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:

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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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.

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:


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:


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!

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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What to do when you’ve got nothing

As any creative person knows, there are times when you know you really should be practicing or coming up with new projects, but all your brain really wants to do is shut down, play Skyrim, and watch old TV. You search through your mind for something creative and new and original, and all you find is a gray haze where ideas used to be. You’ve got nothing.


And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Everybody goes through a slump from time to time, or hits a plateau where progress used to be. As long as you’re not doing Your Creative Thing professionally and paying the bills with it, it’s okay to let things get a little slack when the idea well is running a little low. As a hobbyist, there’s no one sitting in judgement over you – no boss, no client, no one. So it’s fine to take a little time off to recharge.

But – and this is important – don’t completely quit. Assign yourself one small creative task to do every day, and make sure you do it. It doesn’t have to challenge you as a Creator, but it should at least keep your skills active and allow you to produce something. For me, it’s the Word of the Day over on Reddit’s calligraphy sub. As long as I’ve done that, then I’ve done my work for the day. That box is ticked. Anything after that is bonus.

2015-08-10 18.32.37
It’s not always beautiful, folks.

You can do the same thing – Google “word of the day” and take what comes up. Here:

There – that ought to keep us occupied.

So, if you’re like me, and the creative juices aren’t very juicy right now, it’s okay – the muse will return, and hopefully with some good souvenirs from its vacation. Until then, keep your habits good, your instruments clean, and your hopes up.

Do you have any sure-fire techniques for beating the doldrums? Let us know in the comments!

Here Come the Tautograms!

No, it’s not some kind of new-wave European boy band – although perhaps it should be. A tautogram is a sentence where each word starts with the same letter. Think of it as extreme alliteration, if you like.

While these may not have a lot of practical use, they’re certainly good for calligraphy practice. During the HandwrittenABC challenge over on Instagram, I used them to practice the various letter forms. Some of them turned out well, others… not so much. Here’s a few of my favorites, in a variety of scripts:

Damn you, aardvarks!
Damn you, aardvarks!

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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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