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.

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