The Importance of Exemplars

One phrase that I keep seeing used in regards to learning calligraphy is “Study as much as you practice.” To be honest, that’s tough for me. One of the things I enjoy about doing calligraphy is making something – having a pretty thing exist where there wasn’t a pretty thing before, and frankly a few pages of repeated letters and practice strokes doesn’t scratch that itch.

But that’s my hang-up to get past, because it’s still important to look at excellent examples of what you want to do and emulate that to the best of your ability. Over on Reddit, we’re beginning a weekly study session wherein we take a look at an exemplar alphabet and then do our best to copy it. So far this month we’ve been working off of this one, by Claude MediavillaMediavilla

The idea is to take a close look at the exemplar and see how he made each letter. You can see in the lower-case letters how there are a lot of repeated patterns, strokes that go into making more than one letter. In the upper-case this is less common, but you can still see some strokes being re-used over again.

It’s going to be hard to get these exact, but we can at least try:

Quadrata Practice 01 Quadrata Practice 2

As you can see, it got a little messy. This was my second shot at it, by the way. Not only did I learn more about Textura Quadrata, I also learned that your walnut ink doesn’t have to be thick and deep brown. In fact, it’s probably better if it isn’t. Anyway, this is a decent emulation, I think. There are hiccups – the letter s, small or large, is not my friend. And I don’t think I’ll ever use that wonky k or the long s. I did have someone call my Q “rock star,” so I have that going for me.

Since we started with this, I’ve been trying to use this variant of Quadrata as much as possible, and it’s working well for me, I think. So there you have it – study pays off. Who knew?

Do you have a favorite exemplar for your calligraphy? Share in the comments and let’s all give it a whirl!

Ink Drop for September 2015

Time again for the good old Ink Drop, thanks to our friends at Goulet Pens. This month’s theme was “Cavern Expedition”, giving us the colors of darkness and gemstones. Let’s take a look.

Ink Drop Limerick 16

This one is a tribute to the absurdity of English spelling. As any ESL teacher can tell you, explaining the logic behind English spelling is the work of a lifetime.

Pelikan Edelstein Jade is a very nice green with a bit of blue to it. It should do all the things you need a good green ink to do, whatever those things might be. And it actually seems close to the color of jade, so who knew?

Topaz, also by P-E, is a very nice, bright blue in the ranks of Iroshizuku’s Ama-iro and Waterman’s Inspired Blue. Ask your parents, kids. Anyway, much like Jade up there, it’ll do a fine job at being blue and doing what you need blue to do.

Diamine’s Amazing Amethyst is, well, purple. And I’ve never really been in the market for a purple ink, but if you want one that doesn’t jump off the page with its purplosity and say “Lookit me! I’m purple ink!” the way some purple inks do, then this is what you want.

Diamine’s Onyx Black is impressively black, really. which is what I would want from an ink with that name. In large quantities, though, it has a distinctly purple undertone to it. Probably not something you would notice if you were just writing with it, but when it spreads out it certainly makes itself shown.

Finally, we have Faber-Castell’s Garnet Red, a good red that, much like the Amethyst above, doesn’t go out of its way to jump off the page.  It’s red, but you know not red red. Just red enough. It is secure and confident in its redness. It’s a humble and demure example of true redditude.

So there it is, the September 2015 inks. Enjoy ’em!

It’s all in the Versals

I thought today I’d talk about Versals. Why? Well, why not?

If you’ve ever seen something like a Medieval manuscript (and who hasn’t right?), you’ve seen versals – they’re the giant, ornately illustrated capital letter at the beginning of a passage. Here are a few examples:


They’re a great way to add a little flourish and flair to your piece, but they can be a little tricky. Here are a few of mine, with some thoughts about how I worked them out.

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