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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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!

Riddle Me This…

I’ve always enjoyed riddles, probably since I read The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. There’s a key section in the fourth book where a psychotic monorail forces the protagonists to answer riddles in order to save their own lives. Classic evil AI strategy, really.

When I was teaching EFL I would sometimes use riddles on higher-level students to show creative uses of the language. It was good fun, really – for me at least.

So it should be no surprise that I would use riddles as calligraphy practice. Enjoy these!

#calligraphy #riddles #copperplate

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#riddles #calligraphy #Uncial

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Spring has finally arrived

Quotation - Henry Rollins 01
Coming from Rollins, though, it sounds dangerous.

I did this for our Reddit Spring/Easter contest. As of this writing, the contest is still undecided, so I guess I can cross my fingers. There’s some good competition, though…

EDIT: I won!

The effect here was done with gouache, a medium I’m slowly getting the hang of, and it was done by carefully, meticulously… tediously going from color to color within each letter. I mixed the gouaches a little more watery than usual so as to encourage blending, and then just tried to be as quick as I could. I think it worked nicely. I used the same techniques for these two as well:

Quotation - Pablo Neruda 02
You can never go wrong with Pablo Neruda
Spring
In case you’ve forgotten what this is all about.

Finally, in further celebration of the season, I went out to Osaka Castle to see cherry blossoms and did a little calligraphy en plein air. I wanted a quotation with some kind of flower reference, and I had this one hanging around.

Instagram - Mark Twain 03

The script, in case you were wondering (and I know you were) is a variation of Uncial as found in the Vespasian Psalter (8th century-ish). It’s a difficult script, and I still have a lot of practice to do, but I like how this turned out.

So enjoy your spring, everyone – here’s to new beginnings and hope trees full of blossoms.

Je Suis Charlie

2015-01-08 20.40.33

My work is about as non-controversial as it gets without being about babies dressed up as kittens (and I’m sure PETA would somehow find a way to object to that). Nevertheless, I wanted to add my voice to the millions that have already sprung up against those who think that the best way to silence ideas you don’t like is to murder the people who are voicing them. As we can see, all that does is allow those ideas to spread.

I don’t know if a lot of people outside of France knew about Charlie Hebdo before this incident – I sure didn’t – but we sure as hell do now. Whatever these fanatics were trying to accomplish, they failed.

Project for Mom

I did this a while ago as a gift for my mother. She asked for that quotation and I was happy to oblige.

 

I’ve made a couple of changes in my uncial since then, but I still like how this came out. It went through a long and complicated process to get right, and just getting it framed was a weird challenge in itself, but I enjoyed it as a first Project.

I look forward to seeing it on the wall next time I’m back in the States.

2015 Calligraphic Resolutions

When you make resolutions, it’s good for them to be specific and achievable – something you can say either “Yes, I’ve done that” or “No, I haven’t done that.” So here are my resolutions with regards to calligraphy for this year. I’m limiting myself to five scripts – three that I consider myself not terribly incompetent at, and two that I’m really just starting. Without further ado…

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