Remembrances in Writing

As we all know, 2016 has been off to a rough start, with the deaths of two people who have affected a lot of us more than we might be able to acknowledge. It certainly didn’t help that no one saw either one coming.

Alan Rickman and David Bowie both carved out places for themselves in their arts, and as I look back at the movies and music that helped to make me who I am, I see both of them. So when they passed, I knew I had to do something.

So I did.

I’m a little too old for Rickman’s Snape to have lodged himself in my psyche, but that one word – “Always” – as his past and his history were revealed to us carried so much power and meaning that I couldn’t leave it out. The line from GalaxyQuest is one of my favorites from the whole movie. Not just because of what is said, but because of what is not said – the struggle for this actor to not just collapse in a pile of self-loathing is visible with every muscle on Rickman’s face:

As for the line from Dogma, he was able to make Metatron go from flippant to deep within moments, and seemed to really enjoy the portrayal of someone so utterly human, despite being an angel.

The first one I did was the line from “Space Oddity,” and that was probably because – like many other people online – it was one of the first to pop into my mind. I used FineTec blue to write it, and that’s stuff that I’m still getting the hang of. I may do that line again at some point. In the same way, I think I may re-do the line from “Memory of a Free Festival” – the “The” is just kind of… there. It might look better if I include it with “Sun Machine”, which I think turned out really well. And that’s it, really – the rest of it makes me happy. Good colors, good scripts. I can make it work.

The line from “Let’s Dance” was done quickly, but it worked out. Quite a dark vibe that song has, I think.

Finally, the “Starman” refrain took a few days and several tries to get right. This is another that was being passed around the internet (and the Instagram calligraphy circles) pretty quickly after Bowie died, so I wanted to make sure it looked the way I wanted it to. And, in the end, it did. I tried to make the blue an Electric Blue, in honor of “Sound and Vision,” but I don’t know that the gouache available to me was going to make that possible. The Starman itself is a mix of yellow and gold gouaches, and looks very nice in person. As for the dots along the bottom, they’re for the “morse code” that comes before the chorus in the song. I knew I wanted to represent that, but it took some puzzling out to figure out how.

And that’s all I can really do. It’s hard to explain, sometimes, why the deaths of people you had never met and never really known can have an impact like this. All I can say is that they were, through no choice of their own, part of my life. Because of that, I feel like I can’t let their passing go unnoticed and their influence go unacknowledged. This is what I can do, and so it is done.

Ink Drop for January 2016

Hello and welcome to another Ink Drop, thanks to our friends at Goulet Pens. I actually have a decision to make regarding this program – thanks to the USPS, the price of an international subscription is going up, so they’re giving a chance to opt-in to a $5 increase. The price doesn’t bother me, but it would be a chance to stem the growing tide of tiny little sample bottles that threaten to overrun my desktop… On the other hand, I would miss getting mail and doing this, so I’ll probably keep my subscription going.

Anyway, here are the inks we got in January:

2016.01 Ink Drop

As you can see, it’s a fairly muted selection this time around. They all write nicely, though – no wild feathering like last time – and there are subtle differences in the inks that take a bit of looking to detect.

De Atramentis’ Jane Austin and Edgar Allan Poe are two really, really similar green inks. Poe is a bit lighter than Austin, which is weird since Poe has never really been considered lighter than anyone. But as greens go, they’r both serviceable and gave me no trouble.

Gray Flannel is a pale, gray-blue color that might be a nice option if you’re one of those people who likes blue, but doesn’t want a BLUE-blue, like Iroshizuku’s Kon-Peki or Private Reserve’s DC Supershow or something like that. This is a blue that won’t draw too much attention to itself, which is useful at times.

The other two follow the same pattern as the cool-colored inks. De Atramentis’ William Shakespeare is a dark, wine-red ink that, like Gray Flannel, is good if you want red, but not High School English Teacher red. And J Herbin’s Cafe de Iles is a brown, almost orange color that turns out brighter than you might expect. It’s not exactly glowing, but there’s good warmth to that ink. Not sure when I’d use it, though. For calligraphy, I tend to default to walnut ink if I want a brown.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Happy writing!

Last Ink Drops of 2015

For a variety of reasons, I got behind in trying out my new Ink Drop inks. Totally my fault, and has absolutely nothing to do with my being the sole survivor of a pre-apocalyptic suburban paradise lost in the wasteland of post-nuclear Massachusetts. Nothing.

First, November:

2015.11 Ink Drop Limerick

These were some lovely inks all around. I don’t have a lot to say about each one individually because, frankly, they all work. The Kiri-Same is a nice one to have, as a good grey ink is tough to come by sometimes (unless you dilute sumi, which is a perfectly fine, if a bit trial-and-error, option), and while the Autumn Oak is a great vibrant orange for calligraphy – up there with Noodler’s Apache Sunset and Iroshizuku’s Yu-Yake – it’s probably not one I would load up a pen with. Just as a personal preference, seeing as how my words don’t feel very orange to me. Yours might, so go for it.

The limerick, by the way, came from Ranjit Bolt’s book, A Lion Was Learning to Ski, all a bunch of amusing limericks.

Now, December’s a little different….

2015.12 Ink Drop

First, you may notice that I didn’t do a limerick. That’s because, even with Ranjit Bolt’s help, I just couldn’t find any that I really wanted to write out. So I went to another resource, my growing collection of abecedaries. This one is the group of fictional companies. I alphabetized them, numbered them, went to and used whatever came out.

Now I can see what Goulet Pens is up to this month, via those clever dogs at De Atramentis – Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, with some red and green to round out the five. Nicely done, although at least two of these inks gave me some trouble when I first did this.

The first time I tried this, the Gold came out really heavy, so the second try required a bit of a lighter hand with the dipping. Once that was taken care of, though, it came out looking quite nice. The Brilliant Red is more pink than red, really, so I probably won’t use a lot of it. Outside of my sarcastic Valentine’s calligraphy, I don’t have much use for pink.

The biggest troublemaker here, of course, is the Frankincense. All that feathering on what is pretty smooth paper. Kind of absurd, but it might not be too bad a problem if you’re using a fountain pen – especially a finer-nibbed one. If I want to use this again, I’ll have to be a bit more careful about loading on the ink. The other De Atramentis ink, Myrrh, seemed to work just fine, and the Vibrant Green is great.

So there’s two months in one. Lucky you!

Calligraphy in 2015

Now that the year is fully and finally over, we can take a look back at the things we did in calligraphy in 2015. And what a busy year it turned out to be!


2015-12-31 20.27.08

From another angle, all piled up, it looks like I’m going to have to get a bigger box.

2015-12-31 20.40.17


Not too bad! Now, is it all quality work? Of course not. I’d say at least half of it is things I knocked off in an evening, just so that I could look at my tools in the eye and say I did something. But the other half, while not exactly museum-quality, is work that I could show off and be reasonably pleased with.

Aside from being a nice way to look back on the progress I’ve made in the past year – and I have – it’s also a nice way to look back at some of the events of the year. I can look at a piece and recall the context in which it was made. So even though I don’t really do the whole diary-writing thing, this is a kind of diary in its own way.

A few highlights:

Valentine - Conan the BarbarianThis was my winning entry in the r/calligraphy Spring Contest. Where it remained until Halloween.Who doesn't love Pi?Princess Bride 01Amazing Race RiddleWalter BluntJoke - MandelbrotWil Wheaton 01Star Wars 18Quotation - The Crow 03Victor Von Doombot 01Mel Brooks 02Peter Serafinowicz 01Leonard Nimoy 01Kids in the Hall 02Bob Ross 01

There’s a lot more. A lot more. But I think these few are some of the more entertaining ones I did this year, and I look forward to bettering myself in 2016. Calligraphy-wise, anyway. Other aspects of myself might deteriorate wildly, but not this. I hope.

Enjoy the new year!