through all of it, I managed to complete the Christmas cards and mail them out!

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