Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Life of A Journal

I know I have shared about my passion for keeping journals. I have them everywhere. If there is ever a worldwide shortage of journals, just open one of my studio cupboards. They are there in row upon row. Every size and binding colour! But inside, there is a common element...the grid squares.
 After all of these years of calligraphy, I still can't draw a straight line! The gridded squares really help with the planning.

They keep me centred and give me some reasonable lines to work with. As I flip through the pages of journals on the go and journals retired, I can see pencil record of my progress. I can watch skills evolve. The pages are personal. Often recorded in airports during long layovers. They are portable peace. Sometimes I add a hint of colour but most pages are just pencil. If you haven't already started a journal of your sketch ideas, thoughts or projects, I can't recommend it highly enough. Keep pencil, eraser and journal handy to capture inspiration or to process your ideas. See if it transforms your work. As you flip back through the pages  you record, watch your work evolve and be encouraged by the changes you see. The Leuchtturm 1917 is still my favourite journal to work in. The pages are a bit heavier than Moleskine and the grid lines are not intrusive.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Some Quiet

April is burgeoning here in Ontario. Tulips and poppies are starting to emerge from the soil. The backyard gazebo is back up and after a brief jaunt as it catapulted into the neighbour's yard during a windstorm, it seems ready for spring. A huge project in the backyard is underway. It will change the way I work if all goes well with it.

I just returned from my teaching trip at the Ink Academy in Berkely, California. The Berkeley City Club is a gorgeous building. I don't remember ever bonding with a building before. But it had so many touches that were completely endearing. Acanthus overload!

The architect Julia Morgan is a fascinating woman. I could not resist buying a book about her work. Gardens were around every corner and I was greeted with hummingbirds every day. It felt more like a retreat than a teaching weekend. But 31 students in class learned the joys of Italian Hand.

As I got back into the routine here at home, I was overwhelmed with my workload. Commissions remaining incomplete and hundreds of emails needing a response. Website issues now need sorting out as well. I need to be quiet for awhile and work a bit more slowly as I sort through all of my upcoming projects. Don't let the seasons pass you by without stopping to notice the small things. Be delighted by your surroundings. Take walks. Observe. Enjoy the peace. Happy April!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

LIttle Things

I just turned 50. I was greeted with a bouquet of pink flowers from a dear friend to celebrate my day.
It feels like such a milestone and strangely weird. I find that birthdays cause me to reflect a bit more than New Year's Day does. It is a turning of a page and a new chapter to explore. I started thinking about my calligraphic journey. I started it in 2003...I was 36. Everything seemed an uphill climb for me. I was so awkward with the pen and so new to the supplies that I needed. Now I am surrounded with supplies and make the pens that are used in this kind of work.
I don't seem to do anything half-heartedly! I spent my birthday working on a vellum painting, that sadly needs to be scraped off and started again. This art form still holds so many mysteries for me. I could acutally feel my concentration level decrease as I realized that the vellum painting was going to require some correction. Rather than stop, I just kept painting. So a bigger mess to sort out but it can be corrected. I know there are people who are caught up with the word master...but after 14 years devoted to this calligraphic world, I don't feel as if I have mastered anything. I feel like a perpetual student, continually exploring and experimenting. Some skills have become refined but others remain elusive. I am still excited about the lessons that I can learn. These past two years or so, I have been exploring botanical art. It has brought a new challenge to me as well as an appreciation of subtle and sensitive lines. It has clarified some thinking and observation patterns for me as well as increased my sense of wonder with nature. I took it on to be able to add a botanical element to my calligraphic work, and I feel light years away from achieving that goal. But in botanical art, I found a kind of "portable peace' that can come with me on my travels. Each teaching engagement has me armed with my sketchbook, pencils and a leaf or a petal. The world around me can be noisy, rushed and cluttered, but the small leaf represents so much peace as I try to capture its nature in my sketchbook. I feel so grateful to be able to take time to study these techniques.

When I started my journey in 2003, I was drawn into the calligraphic world through my fascination with the pointed pen. I wanted to explore Spencerian Script and Offhand Flourishing.
Both of these worlds are still part of me. I flourish on a daily basis but lately Spencerian has taken a back seat to Italian Hand. This spring, summer and fall, I will be dusting off Spencerian as I prepare to teach a workshop in Toronto.
So I am spending some quality time with Spencer again. As I revisit his work and his skills, I am even more convinced that he was influenced by Italian Hand. I would never have seen this connection a few years ago. Once again, the mysteries and discoveries of the pointed pen world continue to mesmerize me and draw me in a little deeper each day. So my 50th year begins with continued wonder, mystery and new discoveries to be made. I hope to remain lost in that sense of wonder and appreciation for the world around me. I promise not to turn 50 again and get so reflective in a blog post!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Workshop and Tutorial News

Although it is still officially winter, my winter vacation is now over and I return to my full travel schedule beginning next weeked. I kick off in Ottawa, Ontario with a lecture on The Art of the Flourish and then a two day workshop in Italian Hand. The Poetic Pen workshop is so much fun to present. I love introducing Italian Hand to eager students. In workshop news, my schedule is fully booked for 2017 and 2018. 2019 and 2020 are almost full as well! So lots more travel booked. You can email me privately at heather@heathervictoriaheld.com for my 2017 travel schedule to see if I am coming close to your location. I continue to have so many students who can't get out to one of my workshops so I have been gradually taking private tutorial students through facetime or skype. These lessons are adjusted to each individual. I do need to see a specimen of your current work before I can take you on as a student. There is a waiting list for this process. Currently, I am taking students in Italian Hand or Offhand Flouirshing. I do have some pending requests for The Enchanted Letter and The Enchanted Meadow.  I am  fully booked for Spring and Summer. Italian Hand is presented in three or four sessions depending and Offhand Flourishing is presented in two sessions. You can email me for more details if you are interested. I am frequently away from home now for long periods of time and email correspondence will take
I am taking very limited students so I can keep up to their homework and be available to help them as much as I can. A very different venture for me. I have not been a big fan of the online format for calligraphic work, but my recent positive experiences with online botanical art courses have encouraged me to work with a few students.  I don't have any of the lessons pre-recorded and I am doing all the demonstrating live which is a far better fit for me than having a camera recording my words and strokes. The introvert in me can work with this format. I am not currently planning larger online presentations of any of the courses at this time as I really want to finish writing and creating the artwork for my books. So many projects, so little time!!! I will keep you updated as things progress. I really wish I had more time to dedicate to teaching individuals. I think the books in progress will go a long way to preserve my teaching methods for The Artful Flourish and The Enchanted Letter. Thanks for being so patient with me.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pure Love

Feeling reflective on Valentine's Day. I love my family, love my friends, love my country, and I love my work! I don' t think I could do this work if I didn't love it. I love the way the ink feels as it leaves the pen and hits the paper. I love the sound of the nib tines on the paper. I love the feel of art paper and knowing that it can take just about anything I can throw at it. I love every Victorian Curve that works out on paper. I love learning. I love process. I love fighting to learn something different and all the struggles it brings and I love practice. Sometimes there is more freedom in practicing something just for yourself than any other type of work. In practice you can explore what you love the most about the art. You can play and experiment. It all doesn't have to be pristine work. It can just be something to occupy your mind for a little while before you are called off to another task. Your workspace and desk is your sanctuary to explore in your practice time. All you have to do is show up. This post is dedicated to all of my friends who contact me with so little time to dedicate to this artform that they love so much. The time demands of life and obligations prevent them from being able to practice the way would like to. They look at instagram and facebook and get discouraged because they see so many people being able to create huge amounts of work. I would encourage you to take the pressure off yourselves and just do this as you are able. Savour the few minutes you have with pen in hand. Put it aside when you are too busy for it and return to it as often as you can. Nurture the love and passion you have for the art form. Don't apologize if you only have a few minutes to put ink on paper. Hopefully you will enjoy the experience all the more when you are able to sit down and devote some time to it. Be encouraged to explore whatever art form you enjoy at your own pace without any judgements on yourself if you don't see the progress you want to see. We all approach this art work differently. Our results differ widely. But the common denomiator is love. Do what you love, love what you do. Happy Valentine's Day my dear friends.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Revisiting Work

The studio needs a good clean up at the end of every day. But days get rushed and I often "misfile" a lot of my work in the interest of saving time. Not a great strategy for the long run. So often, I will have to devote weekends to doing a deeper cleaning of the studio. This weekend, I sat with several cups of coffee and went through stacks of files that had accumulated on my shelf. I always have good intentions for keeping files, but I definitely needed to turn my attention to this task. Over the course of the weekend, I found a lot of buried work in the files. Pages I had started to work on, even gilded, but then gave up part way through. Often I start projects for fun, but work demands take over so pieces are left unfinished. The view of these unfinished pieces takes place with fresh eyes. I feel differently than whan I started the piece so I am able to reflect from a new perspective. It's like looking at someone else's work. I can either see where I was going or not and from that perspective, I choose whether or not to keep the work. Lots went into the recyle bin but some were filed again to be completed as the mood takes me. I found a lot of drawing and older illuminations in the files. All of it was work that was just practicing a technique but it was wonderful to visit it again. It helps to see the work again with new eyes. What looked like failure pieces are really just part of the process of learning. The florals I worked on while trying to figure out strategies for using Duralar.
The paper holds wonderful tight lines from the coloured pencil but clogs easily and needs to be worked on from both the front and back of the paper. I can remember the struggle to learn how to use a new medium. I remember the struggle of trying to make the work look correct and remember the hours invested. They look completely different to me now and reflect the process of learning rather than the finished product. The vellum pieces have good points and bad points. What a learning curve with how to use washes of watercolour on a surface that can buckle with too much water.
These pieces teach me so much. They are illuminating in a completely different sense right now. I still regularly and faithfully purge my portfolio. I get rid of older work that I no longer want to fill my eyes or my mind. But I let it teach me before it is discarded. I started a new file to reflect the lessons I have learned. I wonder what that file will teach me the next time I visit.

Monday, January 23, 2017


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.