Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pen, Ink, & Paper in Harmony

A majority of my calligraphy work has allowed me to select a paper of my choice, which can create a bit of "laziness" when it comes to selecting the best materials under varying circumstances.

This past week I was commissioned to write a number of words on a photo matte.  A variety of lettering styles were requested by the client, and basic black ink with gold highlights.

I sat down to practice and picked up my trusty Brause nibs—the nibs I learned with 26 years ago and generally my "go-to" choice.  These worked great on my practice paper and for the initial paste-up layout I provided the client.

However, when it came to writing on the actual matte surface, the Brause were way too stiff, not making complete contact with the matte for clean strokes.  I went from feeling very comfortable with the process to, "Yuck!  This stinks!"

practice on the off-cuts

A-ha...that's why calligraphers should always have a variety of nibs in their tool kit...whether they be broad edge, pointed pen, or brush pens.  Pen, ink, and surface/paper must be in harmony with one another to give a good result!
The solution was my more flexible Mitchell nibs, and using them without a reservoir.  The flexibility allowed beautiful contact between nib and paper/matte surface, resulting in clean strokes that were a dream to create!

gold highlights added with Fine-Tec watercolor

The framer we worked with was wonderful in providing me with the off-cuts from the matte, allowing me to practice and find this harmony with my tools.

the finished matte

 It's easy to become complacent with our favorite things.  But expanding your knowledge and experience with a variety of nibs, inks/gouache, and papers will make the creative experience more enjoyable. 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Calligraphy for Christmas Poetry

I have a wonderful returning customer who selects a Christmas poem each year to share with those she sends cards to.  For the past three years, she has commissioned me to create 100 inserts of her selection, written in calligraphy.
Italic Lettering

Because the pieces are scanned and printed, I write the  lettering larger than the finished size in black on plain bright white paper, such as Canson Pro-Marker Layout.  I scan the lettering, make any corrections needed using Photoshop, then reduce and set up the final for print using Adobe InDesign.  The finished pieces are 4 1/4" x 5 1/2", allowing me to set up four on a page for print with crop marks.

Title lettering: Uncial

Starting with parent sheets (26"x40") of
Arches Text Wove paper, I tear it down to 8 1/2"x11" sheets for print, then tear these to the finished size after print using my crop marks.  Tearing allows for more natural looking "deckle" edges.

Main text lettering: Batarde

The embellishment is different each year for the individual poems, but I have consistently used FineTec gold watercolors and Winsor Newton watercolors, and either a Winsor Newton 000 or Princeton liner brush to apply the color.  

Title lettering: sloped Uncial



Merry Christmas everyone, 

and many blessings to you as we enter the New Year.  
May 2016 be full of inspiration!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Calligraphy & Lettering Art for Cards: Part 3

Cards for Adults

The final part of this series is focused on greeting cards created for adults.

Often I find the artistic portion easier to create than composing the written message.  But the advantage of creating your own card is that the customization is unique for that person...the colors you know they like, the appropriateness of the lettering for the occasion, and the overall mood created by the artwork.  Thankfully, having a style that is "all over the place", as I do, is beneficial!  I love the formal flourishing of Copperplate (Congratulations card below), but I also love the ability to play with funky letter forms and shade with my colored pencils.
I hope you enjoy the selection below!  Let me know what you like!

Above and below: Neuland style lettering, ZIG Calligraphy Marker, 
and Prismacolor pencils on Strathmore drawing paper

Faith, Hope, Love: Drawn letter forms, Faber-Castell PITT markers, 
Prismacolor pencils on Strathmore Drawing paper

Drawn lettering and design, PITT markers, colored pencils, and glitter pen

Some recent drawings I've been working on, inspired by photographs of tiles...
I scanned and reproduced my drawings in black and white, then printed 
and colored individually.  Lettering was added with Prismacolor Verithin pencils.

 This card was designed for a client who had been gifted a pair of shoes from Seattle designer Luly Yang.  The colors used were inspired by the shoes themselves.

This last selection was designed and made for a personal friend who was recently promoted
to Colonel in the United States Air Force.  

 I found the Air Force logo online...I traced the image,creating a simple black and white 
line drawing that I then scanned, resized in Photoshop to fit my card dimensions, 
and printed onto Strathmore 300 Series Drawing paper.  
Next, I wrote the Copperplate calligraphy message in Ultramarine Winsor & Newton gouache
and added highlights to the left edge of the lettering with Dr. Ph Martin's Silver Calligraphy Ink.  I chose to do the lettering first, knowing if I made a mistake it would be at this stage.  I didn't want to spend the time painting the logo, to then make a mistake in the calligraphy and have to start over!  
Last, I painted the logo with black India ink and the Dr. Martin's Silver, which has a great metallic shine!

Thanks for visiting this series!  Next up...a little post-Christmas sharing of Christmas projects!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Calligraphy & Lettering Art for Cards: Part 2

 Cards for Kids...Using DieCuts

In my last post I focused on using stickers to embellish handmade cards for kids.
However, if you have time and access to a good die cut machine, you can get pretty creative with your designs, making your cards even more unique.

Train Die-Cut Accordion Fold Card

Stampadoodle & The Paper Cafe, my local fine paper and rubber stamp store, has an amazing selection 
of die-cuts and fabulous cardstock.  Bright colors and polk-a-dot paper seemed appropriate 
for this one-year-old's birthday card.  The window cut-outs in the train cars allowed me to add 
sticker images and a photo of the birthday boy as the engineer!

More stickers for the front with drawn lettering, and brush pen for his name on the envelope.


Chorus Line of Kids Die-Cut

Another accordion fold card, this one utilized a die-cut silhouette image of five children holding hands.

Although each panel of the accordion fold repeats the five images, I didn't want the children to look the same.  I drew the faces and hair, then my husband and I sat down to work together drawing 
and coloring the clothes on each figure.  No two are the same.

Once the kids were in place, I drew the balloons, signs, kites, presents, etc, spelling out the 
birthday message.

Finally, the Neuland lettering was added along the bottom with a calligraphy marker, and outlined 
with a fine line pen for a more playful look to these block letters.

Starting out with some great die-cuts and stickers can make the card creation process flow a little faster and easier than starting with a blank slate.

Coming up in my next post...calligraphy and hand lettering in cards for adults!

Calligraphy & Lettering Art for Cards: Part 1

Cards for Kids

When I was in the first grade at Roosevelt Elementary in Burlington, WA, I had a teacher, Mrs. Sanchez, who would hand draw cards for her students.  Nothing felt more special than receiving one of those cards, knowing it was made just for me...and now in my 40's, I still have them tucked away in a box of good memories.

Her example stuck with me and now I make cards for the special little kids in my life.  Bright colors, simple designs, some fun stickers or die-cuts and something is created that will hopefully make the kiddos I know feel as special as Mrs. Sanchez made me feel.

Using Stickers to Embellish

What could be happier than Suzy's Zoo stickers?
The colors and cheerful images are my starting point for design.  With the message in mind, I may
add a few drawings (the balloon, polk-a-dots,
and daisy flowers) to fill the extra space.

I wrote the Happy Birthday messages with large Faber Castell PITT brush markers.  Highlights were added with colored pencil to deepen the base color of the marker in the top section of the lettering.  White dots are added last with a Sharpie Poster Paint pen.  


Here, my drawings were the main design, with the centers spelling the child's name.  The butterfly stickers added the finishing touch.  A little gray marker shadowing on the left side of the butterflies gives them a slight 3-D effect.  Arches Text Wove paper, Faber Castell PITT markers used as watercolor, pointed pen and sumi ink for the lettering.

This was a recent baby shower card for a friend of mine.  The baby's name, Gabriel, was drawn in my "Whimsical Letter" style and shaded with three tones of blue colored pencil.  The name was mounted with foam tape to make it stand out from the card base.  The grass is layered cut cardstock, stickers added for fun and color, and the "welcome" message written with a PITT fine point pen, size XS.


"Look who bloomed!" was hand drawn, based on an image I saw on a rubber stamp years ago.  Adding the baby's name to the flower pot personalized it just for her.  My Whimsical Letters,  watercolor, and colored pencil on Arches Text Wove paper mounted on cardstock.

Be sure to check back for Part 2 of Cards for Kids, using die-cuts!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A New Beginning

Over a year since my last post?!  Oh my goodness!

Life has been a little chaotic and tumultuous for the past year, but the beautiful thing about art is that it always welcomes you back and draws you in.  So, onward to new beginnings...

This post is not so much about what I've been creating, as it is about what I've been learning.  Sometimes is takes a hail storm to see the potential rainbow.

October 2015 in Ocean Shores, WA
Last February my husband and love of my life was diagnosed with metastatic cancer.  Found in five places in his body, we spent more than a month undergoing biopsies, doctor appointments, genetic lab tests, etc to try and determine what kind of cancer and where it was stemming from.  A label of "spindle cell sarcoma" was eventually given, though this is like saying "vanilla" in a world of 31 flavors.  We've been told that when doctors hear hoof beats they are trained to look for horses...but my husband is a zebra.  Though we've also been told this sarcoma is not "curable", we are prayerfully hopeful that it will be manageable for years to come.  We are also open to miracles. 

The positive side is that after 52 radiation treatments over a five month period, he is doing well.  Much of this is about attitude.

Learning Life's Lessons  


From a spiritual standpoint, my faith has never been stronger. 


"The Lord's acts of mercy are not exhausted, his compassion is not spent; they are renewed 
each morning—great is your faithfulness!  
The Lord is my portion, I tell myself, therefore I will hope in him."  Lamentations 3:22-24

We are no different than anyone else with struggles and trials to overcome, except that we have chosen to place our lives in God's hands, the creator of all things.  This doesn't mean that our trials will be taken away—though, gratefully, we are rejoicing now in the answered prayers of healing, we also know that there may come a time in the future when we face the scary news again.  What faith and prayer have taught me in the last eight months is that even through the most difficult times, God is still and always will be merciful and there is always reason to rejoice and give thanks for the day.  If our news was not so good, yes, I could still share the same scripture with you and believe the message wholeheartedly.  Happiness and joy cannot be dependent on emotions, but come ultimately from the peace that only God can give.
This doesn't mean I/we will never struggle with fears or doubts...as it says above, God's mercies and compassion are renewed each morning, so wouldn't mine need to be as well?  Faith is a daily decision and it takes work, just like lasting relationships take work. 

From an art and business standpoint, taking a step back for awhile has been an opportunity to gain a new perspective on what is important.  
First, not over-scheduling myself—time lost in life's "busyness" can not be gained back.  
Second, stop looking at others and wishing I could do what they do.  I have a dear friend who is exploding with creative ideas, while I struggle to have one bright idea.  But I recently read some great scriptural advice from Christian writer, Max Lucado.  Galatians 6:4 and 1 Peter 4:11 remind us that we need to examine our own strengths and talents and know that we were made to do those things.  Lucado writes,
"No one else is like you!  What do you do well?  What do people ask you to do again?  What task comes easily?  Your skill set is your road map.  It leads you to your territory.  Take note of your strengths.  They are bread crumbs that will lead you out of the wilderness.  God loves you too much to give you a job and not the skills."  (from his new book, Glory Days)
I may never create a masterpiece work of art for a gallery, but I do enjoy teaching and introducing others to the joy of calligraphy.  
And I enjoy creating small pieces of art that make people smile.  
This is my territory—time to stop feeling frustrated about what 
I can't do and celebrate more earnestly what I've been given to do.

Each day is a blessing and we rejoice in it.

As the season of hope and light approaches, new projects are brewing, future blog posts about calligraphy are being planned, and teaching will resume early in the new year.  
Meanwhile, we will continue to take each day as it comes,
hanging on to faith, hope, and love.  
And laughter—how we love to laugh!



Saturday, February 15, 2014

Bridging the Past and the Present with Calligraphy

As a student of Anthropology at university, my favorite studies were in ethnohistoric research, conducting interviews and learning the immigrant history of families to my small town.  When I later chose freelance calligraphy as my career, I never imagined my interest in immigrant research would one day find a pairing with my brushes and paint.

Usually, my calligraphy work is relegated to paper and ink, wedding envelopes and teaching exemplars.  But a recent commission allowed me to step into a family's immigrant history, bridging the past with the present.

Last December, a mutual friend put me in touch with Dr. and Mrs. Rindal, of Mt. Vernon, Washington.  The Rindals had acquired an old family trunk in need of some restorative painting of old hand lettering.

Rindal Family trunk

Family stories said that this trunk had traveled with relatives to Ellis Island in the early 1900's when they immigrated to the United States from Norway.

The trunk had been passed through the family, recently coming to rest in a garage, where a few spatters of paint were added to its aged patina, rustic hardware, and bruises showing its use through the past century.

When Mrs. Rindal discovered the trunk was being sold in a family garage sale, she paid the $1.50 requested and rescued it home.

old shipping tags—"Foreign Baggage"
old shipping tags


"Rindal" and "North" below

At some point in time, a skilled hand used a brush and black paint to write name and destination information on the trunk—the Rindal name, "Michigan", and "North Amerika". 



The lettering had been badly smeared, making two other words barely readable.

It was decided that if I could repaint only the readable words, it would be an improvement and better than nothing.

But wouldn't it be fun to do a little sleuthing?

The unknown words

In natural light and from many different angles, I began trying to make out the faded words.  My lettering knowledge allowed me to recognize parts of letters and the familiar curve of the brush used in forming this Roundhand script.  The more I looked, the clearer it became that the first word was likely a name—perhaps Randi or Rondi.  I jumped on the computer and went to http://ellisisland.org to see what I could find.  There, I could search names, passenger manifests, and dates of immigrant arrivals in the United States.  Searching "R. Rindal" turned up a passenger listing for "Randi Rindal" who arrived from Melthus, Norway, on April 28, 1910.  From this point, it seemed logical that the other faded word was a city in Michigan.  A few of the letters were easier to see than others, especially the very clear capital M at the start (above photo).  Back to the computer and a Google search for city names in Michigan beginning with M.  This search turned up "Muskegon, Michigan", believed to be the oldest township in that state.  Muskegon seemed to match all but a single letter—on the trunk, the "s" was replaced with a "c".

A phone call to the Rindals led to a search through a family history book.  Between the book and the Ellis Island records online, names and dates came together enough that we felt confident the name on the trunk was Randi Rindal.  And, considering the spelling of Amerika with a "k", it was acceptable to assume that a city in a foreign country may also have been misspelled, so we chose to leave the city as "Muckegon."

The Process  


The objective was not an actual restoration of the trunk, but simply to repaint the lettering to be readable without appearing new—the black smearing was left alone as another element of history.

With good natural light, I lightly traced the outline of the letters with a white Fons & Porter chalk pencil, to allow a clear visual for painting.


Black acrylic paint was than applied with a round brush.

As I painted the letters, I could see and feel the original pressure and swell of the brush that made those words over a century ago.  Dr. Rindal's grandfather built the trunk; what went through his mind at the time—excitement for his family members who would make the journey?  Anxiety or fear of the unknown?  And the final touch of labeling the trunk with name and destination—was there joyful anticipation, or sadness at letting a loved one go?  Randi was 22 years young when she arrived at Ellis Island—a journey I could never imagine myself taking at such a young age.  These are the thoughts that went through my mind with every paint stroke and letter redefined, bridging the distance from Norway and New York in 1910, to the present.  This project was never "a job", but rather a privileged look at a wonderful family's history.

the finished lettering

Today was delivery day of the finished project.  Though I was pleased with the results, Mrs. Rindal's delighted reaction to the rejuvenated painting was even better.  With a $1.50 purchase to rescue a family heirloom, history unfolded, family stories were rediscovered, and Randi Rindal has stepped forward in memory.  My thanks to the Rindals for allowing me to be part of this.