May the Fourth Be With You (2016)

I do so love May the Fourth – Star Wars Day as it’s otherwise known. Up until last year or so, though, I had no real way to participate in that day. Nothing to contribute, really, other than to pass around some cartoons or memes that someone else had put together.

Ah, but then I started on calligraphy and discovered that I do have a way to contribute. Last year I did a bunch of great lines from the movies, and had such fun that I thought I’d do it again. So here, without further wind-up, are this year’s Star Wars Day pieces. Enjoy!

It's variously "I have" and "I've got" throughout the movies. I picked this one. Ink: Waterman Tender Purple Script: Italic
It’s variously “I have” and “I’ve got” throughout the movies. I picked this one.
Ink: Waterman Tender Purple
Script: Italic

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Let’s Go Crazy…

The death of Prince didn’t hit me nearly the way the death of David Bowie did, but there is no denying that Prince was a vast influence on the landscape of modern music. What’s more, he was talented to the point of unbelievability and, as has surfaced in recent interviews, he was a humanitarian who made every effort to help people in need, all while taking no credit for it.

So here’s my tribute piece to the man who should have had much, much more time:


The scan really doesn’t do credit to the Purple Pizazz from Diamine, but it suits perfectly. This took a few tries to get right, as most things do. I’m happy with how it came out, though, and of all the many, many words the man wrote, I think these were the best choice.

Now. If you don’t mind, I’d like to get through the rest of 2016 without any more legends leaving our midst.

This week’s work

Here we are again – I’ve got some free time on my hands and some work that’s been scanned, so let’s see what I’ve been up to this week, shall we? You know you want to.

Marcus Aurelius

I’ve always loved Marcus Aurelius and reread Meditations on a fairly regular basis. The wisdom contained therein is just as useful now as it was back in the day.

This one is one of my favorites, especially in this day and age when opinions are basically a dime a dozen. Just because you have an opinion, that doesn’t mean you need to put it out there. At the same time, if your opinion is something that is vital to you, you need to be sure you can support it and defend it.

I’m pretty sure Marcus Aurelius would be very upset with the way we treat our opinions today.

Lily Tomlin

This comes back to me every time an election season comes around. Just watching the campaigns and the primaries and all the arguing about Bernie or Trump or Hillary just makes me tired.

Neil Gaiman

As always, Neil Gaiman is a great place to go for some inspiration, and The Graveyard Book never disappoints. One of my students actually used this for her final English thesis, so I might see if she wants this one.

Mat Cauthon

This comes from the Wheel of Time series, which I haven’t read since the final book came out a few years ago. Still, this line was always one of my favorites. In the “Old Tongue” of the series, it means, “I am lost in my own mind.” It’s a feeling I’ve identified with plenty of times.

Garrison Keillor

Finally, a good one from Garrison Keillor. At first, it looks like he’s taking a dig at cats, but upon closer reflection, the paradox becomes evident – the purpose of cats is to show that not everything has a purpose. Perhaps it is not the cats that are without purpose, but rather we…

So those are a few things that have kept me busy. Any questions? Put ’em in the comments!

Things I’ve Been Up To

Hello again, all. I bet you’ve been on the edges of your seats, wondering what I’ve been putting out recently. Well relax! Unclench! The time has come to find out…

I’ve been keeping myself busy with a few found lines and some foreign languages just to mix things up. Here are a few of my favorites.

Head Boy

The Head Boy of our student council actually said this out loud. It made sense in context – he was talking to a history teacher about Stalin’s practices in Soviet Russia, but still… I had to write it down.

Ray Bradbury

Another student of ours came across this line quite a while ago, and I resolved to write it out. I did it once before, but the result was mixed. Nice text, terrible-looking attribution. She’s about to graduate, so I thought I’d make it look nice. Bradbury is popular in our program, so it’s great to see a student appreciate him.


My very-nearly-second year lit class is reading Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” right now, and we had a couple of lessons on the story of Phaethon. Like a lot of the stories in that book, there are lessons that we still need today. In this case, be careful with dad’s car. Out of curiosity, I looked up the original Latin and decided to write it out. In Romans, of course. If it had been Biblical Latin, however, I would have used Uncial. Why? Because.

One translation of the epitaph is:

Here Phaethon lies who in the sun-god’s chariot fared.
And though greatly he failed, more greatly he dared.

Franklin Roosevelt

It was FDR’s birthday the other day, so I thought I’d finally do the line that everyone has on their list somewhere. I like how it turned out.

However, it always reminds me of a discussion I had a while ago with a friend who hates FDR thanks to Japanese internment in World War 2. I wanted to reply with, “Yes, but…” and then I thought about it. How the hell do you “Yes, but” Japanese internment? Simple – you can’t. But I can accept that Roosevelt was flawed, and that his good parts were really good.

Okay, one more:

Mark Twain

I love Mark Twain. I mean, he has a point, right? He certainly does.

Anyway, that’s a few of the things I’ve been working on. Hope you’re enjoying yourselves!

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.

Last Week’s Work

Since I’m really a beginning calligrapher, and don’t feel that I’m in a position to offer any real advice or tutorials just yet, I thought one thing I could do here is just show what I’ve been working on, comment on it, and see what kind of lessons we can all learn about what we’re doing here. So this should be my new weekly post, and if I have other things to talk about, I’ll fit them in as best I can.

Anyway, my usual work pattern with calligraphy is this: I do the Words of the Day and Quotes of the Week over on /r/calligraphy on Reddit, as that gives me at least one daily task to complete. Getting even that one thing done is better than getting nothing done. After that, I hit up my personal quotation archive and my Evernote note of Things to Calligraph and see what strikes me. If the mood is right, I’ll do a longer quote, or maybe a little practice or something like that. If I’m really cruising, I’ll have a more lng-term project to work on, but those are still rare. Most of what I do is done in an evening.

Without further ado, here are a few things I worked on this week.

From the upper left: Textura Quadrata, Fraktur, Italic, Foundational, Uncial, Romans, Engrosser’s

One important realization I made this week is that I have to change how I do my Word of the Day. Up until now, I’ve been using all the scripts I have on each Word, which is… tiring. So I figured that since I have seven scripts at my disposal, I’d do one of them per day. I hope this makes things a little simpler, and allows me to focus a little more on each one instead of hopping from one to another so that I can get the Word done.

That said, this is a good word, with lots of nice ascenders to play with. If I were the playing type, which it seems I’m not. Okay, that’s going on my list of Calligraphic Resolutions – “play more.” Done.

Quotation - PG Wodehouse

This was a Quote of the Week over on Reddit, and I chose to do it in Foundational just so I could have more practice with it. There are things in that script I’m still working on – the exit strokes on most letters, for example. I’ve seen some variants where it comes out in a strong hook, others where that exit stroke is subtle and a little understated. I’m still toying with it, to be honest.

I think this came out well in general, though. Some of the spacing is cramped – look at “beautiful” for example. The spacing of the vertical strokes from utiful especially should be equal, but they’re not. Regularity of spacing is key to doing pretty much any script well, and is probably a constant struggle for most calligraphers.

As for the quote itself, I heartily agree. Not only does it give you a point of familiarity to base a friendship on, as all friendships need, but it provides you with a wonderful shorthand for talking to each other. A quick literary reference can communicate so much so quickly. It makes things a lot easier, all told.

Quotation - The Jerk

I decided to watch The Jerk again, and it’s still a wonderful movie. The humor holds up really well, which isn’t something you can say about comedies over time. The above is the advice that young Navin gets from his adopted family as he goes out to seek his destiny, and honestly there is nothing more that needs to be said. Hard work is a virtue, people in power should not be trusted, and when you have a problem you should seek help for it. Boom. That’s life right there.

As for the script itself, it suffers from the same spacing issues as the Foundational – look at that poor apostrophe in Don’t, all squeezed in there. That’s because I put it in last, and reaped the unsurprising results. I think I’m a little better in italic than foundational, but to be honest, this was a hand that tasked me for a long while. And I still don’t think it’s as good as it should be.

The ink is J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor, which is an amazing ink. It’s a dark green, but it has red and blue in it, so that it dries to an amazing sheen. It also sticks around on your nib like a deadbeat relative, so a little extra cleaning is necessary once you’ve used it.

Quotation - Vogon Poetry

Oh, I’m so, so sorry you had to read this. I am, however, keeping this poem in my back pocket in case any of my lit students start to get cocky.

Once again, this was in foundational so that I could get more practice, because more practice is better. And while the spacing isn’t too bad in this one, it was a tough piece to finish, mainly because of the ink – De Atramentis Sahara Grey (which is green, dammit!) Over the course of the piece, the ink got harder to control – it felt slippery as I wrote, which probably means that the nib needed to be cleaned off fairly regularly as I wrote. I’ve seen this in a few fountain pen inks, actually, where they start off really nicely but get slippery and weird as you go. So that’s something to be aware of if you’re using fountain pen ink.

For practice I usually use either sumi ink or walnut ink that has been reconstituted from crystals. They behave much nicer, but from time to time I want color. Now I could use gouache, and I often have, but preparing and cleaning it up just feels like work.

So yeah, I’m lazy. That’s the takeaway here.

Quotation - Bob Ross

As you may or may not know, Twitch – a popular live gaming site – recently opened up a creative channel where people can basically host their own creative programs. They launched it by running the full series of Bob Ross’ “The Joy of Painting,” and the internet’s reaction was amazing. Earnestness and non-ironic passion are usually not popular on the irony-saturated internet, but I’ll be damned if the net doesn’t love Bob Ross. The response was so powerful that Twitch has decided to run a full season of the show every Monday night.

Why should this soft-spoken painter be so popular? Probably because he wanted people to enjoy creating something, and to find pleasure in the sheer act of making. Even if their paintings were never going to sell for a ton of money or hang in a museum, they could still look at it and say, “I did that. First there was no thing, then there was a thing, and I made it real.” That’s a powerful feeling, and it’s part of why I do calligraphy – in only a few minutes, and with a little patience and practice, I can make a Thing where there was no Thing.

So thanks, Bob.

Quotation - Habeeb Akande

This is done in the aforementioned walnut ink, which usually behaves very nicely, and in the Vespesian Uncial script. My uncial used to be different – closer to foundational, actually – until I found this variant. Now I do this.

It’s tougher, with that zero-degree pen angle, but the look is really nice when done well. I had to invent a w because there was none in the source document, and I still can’t get the proper n to look right. But I still like it.

And the sentiment is great as well. As a high school teacher, the problem of how students deal with each other is a big one, and one that can have life or death repercussions. There are always going to be those students who think that the best way to make themselves look good is to tear others down, and I hope we do everything we can to show them that’s not how civilized people behave. This one aphorism isn’t going to solve the problem, but it might help take the sting away a little.

That’s this week’s work. Any feedback or thoughts? Put ’em in the comments!

Ten Days of Firefly

I can always use a good project to do, and so I set myself the task of doing ten days of quotes from Firefly. It was good fun, and a little more challenging than I expected. Some characters – Mal, Jayne, Wash – have lots of great one-liners. Others, like Inara and Zoe, are pretty much the straight men and set up others’s great lines. River, Simon, and Book generally require more context.

It was good fun, though, and I got some good ones done. Take a look!

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