Monday, May 16, 2011

Some thoughts on Calligraphy and Ink

For many years in the past, I pursued an interest in calligraphy.  I'm largely self-taught but got to the point where I took a few classes as well as a year long workshop with a well-known calligrapher, Annie Cicale.  I did OK, did a lot of documents and Wedding Invitations plus some well-paid and interesting work for a poet. for more than 8 years.  When The Poet became ill and moved to a nursing home, I no longer had interesting & well-paid work to do illuminating and transcribing his poetry so I let it all go and spent my spare time pursuing my interest in Plein-Air Painting.  Recently I offered to address wedding invitations for a nephew’s wedding and in order to do a good job, began to practice my calligraphy.

I’ve long known that my supplies were short but decided to make-do with the best I had.  A friend had given me a huge package of pointed nibs so I decided to use those rather than purchase the kind I’d rather have.  I’ve really enjoyed learning to use these nibs which are most unlike the chisel-type nibs I used in the past.

A few weeks ago, as I was practicing my lettering skills with one of these nibs, I calmed down my racing mind with my mantra, the Serenity Prayer.  Which got me to thinking along new lines that went somewhat like this; if I had a nickel for every time I’ve slowed down & balanced my mind with the Serenity Prayer I not only wouldn’t be as calm or relatively sane. I’d also be quite well-off financially.  While I thought these thoughts, I started writing the Serenity Prayer.  The new thought was if I had a dollar for every time I wrote the Serenity Prayer, I’d be better-off financially. 

One thing I’m enjoying is the freedom to make mistakes and allow them to remain on works that I’m selling.  I’m working on one of my Stumbling Blocks, Perfectionism.  Were I to upload a copy of a ‘perfect’ piece, I’d still be re-working my 1st one and I doubt my mind would be calm or ‘sane.’

I’m also enjoying using the equipment and supplies I’ve had on hand for many years, making-do with what I have and not feeling that I have to invest in new.  I’m enjoying re-inventing my skills and use of.  Today I used 2 Schaeffer calligraphy pens that have been stored away for years.  Someone who tried their hand at calligraphy and felt they’d failed gave them to me, thinking I might be able to use them.  Little did they know....  Well, in the day when I bought 10 or 15 new nibs to make sure I’d have enough for a particular job, I inwardly turned up my nose at one of these pens.  Today, I’m loving them.

I’m enjoying the practice; it’s a good discipline for me.  I’m enjoying thinking about all the things I can make on decorated watercolor paper with a few pen nibs, some ink and a paint box full of gouache.  I’m enjoying learning to break my well-established rules of semi-rigid perfectionism & recipes for failure, enjoying the honest work of art that come out of my daily practice – ‘warts’ and all.

I did purchase a bottle of new ink to use on the Wedding Invitations.  It was to me, somewhat pricey, but it sounded good – matte black, waterproof – which one needs to use on outer envelopes in case the mail carrier delivers it in the rain.  As it turns out, I struggled with this ink through 95 addresses and have come to the conclusion that it’s horrible ink that I wouldn’t recommend to anyone for any purpose, unless maybe you’re into Graffiti Art and need a fast  splash of black –  which would finish off what’s left in the bottle. 

This morning, I shook the bottle before using and commenced dipping my pen into the ink.  The ink positively would not flow.  I looked into the bottle and what was there was the consistency of pudding.  I watered it down a bit so I could finish what I’d started,  constantly dipping and wiping a lot more than I did actual lettering.  It took me a very long time to letter the above Serenity Prayer

A thumbs-down to this ink.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

An overcast and gray day, today, but with a sense of dim light.  When I first sat down to sketch the one thing that was prominent in my mind was Green.  Lush, thick, pervasive, cool and everywhere.  It’s interesting to me that these sketches appear to me now so different than they did when I was making them.  On the scene, the greens seemed dulled down and properly morose.  After being scanned and mildly edited, the greens appear as pale, yet oddly garish.    

Today is the 2nd day I’ve painted at the farm since last fall.  Painting at the farm last season, I had the feeling of someone who has returned after a long journey, seeing the familiar with new eyes.  So far this year, I have the feeling that I’ve been here awhile, settled in, part of the landscape....  Not a sense of newness but a sense of being more firmly rooted.  

I got to the farm at 10 and settled into my spot on the road near the orchard and stayed until noon.  I’d thought to do more drawing than painting but these 2 sketches are what I actually did.  I’ve been inspired by sketches at a website on the Internet called Urban Sketchers where artists from around the world upload recent sketches.  I love to look at this work and think about relating what I see in other's work to what I see me wanting to do with what's around me that interests me.  I was inspired to try brush and paint sketching this morning and this is how it came out. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thank you, Jackson Pollock!

“Abstract painting is abstract. It confronts you. There was a reviewer a while back who wrote that my pictures didn't have any beginning or any end. He didn't mean it as a compliment, but it was.”  Jackson Pollock 

“It’s all a big game of construction, some with a brush, some with a shovel, some choose a pen.”  Jackson Pollock

“The method of painting is the natural growth out of a need. I want to express my feelings rather than illustrate them.”  Jackson Pollock

Monday, May 2, 2011

I recently volunteered to address Wedding Invitation envelopes for my nephew and his bride-to-be, as a gift.  After they accepted, I started practicing my calligraphy, something I haven’t done in years.  I was feeling discouraged and down about the results of my practice as well as many other things going on in the world and in my life.  As is my practice when my mind starts reeling & feels overwhelmed, I thought of the Serenity Prayer and began writing it as my practice piece.   Over and over....   As I wrote I had the thought that if I had a nickel for every time I said the Serenity Prayer to calm my mind I’d not only be a lot less calm but a lot more rich.  As money is one of my worries at the moment, I decided to make something of the practice I’m doing.  As ‘Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without’ is one of my mantras in my recent economic downfall, I decided to start doing these practice pieces on watercolor paper that I’d decorated with color applied loosely and that I’d spattered and had set aside for a few years, for a project I never carried further.

I’ve been listing these practice pieces on eBay for .99 and lo and behold....!  One of the pieces has 2 bids and is now up to $1.29.

I’m now working on 2 more and feel that with the practice and the focus, I’m getting better.  I’m going to continue this practice as long as I can.  Who knows, maybe I’ll sell enough Serenity Prayers to actually have a few extra bucks.  I’m hoping that the Serenity Prayers I’ve recently offered for sale on eBay will get better and better because the first few I’ve listed aren’t that great.  Worth all of .99.

I’ve discovered that within myself I’m eager to do more of this work, to get better.  I’ve enjoyed the out-of-time moments in the real-time hour or so I spent this morning working on the 2 I finished today.  I’m enjoying getting back into a routine of practice and the thinking that goes with it about how I’d like to do the next one, how I can make these pieces look better, how I can work more efficiently, how I can best make use of my crumbling tools and cranky pen nibs...