Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pen Points

Being a calligrapher, I'm always examining hand lettered pieces and trying out new letter forms.  If you have the same obsession, you know that Copperplate calligraphy has become quite popular.  There are all sorts of samples on Pinterest of hand lettered envelopes and invites.  It appears to be the current 'thing' to have your wedding invites mailed in individually hand-lettered envelopes.  (I can't even imagine what that adds to the already thru-the-roof expense of getting married.)  But the style caught my attention and I decided to try my hand at it - literally.

This thick and thin letter style is done with a pointed dip-pen nib.  I had some of these from years ago so I loaded one up with ink and gave it a go.  By the time I was done with my initial efforts, I had tried every nib I own, every paper ever produced and every crusty jar of ink in my somewhat aged stash - with extremely unsatisfactory results.  So I went back to the book and read again and mumbled to myself "Is this really possible?!?!"  But I didn't give up.  I called up my boyfriend, Dick Blick, checked out his supply of nibs and ordered a few more recommended options.  While waiting for my boyfriend to deliver, I watched some YouTube video demonstrations of the Copperplate technique.  No joke - the presenter really was accomplishing those beautiful thicks and thins with that pointed pen! 

The new nibs arrived and I tried again.  I loaded the largest of the nibs in my pen holder and tried various calligraphy inks and papers.  The thicks and thins were improving but what to do about all of that ink feathering (spreading).  It would look okay when first completed and then later as it dried the ink would spread out its feathery tendrils.  Eeeeek!  My studio was a mess with papers and attempts everywhere.  I read the next chapter of the book.  It said that as one improved their skills they could attempt loading their pen with watercolor, watercolor being a little trickier to use than inks.  What the heck - it couldn't be any worse than my other attempts.  So I picked up the only nib I hadn't tried yet (because the reviews said to save it for more advanced skill levels, which I definitely hadn't reached yet) stuck it in a holder, loaded it with watercolor and voila - good flow, defined thicks and thins, no feathering, everything my little lettering heart desired.

So, I guess, the moral of the story is don't give up.  Not that I usually do.  I am too stubborn for that!  The sample you see here is just a practice and no where close to as polished as I hope to become.  But it has only been a week.  So I'm good with my progress and will continue to practice each day.  Or at least until my next obsession takes hold...

Joy and blessings,

Items I used:

Various tube watercolors
The book 'Modern Calligraphy' by Molly Suber Thorpe (This has excellent letter examples and project info.)
YouTube demos by Hamid Reza Ebrahimi (This guy can letter!)
Brause Extra-fine point nib 66EF (This nib looks really small but holds enough watercolor to complete several words before reloading. LOVE it.)
Strathmore Mixed Media paper - 400 series, vellum finish  (Hot press watercolor paper works well, too.  Also tried Canson XL watercolor paper and it worked good but the nib can drag a bit on the rough surface.  Try using the smooth back.)

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