Words, Words, Words

It’s not been a terribly productive week, honestly. You know how it is – some weeks you’re on fire and can’t do enough, while other weeks it’s just… bluh.

Fortunately, I have the Reddit calligraphy community, and they have a regular Word of the Day so that I can at least get some practice done with a modicum of good conscience. Mind you, these are usually the first things I do in the evening, so they’re not always as good as they could be, but I thought I’d share – especially since the words of the last week or so have been more about the letters than the words themselves. For example:

Cabbaged
With 8 letters and together with “fabaceae,” they are the longest English words that are playable on an instrument.

So, here’s what I do when I can’t think of anything else to do. Enjoy!

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The Final Ink Drop

Yup, you read that right – this is the last one. Goulet Pens announced earlier this month that they were discontinuing the Ink Drop program. Oddly enough, the main reason was because it was too popular, which doesn’t seem to make sense. So much so that I mentioned to to our business teacher as a possible case study for his students. They explained it rather well, though.

The end of the Ink Drop was a bit anticlimactic, and a lot of comments seemed to be, “But what about ME?!” I admit, it would have been nice to end with a bit more flourish (a writing joke -get it?) but it is what it is, and I’m thankful that I was able to benefit from the program for as long as I did.

That said, here’s this month’s colors! The theme is “Forest Foray”.

2016.04 Ink Drop

As I think I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a fan of brown fountain pen inks. Walnut ink passes muster, but not much else. Indeed, Earth Brown has a little more yellow in it than I would like, and while Terracotta is more on the red end of brown, if I wanted an orangy ink, there are a lot of others I could go with. But that’s just me – your mileage may vary.

As for the greens, They’re all good. Forest Green is dark and rich, Sherwood green is a little more obvious in its Green-ness, and Magical Forest… Well, it’s one of Diamine’s “Shimmertastic” inks, and it lives up to the label. It’s almost ostentatiously shiny.

As an aside – I don’t think I’ll ever use a Shimmertastic ink in a pen. The glittery bits settle pretty quickly, and if there’s one thing you never want to do, it’s shake a fountain pen. I’ve been getting lots of use out of them for calligraphy, though.

So there we are. That’s it for the Ink Drop, which means several things:

  1. I’ll finally be able to start running down the trillion little ink samples I have on my desk, and
  2. I’ll need to find something else to put on this blog. Damn you, Goulet, for making me actually put effort into something!

I’d like to extend my appreciation again to Goulet Pens for having provided this service, and I really can’t recommend them enough. I’ve bought from them many times – pen, paper, ink, supplies – and they will continue to be my first choice in this regard.

Now. What else to write about…?

Alas, Poor Yorick…

Over on Reddit a week or so ago, there was a question about how long it would take to write out the entirety of Hamlet in calligraphy. A student wanted to know for an English project, and the general consensus was that it would take much, much too long and would probably not be nearly valuable enough in terms of the grade earned versus the time put in. We managed to talk the student down to a soliloquy-length piece.

Still, it got me thinking – how long would it take? I decided to give it a shot, and this is what the result was:

William Shakespeare - Hamlet

Overall, I think it turned out very nice. The versal is pretty much mine, and the trees come from the Wharncliffe Hours. I know – using a fifteenth-century illumination on lines from a seventeenth-century play? What kind of madness is that? But it fits the mood of the piece, and I like it.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how the stats worked out:

  • Eight lines, 76 words, 311 characters: 38 minutes

That’s about 7 seconds per character, about 30 seconds per word on average. There’s a few short pauses in there, re-dipping the pen, remembering to inhale, that sort of thing, but that’s my data.

Also, it took four tries to get through the whole thing without making a mistake, so I should add about another half hour or so for false starts, setting up a new page, etc. So just for fun, let’s call it a full hour – that feels short, but it’ll do:

  • 11.5 seconds per character, 47 seconds per word.

Let’s aim for somewhere in the middle: about 10 seconds per character (I get about 142,000 characters from the Gutenberg text)

Therefore, it should take me – writing continuously in italic with no breaks – 16.5 days of writing.

If I spend 8 hours a day writing, so that I can eat and do other things besides writing, it would take almost 50 days.

That would be quite the labor of love, to say the least. For now, I’ll stick to my short pieces.

Learning a New Script – Book of Kells

I thought it might be fun to walk everyone (crickets) through how I go about learning a new script – specifically a historical one from a specific source. In this case, it was the famous Book of Kells, an Irish manuscript of the four Gospels, currently located in Trinity College Dublin.

Now, one option is to get your tactical black turtleneck on, put your infiltration gear together and break into the College library. I would recommend the west skylights – they haven’t replaced the wiring for the alarms for quite a while and they’re unreliable at best. Rappel down quietly – quietly – and use your mirror array to deflect the lasers surrounding the Kells display. At this point, your diversion should happen – a small dry ice and water explosion set off by one of the neighborhood teens that you paid off in weed and beer, perhaps – which will allow you to break the case and take the book. Remember to carefully replace it with a bag of sand that you brought with you, so as not to set off the weight detectors.

I leave the escape from the building as an exercise for the reader.

Or, if that’s too much trouble, you can go to the Trinity College website, where they have the whole thing digitized in high resolution. If you’re lazy, that is. Here’s the page I eventually ended up working from:

Book of Kells - Page 292v

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Some Star Wars and Others

Yes, I saw the new Star Wars movie and it was AWESOME. I certainly won’t spoil it, though – this blog is for calligraphy, not spoilers.

As a way of getting myself psyched up, though, I did some Star Wars quotes for practice.

Quotation - Star Wars - C3PO

Good old C-3PO. Always with the right outlook on life.

Quotation - Star Wars - Emperor

This is such a great line. Never do we hear the word “Jedi” spoken with such venom. As scripts go, I think an excessively flourished Fraktur is ideal for the Emperor.

Quotation - Star Wars - Obi-Wan

This took a couple of tries – I did it once and then had to cut that up so I could get the centering right. Getting things properly centered is an interesting challenge in calligraphy. If you’re determined to do it, then you should be ready to do a couple of drafts.

Quotation - Star Wars

This is the only line from the new movie that I did. Well, that and “I have a bad feeling about this,” but it didn’t really come out the way I wanted. Damn Romans.

There were a few other long-form pieces that I did this week as well:

A request from Mom.
A request from Mom. She’ll get the original, of course.

 

As a teacher, I wish I had an office to hang this in.
As a teacher, I wish I had an office to hang this in.

 

Such a perfect joke.
Such a perfect joke.

 

If only the attribution looked as good as the quote. Damn.
If only the attribution looked as good as the quote. Damn.

 

A good time was had by all, I’m sure. One of the nice things about having a break – and having played through most of Fallout 4 – is that I can do more of these.

What I’ve Been Up To

Things have been quiet over here in the last few weeks, mainly for two reasons.

Reason The First: I got Fallout 4. That should pretty much explain everything.

2015-11-23_00002
The best things always begin with nuclear annihilation.

I figure once I play though the game a few times, this’ll be less and less of an impact on my calligraphy time. Then again, I also bought – on a friend’s recommendation – Witcher III, so who knows how winter break will shake out.

Reason The Second: My damn, dirty eyes.

Up till a little while ago, my vision was pretty much spot-on. Sure, my right eye was a little weaker than my left, but it was within tolerances. For a few months, though, it was becoming more and more obvious that my little jelly cameras weren’t working the way they should. Case in point:

Pellucid

Take a look at that h in “light.” That really shouldn’t happen, but when one eye decides that it wants to start doubling things up, then that’s what happens. I couldn’t line things up against the guidelines under the paper, and couldn’t be absolutely sure where the pen nib was going. For calligraphy that’s a bad, bad thing.

So I went to the eyeglass shop, got my eyes checked, and got my very first pair of eyeglasses.

2015-11-19 19.12.19

I wanted something with a horn-rimmed look, which turns out to be the style of Moral Ambiguity in TV and movies. It was an interesting experience, actually – not only getting eyeglasses for the first time, but doing it all in Japanese.

Now everything is in HD, as my sister puts it, and I can see what I’m doing again. All things being equal, I would rather not have to have them, but that’s where life’s put me at the moment, so I won’t complain. Rather, I’ll slowly get back to doing calligraphy work. The Calligraphy subreddit is doing holiday-themed Words of the Day leading up to Christmas:

DecemberGingerbreadSnowflakeWintertime

Anyway, I’m getting back on the horse, as it were. With Star Wars coming up, I’ll do a few of those this week, and I’ve been building up a bank of ideas and requests. Winter break should be productive. See you there!

 

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!