Monday, January 23, 2017

Handwriting

Today is National Handwriting Day.
Each year I see it get a little more recognition as more and more practitioners of the calligraphic arts make their way to social media. I am so happy to see it there! Happy to see people pick up the pen and write. Delighted to see people become so enthralled with handwriting, journalling, calligraphy and the arts. It is wonderful to see all of the creativity. When I teach handwriting skills, I always work with the unique style of each student. My mantra is that your handwriting is as unique as your fingerprint or your voice. I don't believe in forcing it to conform to any existing system of penmanship. I have seen incredible penmanship in upright italic forms that I wouldn't dare change to a cursive form. I work on honing the handwriting so that it is consistent, legible and done with a reasonably light touch. I have students who are conviced that a fountain pen is their key to success in writing but they are often using a pen that is just too cumbersome for their hand. A simple switch to a lighter weight pen and often a finer nib, will often put their handwriting on the path to being much more legible. The first step toward good handwriting is finding the pen that you like to use, does not fatigue your hand and has a tip that is fine enough to suit your handwriting style. Most students are thrilled to hunt for just the write pen and I am no different! Today I used my Pilot Custom 912 Falcon Fountain Pen with Caran D'Ache Blue Night Ink. When it was time to address the envelopes, I switched over to my dip pen and used Ziller Wild Rose Pink. I am not a huge fan of acrylic inks, but love this new colour from Ziller.
I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy writing. Even when I was working so hard to achieve a light touch or conform to the Palmer system that was presented, I enjoyed the task of uniting thoughts with ink on paper. It still gives me so much joy to take some time with this humble skill. Remember that your handwriting is a reflection of you. It has characteristics that are unique to you alone. It has a joy and vibrancy that only your hand can create. That should be celebrated!!! Have fun with your favourite ink, your finest paper and the search for the pen that makes the handwriting most enjoyable. Happy National Handwriting Day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

The Magic of Mail

This past holiday season, I was overwhelmed with so many cards coming from all over the world.
I wrote back to the best of my ability. Some addresses were really tricky but I did my best to write back. National Handwriting Day is coming up and I will post some thoughts about handwriting later this month.
I don't find nearly as much time to write these days, but whenever I am permitted the luxury, I love to correspond. The letters that came to me this season were savoured. I waited until I had the time to open them and enjoy the words on the page. I sat with a cup of tea and read your notes and it felt like I was visiting with you!
Thank you for thinking of me and thank you for writing.
This post is just to let my readers know that I appreciate every note that is sent to me. I love hearing from you and watching how your lettering is progressing.
We have such a wonderful art form that can span the miles in a very tangible way. If you find time this month, why not surprise someone with a letter?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

May You Flourish

Waiting to turn a new calendar page.
Wishing you all the best for 2017. May you flourish!!! Try something new, invest in yourself, believe in yourself and be yourself! I could go on and on, but just want to share my best wishes for 2017. Thank you for all that you have brought me in 2016. I look foward to new horizons in the coming year.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Best of 2016 and A Look Foward to 2017

This year has been a whirlwind. Lots of travel and tons of studio work. I have left many things undone that I wish I had accomplished this year but I will move them onto the 2017 agenda. I wanted to highlight some new favourites for me that became a big part of me this year. I spent a year drawing in coloured pencil with Wendy Hollender and her year of Botanical Drawing that she launched online. It was by far my best experience with online claasses. There were monthly deadlines to complete projects as well as critiques that happened in the online community. These two elements combined perfectly for me and kept me accountable to the deadlines. She also had a live monthly meeting where we could all connect online and ask real time questions and get answers. It was an amazing experience and one I am so glad that I had. My drawing skills are still novice but I learned much more about Botanical Illustration. I highly recommend her book Botanical Drawing in Color
. She is relaunching the same lessons in 2017 but they will be delivered in a different manner. More of a work at your own pace kind of class. I would highly recommend her teaching to anyone who gets the chance to study with her. As a result of my studying with her I have elevated Faber Castell Polychromos in my studio.
They are now my favourite coloured pencil to use. I am thrilled with their colour range, their vibrancy and their ability to blend with watercolour. They are an oil based coloured pencil and work far better for me than waxed based coloured pencils. I highly recommend them as an addition to your studio supplies. Another new addition to my studio supplies is the Rosemary and Co. Micro Detailer Brush.
This miniature synthetic brush has taken my painting technique to a new level. I can accomplish much finer detail on paintings as well as painted pens. Rosemary and Co. has become a beloved supplier for me! If you do place an order with them, be sure to request a catalogue as well as their newsletter. Both are wonderful. This year I worked exclusively with Miniatum Ink Gilding medium and Jerry Tresser's 23K gold leaf.
The combination of the two products gives a brilliant gilding result with very little effort. I highly recommend both products! As 2016 comes to a close, I am thankful for lessons that I learned and opportunities that I had for study. I will be launching new private online study opportunities in Offhand Flourishing and Italian Hand through Skype and Facetime in 2017. I will keep you posted. They will be on a very limited basis at first as I try to integrate them into my routine, but I am excited about the possibilites. Please email me privately if you are interested at heather@heathervictoriaheld.com. I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I am looking forward to 2017!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Christmas Snowflake Flourish Video

One of my favourite holiday tasks is filming a little Christmas flourish
. I was assisted once again by Oscar who loves to be on my table while I am working. He is pretty good about not messing up the work! Hope the little flourish is enjoyed! You can view it on my youtube channel by following the link.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Busy Days!

Where did November go? It seems like the time keeps flying faster every day. So many things to take care of here! But even in the busiest season, I love to take time with my Christmas cards.
Right now I am in the middle of addressing envelopes. With every envelope I pause and remember why I am so thankful for each friend. I always find myself reaching for the sparkles and glitter at Christmas! Just seems like the perfect opportunity! Each envelope requires a bit more drying time, but it is so much fun. I hope you find time to pause and do something you love as this busy seson descends on us. Enjoy the sights and sounds.

Friday, November 4, 2016

November News

We are having a beautiful November here in Ontario. Many of the autumn leaves are still on the trees. The birds are busy at the feeders. The days are getting a bit cooler and we have had some frosty mornings. In my studio, I am busy from morning to night. Catching up on so many painted pen orders to be able to ship them out in time for Christmas and working hard on my last two teaching workshops of the season. I will be in Birmingham, Alabama next weeked giving a crash course in Italian Hand and The Festive Flourish.
As I sat down to flourish this little snowflake this afternoon, I started to analyze the structure of flourishes. Everything within me wants visual balance over symmentrical balance. Symmetry looks unnatural to my eye and seems foreign to the concepts of offhand flourishing. So my little snowflake relies on techniques other than symmentry as I progress through it. In the end, flourishing is play. Start with whatever concept you would like, but always approach your work with a sense of play as your flourish. It is a joyful process. No need to be overly analytical. It will be what it will be. A flourishing artist puts ink on paper rather quickly. Hope your days leading up to the busy holiday season allow you time to play!

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

In the Beginning

I was recently asked about what drew me into the calligraphic world. I remember being enticed by the world of offhand flourishing and the beautiful creative patterns that I saw in The Ames Compendium and Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy. I was hooked just by looking at the images. Skill came slowly and was hard earned. I practiced for hours a day and made very slow progress. I broke pen nibs, ran into trouble finding the correct pen point to suit the skills that I had in my hand at the time, paper surfaces challenged me and I wanted to use colour but didn't know what would work in my pen. I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons. My daily practice included writing letters and decorating envelopes to mail out to friends and family.
Now and then someone will send me a picture of one of my early efforts to show my evolution as a pen artist. I laugh and shudder when I see the work. But such was my beginning. There was no substitute for learning those lessons. And there was a great joy in creating the envelopes and letters.
Every Sunday was letter writing day for me without fail. I would always write and always flourish envelopes to hold the letters. It was a wonderful time. I am grateful to the lessons I learned as a beginner. One paper that I loved to was Canson Mi-Tientes Stygian Black Pastel Paper. Densely black, slightly toothed on both sides of the paper making it a bit risky to go too fast, and an incredible background for white and gold. Back in 2003, it was wonderful to be able to find black paper for writing and flourishing. Things have certainly changed. The arts and crafts stores are filled with beautiful vibrant coloured papers and our calligraphic stockists have so many wonderful metallic products to augment our work. I never dreamed of the possibilities that I would see back in the beginning of my journey. A wise teacher and friend once told me not to rush that beginning process. I would only be a beginner once and I would be wise to cherish that time. I understand the meaning of that now. There is something so special about having those eyes that are constantly making new discoveries. Autumn heightens the sense of awareness and discovery.
Every walk is an adventure and every day new colours greet me. Enjoy the season you are in, whether you are starting out as a beginner, evolving as an artist or just becoming aware of the possibilities. Seasons come and go so quickly.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Light Changes

Canadian Thanksgiving always brings changes. Store displays are very differnt. Full of bright orange pumpkins, scarecrows and Ontario's harvest. Flavours change to darker, richer, and more robust than the lighter fare of summer. Sounds change in the garden. There are different birds at the feeders, their chirps filling the air differently than in spring and summer. And light changes. Mornings bring a different type of light to the garden.
It is somehow brighter and more precious.
It hits the plants at different angles somehow and casts a different shadow on other plants.
I can't explain it. The green in the trees is starting to change to multiple colors and looks so different against the blue sky. My thoughts change to embrace the pace that fall brings. I don't exactly resist the fall changes but it is always an adjustment for me. In the studio, things change seasonally as well. My subjects are influenced by the sights and sounds around me. My work table gets filled with acorns, chestnuts, crabapples, coloured leaves and even twigs.
I appreciate them and watch them change even further as they start to fade. Notes that I mail to friends are more autumnal in their flourishes.
I am always more reflective this time of year but slightly unsettled and somewhat distracted. I think it is just the transient nature of this season. I have to be more regimented about keeping lists in my daily planner to stay on task. I always feel as if I am in state of half acceptance and half resistance as the days become so much cooler. The most important strategy I have in the studio is to completely clean up my work table betwen tasks. If I fail to clean my desk, put my tools away neatly and keep a tidy area, I will procrastinate in starting my next task. I tend to have lots of accumulated paper in the studio as practice papers pile up. I have to clear those out of my path and my mind to be able to work on the next project. Funny how seasons so easily affect my routines! But there is a deep beauty in this season that needs to be appreciated. As am artist, I cannot help but be influenced by these sights, sounds and colours. This year, my botanical studies take up a lot of time in my mind and in my studio.
I bought a goat skin to work on a larger piece as well as many vellum scraps to practice with.
Looking foward to the lessons they will teach me. Happy Canadian Thanksgiving! Happy October.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Paper Observations

My usual approach for watercolour work is to just grab the closest piece of available hot press paper and begin working. I had some preparation to do for my upcoming Enchanted Letters workshop so I grabbed my pre-cut watercolour paper and began to work.
Thankfully I have still have a Paper Ink Arts plastic pouch that is filled with pre-cut papers. As a traveling teacher, I never really unpack. I keep pre-cut papers avaiable to pack quickly.
It just saves so much prep time. This little bundle was cut down from the large sheets of the old Arches 300 gm Hot Press Paper and old stock of Fabriano Artistico paper.I know both are old stock because the Arches is over 10 years old and the Fabriano is over 3 years old. Sadly, both of these papers have gone through changes which affect us as lettering artists. The changes in the paper led me to purchasing the Botanical Utlta Smooth paper. This FatPad was purchased through Ken Bromley Art Supplies in the UK.
I had three letters to prepare, and took the opportunity to test all three papers. I was quite suprised at the differences in them. I used the same colours in each of them as well as the same ink, nib, gold leaf and giding medium. Only one brush was used for all of the painting in the letters. The Isabey 6229 Cat's Tongue Brush.
This is my favourite brush for tight and precise work that is needed in The Enchanted Letters. The Botanical paper is 50% cotton watercolour paper and has optical brighteners in it. So it is very white. Also very smooth as the name suggests. It performs similary to a smooth finish Bristol paper in my opinion. I call these "fast papers." You can get quite a tight pointed pen line on the paper, but watercolour effects spread quickly and need to be controlled by using much less water. I was not happy with how the watercolour performed on this paper even though I use a dry brush technique. You have to be really careful with water on this paper. But it gilds beautifully and the real star of this paper is how Finetec Gold watercolour performs. I used a Gillott 404 nib for this piece, and the Finetec gold sits on the surface of the paper. The gold watercolour looks and feels raised. A great effect for the final touch if you can plod through the difficulty of using the paper with watercolour.
The Fabriano Artistico 300gm was used for the S.
Absoloutely no performance problem at all with the watercolor or gilding. But the Finetec Gold is not nearly so bright on it. The gilding is also a bit more subdued compared to the Botanical Ultra Smooth. No special technique required for this paper. It will take more moisture than the Botanical Ultra Smooth and seems to settle into the paper rather than sit on top. The Old Arches 300gm paper felt the best of all the papers to the touch.
It feels more substantial. It feels like it can absorb washes of water. It does not bruise easily and the colour is a warm white. The pointed pen ink line, in this case was Ziller Buffalo Brown and holds very tightly on the paper. No problems with gilding or painting. Of all three papers, the gold leaf is the least shiny on this paper. Interesting as the Miniautum Ink was used for all three specimens and the same float technique used on all the papers. The Diane Townsend Pastels perform perfectly on all three papers but a lighter touch is needed with the Botanical Ultra Smooth.
This was a fun experiment and it was great to see first hand how differently each of the papers react to the exact same techniques. Sometimes the struggle we feel with our work, can be as simple as changing the paper we are working on. Our techniques need to adapt the products we are using. It is difficult when we find a favourite surface and then the manufacturer changes it! I know the new Arches paper does not perform nearly so well. Rather than being " fast paper" I call it a "sluggish paper'. I can feel it resist the brush and almost pull hairs of the brush. To use the newer Arches, I usually prime the paper with a very light application of clear water and let it dry before I paint my letter. As artists, we need to have several tricks up our sleeves. And the only way to really know what you are working with is to mindfully practice, and be in tune with your materials. Know your products well. Find your favourites and play!