shivver13 (shivver13) wrote,

Calligraphy class - Foundational

Today's the last day of this term's calligraphy class. I didn't take one in spring and there isn't one offered in summer. This fall was Foundational. Italic is being offered in winter, but as I found this term, having three different things to do during the week is exhausting, so I won't be taking that class. I'll probably sign up for the spring term class (All Things Capital - focusing on Roman capitals and others), even though I'll probably miss a good three weeks of it if I go traveling.

General observations:

The class was taught by the same teacher as my previous class, so I looked back at my original post from the end of March to compare what I said and the work that I did. First, I did notice that my teacher was a lot better this time than last time. Not that she was bad last time, but she'd just come off an accident in which she'd hurt her knee badly and was still recovering, so she was exhausted all the time. She's much healthier now and it really showed in her energy and her ability to explain and to demonstrate. The class was also much more cohesive this time - the students who have lasted all the way through the term were more social and supportive - and that might be a reflection of the teacher's attitude.

Looking back at my old work and comparing it to the new, I can really see that I've become comfortable with my tools. It really helps that I practice all the time, even if it's just on a scratch pad with a fountain pen. I also took a watercolor class concurrently with the first half of this class, as well as a "art for non-artists" workshop at the All-Oregon Calligraphers Conference, and this helped me gain a lot more confidence with working with different media and with experimenting.

I've also developed a reputation for being way better than everyone else. I'm not sure why. My letterforms are very consistent and precise, but they're not particularly beautiful. You know what I mean? A couple of the other students in the class create stunning work, both the words and the art behind them, but people think I'm the top of the class. Weird.

I will say, though, that this has been exhausting. Two classes and band rehearsals three nights a week combined with a five-month project condensed into three months at work left me pretty much desperate for any breathing space. I am looking forward to a quiet rest of the year.

Images and discussion:

Foundational is a script developed by Edward Johnston at the turn of the century as a teaching script. It was based on Carolingian and was intended to provide a good-looking letterform that is easy to learn, with few complications (like varying pen angles or flourishes). It's a minuscule script, which means it only has lowercase letters, so we also learned basic Roman capitals to complement it. (Uncial, the script I learned earlier, is a majuscule script, in which all letters are capitals. It's an easier script to learn simply if only because there are only 26 letters to learn, not 52.)

The course went very similarly to the Uncial class: we started with learning the letterforms in monoline, meaning with a regular, non-broad-edged pen, then learned families of related letters (o, d, c, q; then i, l, k, etc.). Then we learned the Roman capitals, and then embellishments (leaf-pressing) and variations (different kinds of serifs, Foundational with a round-nib pen). All of the projects were done on an eighth sheet of Arches Text Wove, which is an excellent paper that is the standard among calligraphers.

The first project was exactly the same as the first class' first project: write something in monoline Foundational with decorations using Zig calligraphy pens. This one really shows how far I've come: the design is balanced but interesting, and the swirlies are not too distorted. It's amazing how hard it is to make swirlies consistent. Yes, the episode names are not in order, but I had to mix them up so that they would fit their triangles correctly.

The second project was the same as well: write something in monoline as well as an o-chain of the broad-edged letters we had learnt so far. (An o-chain is a chain of letters each separated by an o.) This was the first time I'd tried to write something on a not-straight line, and it came out pretty well. Later on, I'll do that with a broad-edged sentence.

This project was particularly harrowing because I did it on the weekend of the All-Oregon Calligraphers Conference and the accompanying workshop. The two weekend days were spent going to the conference/workshop all day, then rushing back to the hotel and working on the project all evening. Then, on Monday, I attended the second day of the workshop, drove for an hour to get home, hugged my husband, and ran back out the door to class. So basically, I had 72 hours in which I did nothing but write and sleep. It was glorious.

By the third week, we'd learned all the letters, so we were asked to do a pangram, which is a sentence which uses all of the letters of the alphabet. Most people know "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." These that I stole from the Internet are a lot more fun.

Interestingly, most people didn't do pangrams. I find that a good half of the class, both this one and last winter, do whatever they feel like for their projects.

Just before the fourth week, the teacher developed an abscessed tooth that had to be pulled and couldn't teach class, so the president of the calligraphy guild came in to teach us Roman capitals. She's an amazing artist but not as precise with her calligraphy (our teacher is the theoretician), so her methods were close but not quite what our teacher wanted and she had to correct some things the next week. There was no set project for the week, so I figured the best way to practice capitals would be to write names.

This also allowed me to incorporate the things I was learning in my watercolor class, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. Yes, yes, I missed the "l" in Sylvester. One of the problems with writing directly on watercolor is that you can't pick it back up without messing up the background. I could probably have fixed it if I had been writing directly on paper. I do plan to redo this. First, I want to make the TARDIS taller (it had to be short to fit the page), then move all the names down to the body and put the police box sign at the top. I'd like to letter in the door sign, and lastly, the lamp at the top is missing. If I were really ambitious, I'd do a background wash and light in the lamp.

The substitute came in to teach us leaf-pressing (she said she came in to do the play while the regular teach did the work), and the assignment was to write something over pressed leaves. And see, this is my problem with calligraphy. The usual thing is to write some sweet, inspirational message over leaves or flowers or whatnot, and I have no interest in doing any such thing. I'd much rather write and decorate some Doctor quote, but no one has any interest in that. So I'm always at a loss of what to do. Anyway, I went off and found some saying about leaves and did my best in good faith. I did have a lot of fun writing on a curved line, and the leaves actually came out pretty well.

The next week, we learned different kinds of serifs, as well as experimented with different weights of lettering. By this time, I was pretty exhausted with all of the classes and band and work, and had no interest in being creative, so I simply wrote a few sentences, changing serif styles every line. The last three words were done with a different width pen, to show how the same writing can have a totally different feeling just from having a different weight.

10 points if you know what these sentences are from, and 5 more if you know what word I accidentally left out.

Then we learned more about art and techniques in general, such as the difference between watercolor and gouache and how to take advantage of them. One of the things we learned about is resist, which is a thin version of masking fluid, thin enough that it flows from a pen and can be written with. The teacher gave us all a sample, so the project was to use resist.

Somehow, I came up with the idea of doing a diagram of the virtues from the Ultima series of computer games. In those games, you play yourself transported to Britannia, the world of Ultima, where you work to become the Avatar, the exemplar of good in the world, while you rid the land of demons. To become the Avatar, you do things which raise your devotion to the eight Virtues, and to make levels, you visit the shrines of the Virtues, each of which is near a town, and you meditate using the Virtue's mantra. Thus, each virtue is associated with a character class, town, mantra, and color, and it turns out that they are all formed from the three Principles, Truth, Love and Courage. Valor, for example, is pure Courage, while Honor is a mixture of Courage and Truth. Spirituality is a mixture of all three, while Humility is the one Virtue that is not associated with them at all.

My idea was to draw a circle/triangle diagram showing this relationship. Along the circle, each virtue would be written in its color over its mantra, which is written with resist so it's white under the painted parchment-like background, and the town would be below it in black. Spirituality would be in the middle, Humility at the bottom, and the Principles at the corners of the triangle. There wasn't enough space for the towns, unfortunately, but the entire idea came out pretty well. I learned a hell of a lot from this project, which I will apply when I re-do it. Ultimas IV, V, and VI are some of my husband's favorite computer games (and mine as well), and he wants a good version done so he can frame it and put it up.

  • There's not enough space, and of course Arches Text Wove buckles under watercolor wash (not as bad as other papers, but still enough to make subsequent work difficult). The next version will be done on stretched watercolor paper.
  • The eye follows the colored words, so if you get the mantras out of alignment, you need to center the Virtues to the vertical guidelines, not the out-of-alignment mantras. That's why the center line veers off to the right on the way down.
  • The change in script for the Principles (to Uncial, the only other script I know) worked really well, giving them a different style and weight.
  • I am absolutely capable of drawing nice lines free-hand if I have a guideline to follow.
  • If you accidentally drip ink on the paper, you can throw more dots down to make it look intentional.
  • Check to make sure that you have the inks you need before starting. I didn't have blue, green, and purple and had to mix my own gouache for those, adding to the stress of an already short deadline.
  • As to that, start your projects earlier, you prawn!

And finally, we learned a variant on foundational, which uses a round nib (Speedball B series) but can be done with a blunt pencil or a felt-tip pen. It's a cute, whimsical script, but requires a lot more precision to keep it cute and whimsical.

As today is the last class, we are supposed to bring in cover paper for our journal (the binding of all our projects into a book), but I decided to kill two birds with one stone and make my own cover using, in part, the script that we just learned. It also serves to record when these items were created.

(Oo, I didn't realize the pic cut off Humility at the bottom.)

And that's calligraphy class for this year. I am enjoying this so much and am looking forward to my own personal study for the next few months. Then it's back to class again in April. Whee!
Tags: calligraphy, real life

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