Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas Dear Friends!

Wishing you all Comfort and Joy for this Christmas season.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas Flourish Video online

Just wanted to wish my blog friends a Merry Christmas. I love this season and had fun with a new Christmas flourish video. You can see it on my website at or follow this link. Enjoy!!!!! I wish you all a very Merry Christmas!!!!!!

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Enchanted Meadow Series: The Merry Makers

Still playing with ideas for my Enchanted Meadow series. Meet the Merry Makers~ Comfort and Joy. Inspired by the Yuletide season, I wanted these little rabbits to be incorporated into a festive border. I still have so much to learn about designing these little animals and merging them with a Medieval border, but I am enjoying the process.
This piece is done on Fabriano watercolour paper with Winsor Newton & Holbein Watercolours. It is flat gilded iwth 24 K gold leaf. White accents were added with Dr. Ph. Martin's bleedproof White. Finished size is 5 1/2" x 1 3/4".

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Labours of Love

My Dad is a gifted musician and October 28th, he celebrated 50 years as a church organist. To commemorate the event, he gave an organ recital at Alexandra Presbyterian Church in Brantford. The concert was well attended and the local paper printed an article about his music ministry. I was unable to attend Dad's concert as I was teaching workshops in California. It was difficult to be so far from home while Dad was performing his concert. I don't think I have ever missed one of his organ recitals. The event was very successful and well attended. Our family was so proud of Dad's achievement and I wanted to make him an engrossed certificate to mark the occasion. I kept the certificate as a surprise to be presented to him at his concert with only my sister, Holly and Chris knowing about my plans. I had attended two previous Engrossing Sagas with Michael Sull. One was in 2006 and the other in 2011 but I had never really tried to combine techniques I had studied with Michael into a larger piece of work. I generally work very small and keep to illuminated miniatures, Spencerian Script, English Roundhand and Offhand flourishing. This piece would stretch my comfort zone. I ended up creating two pieces for him. The first piece would be presented at his concert but I was not entirely happy with it. I had chosen to draw my capital letters and draw lower case German Text letters that I would gild and paint. It seemed like a good idea but the finished design wasn't as clean looking as I had hoped for. On my second attempt, I drew my capital letters, but used a parallel pen with Best Bottle Ink for my lower case German Text.
The piece was then gilded with 23K gold leaf and I applied a very light application of watercolour pencil.
I used my Victorian line and wash technique on the flourishing. The English Roundhand was done with a Vintage Eagle 750 EF pen point which has a medium flexiblity and is incredibly smooth.
It was done on Fabriano 140 lb watercolour paper using McCaffery Black and Staedtler Aquarelle watercolour pencils. While my parents were away this weekend visiting my sister, I went over to their house and removed the first certificate I had done and replaced it with this final piece. I am happier with it than my first attempt. I learned valuable lessons in the execution of both certificates. I am so very proud of my Dad and wanted to do something to honour his achievements. Way to go Dad!!!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Beautiful Penmanship

This past weekend I had the absolute pleasure of teaching my first class in Handwriting to eager adults at a local stationery and fountain pen store. The class was filled to capacity with professionals who wanted to improve their handwriting for their day to day tasks! We will be having follow up classes in the new year. Preparation for the class had me diving into my penmanship archives. Just seeing the beauty of ornamental penmanship has ignited my passion to practice these historic letterforms. I wanted to share a few treasures from my archives. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bookplate Design

Exploring the effects of graphite with Old World Iron Gall ink on this bookplate design. It adds a bit of dimension. Finished size is 5"x 3.5" on Arches HP Paper. The Old World Iron Gall ink works well for work that will be reproduced. It is quite a bit heavier than McCaffery black and thickens up rapidly as it exposed to air. I still prefer it to any sumi inks for work that will be reproduced. It allows for the delicate hairlines and crisp shades without getting overly heavy. This design was done with an Esterbrook 357 in a straight holder.

Monday, October 8, 2012

S is for Study

I have had a love/ hate relationship with reading the treatise on designing acanthus leaves "Guide for Drawning the Acanthus and Every Description of Ornamental Foliage by James Page. Originally published in 1886, I was able to find a copy online to read but eventually purchased an excellent reproduction by Pravana Books. Unlike other print on demand books that I have purchased, this publisher has successfuly reproduced this out of print book in two beautiful volumes. There are 245 pages of analytical diagrams and endless descriptions of how to draw foliate forms. The author is very opinionated throughout the book and both insults and encourages the student in his instructions. As I continue to peruse the volumes I get more comfortable with designing foliate letters. This 1"x4" 23K flat gilded letter S is done on 140LB. Arches HP paper and painted with watercolour, gouache and then burnished with Diane Townsend Pastels. The browns of the acanthus are painted in three stages with Yellow Ochre, Brown Ochre and Burnt Sienna. The Blue acanthus leaveas are Prussian Blue and Payne's Grey. The book has made quite an impact on me as I return to its diagrams over and over again and try to really understand the acanthus form. The author keenly observes nature and I have been trying to be more aware of natural forms. "My eyes are on everthing that I pass or that passes me." James Page

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Glimpse of the Charlton Howe Collection

During the Milwaukee Iampeth convention, it was my pleasure to view Iampeth's recenlty acquired Charlton Howe collection. The collection contains many of his original specimens of Engrossers script as well as drafts and layouts of large engrossed pieces. I was amazed at the size of the Engrosser's script.
There were many examples of these calling cards. The penciled baseline and headerlines were still visible in some cases but the accuracy of the strokes at such a small size were inspiring to see.
This exemplar of Upper and Lower case was surprisingly small. The dimensions were probably 4" x 6'. Wish I had measured it.
The layouts with the pencil lines and pencil sketches were a wealth of information. I appreciated all the detail of the layout sketches and drafts. To see the use of pencil lines to give the pieces their structure and stability reminded me of the lessons I learned when viewing the Healey Collection in 2010. These masters did not have the availability of computer aided layouts for their work. They were carefully drafted in pencil and meticulously executed. I wish I knew how many hours it took them to do their designs from start to finish.
This final piece made me do a double take. Years before the invention of the hot foil pen, I would swear that Howe was using Hot Foil dots on his decorated letters. The work had the glow of foil. The dots were debossed in the paper. I am going to experiment with making a depression in hot press paper with a stylus and then seeing if gilding will get the same effect. I can certainly do this with a hot foil pen, but wondering what Howe used was intriguing. Howe did he do it???

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Spencerian Heritage

I have been practicing Spencerian Script for 9 years now and can finally see progress!
Of all the script hands that I have attempted, Spencerian is the most tricky with it's call for a delicate touch, whisper hairlines and contoured shades. It never gets dull or boring as I try new line endings and flourishes to incorporate into the script. I don't think I can ever exhaust this hand. On August 24th, I traveled to Geneva, Ohio for the dedication of the Platt Rogers Spencer monument.
The monument is the first in the United States that is dedicated to the legacy of American Penmanship.
I was honoured to be asked to do the flourishes on the Patron Donors plaque by my friend and designer of the Monument, Michael Sull.
What a joy to be included in the Heritage of Spencerian Script.
I am so thankful for the elegant, ornamental script created by Platt Rogers Spencer and still love it's beauty and delicacy as I strive to master the letterforms.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Watcher in the Woods

Part Three of my Enchanted Meadow Series.
I don't know how many pieces will be included in the series but I have so many ideas bubbling in my head. These are such a joy to create. They are the result of indulgent time when I put aside other more pressing duties and take time to create for the pure joy of pursing a project from start to completion. They are usually designed and painted in one session. I draw the image and design the foliate work. I usually scan that design and then reduce it slightly. Gilding and painting this piece took about 3 hours after it was penciled on to the vellum. This piece is 4" x 1 1/2" on calfskin vellum. Flat gilded with 23 K gold leaf. I used layers of watercolour to build up the depth of colours. I aded some highlights with bleedproof white. I used a 5/0 Escoda sable brush for the fine details.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Milwaukee Memories

What a treat to attend another Iamepth conference. It was an absolute pleasure to be asked to design the logo this year. It was a design challenge, but using the theme of hops and barley, researching beer ephemera from the Milwaukee area and studying vintage beer ads, I finally came up with a design I was happy with. To see the design printed on bags, aprons and paper products was a tremendous treat for me!
Milwaukee was filled with magical moments for me. There were ornamental touches throughout the hotel and in the buildings I visited. An early morning trip to the Public Library was very inspiring. When I entered the main room of the library I noticed this beautiful ornamentation on the door. Looks like it belongs in the Ministry of Magic.(apologies to Muggles)
Teaching this year was an absolute delight. There were many first time attendees there as well as artists of different disciplines. I ended my presentation with this quote by Michelangelo that I put into the silent auction. The piece is done on diploma parchment and is 6"x 4". It was gilded with 23 K gold. A radical departure from my usual pink default setting! It was coloured using my Victorian line and wash technique with Staedtler Aquarelle pencils. I had to take a trip to the Pastel Studio to get some earth tone pastels to accent the colour choices. One new surprise element in this design is Ziller Ink Buffalo Brown instead of McCaffery Brown. I wanted to give the Buffalo Brown a try and see what the results were like. The lines are less delicate. Hairlines slightly bigger than with the McCaffery but the result is slightly brighter. McCaffery Brown is still my favourite, but nice to know that the Ziller Brown will work too and give a slightly different effect. Happy creating this week!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Leuchtturm Journals

Since starting my Enchanted Letter series in 2011, my Leuchtturm journals have been my constant companions. I think I bought every possible size of the journals that contain the beautiful gridded pages. They have captured thougths, ideas, quotes and numerous sketches of Enchanted letters. At least two of them accompany me on every journey I take to teach classes.
These images were taken from a few pages of my journal. As I wait in airports these days, I use the time to go over letter ideas that will be presented in class. The same meditative and peaceful state of mind that evolves from time spent flourishing is happening with pencil time as well. I am so grateful to have these tools with me.
New favourite pencil related toys in my tool box are the Caran D'ache Grafwood pencils, The Tombow Mono Zero Elastomer Eraser and Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth pencils. The Grafwood pencils are extremely smooth and creamy while the Koh-I-Noor Pencils are smaller and feel nicer to hold. The little Tombow Eraser is a vinyl retractable eraser. Great for getting into tight places.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dana's Butterfly

Part Two of Enchanted Meadow Series and such a joy to paint for my dear friend Dana's birthday. I did not take the final measurements before sending it on its way but it fits inside a 4"x6" frame including the mat. I am getting spoiled painting on vellum. It is a receptive and intuitive surface to work on and captures the transparency of the watercolour. This was painted with a moist brush technique and a pastel burnish background was added with the Diane Townsend pastels. Happy Birthday Dear Dana!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Enchanted Meadow Series

Pairing my love of designing Victorian scroll work with medieval painting tecnhiques on another tiny scrap of vellum. This little squirrel is 3 1/2" by 1 1/2".Watercolour, 23K flat gilding and bleedproof white. Gilding is done with Rolco Aquasize and the entire design was painted with my 3/0 Escoda Kolinsky Sable brush. I worked on the design from concept sketch to completion over a period of 4 hours today. A few more ideas are ready to join this little squirrel in the Enchanted Meadow.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Vellum Scraps

I purchased some vellum scraps from Paper Ink Arts and I was really happy with the quality. I have a large calfskin parchment that I have not been brave enough to cut into and some 9x12 sheets that I am saving for larger work, but for these playful miniatures, the vellum scraps are perfect. I received an assortment of sizes for my 2.0 oz purchase. The pieces did not require much more than a light sanding and then a sanding with pumice powder. This little owl was a combination of my admiration of the medieval illuminators and their uncanny ability to tuck anything they could think of into a border design and my passion for Victorian scroll work. The finished size is 1.5 inches by 5 inches. All detail work was done with a 2/0 Escoda sable brush. The piece is flat gilded with 23K gold.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Finding Flow

It has become a bit of a running joke with me but I find that when I work on flourished pieces, I have no real thought process going on in my mind! I seem oblivious to the world around me and instantly transported into a peaceful state of mind.It is hard to describe and even harder to capture on film as we are still working hard on the dvd. I was explaining this in my Philadelphia class. At one point in the class, we seemed to have achieved total silence as everyone had their heads fully engaged in their work. There was no chattering in the room at all. It was quite lovely to experience. There happened to be a psycho-therapist in the room at the time who was taking the class. We spoke about the experience afterwards and she told me that is a state called Flow. She recommended a book by Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi called Flow which is my summer reading project.I hope to learn more about it and will keep you posted.As I worked on this graduation commission, once again I could transport myself to that peaceful state of mind. I am so grateful for the experience. This piece is done on the new diploma parchment with 23 K flat gilding, Staedtler Aquarelle watercolour pencils, Diane Townsend Pastels and Finetec Gold. I enjoyed adding an Enchanted Letter to the Emerson quote.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New Favourites

Over the years, I have noticed that my supply lists for workshops are constantly evolving. In fact, even though I re-do my handouts to update my supplies and techniques for each workshop, I now add a disclaimer to my notes stating that I constantly re-evaluate supplies and may be demonstrating with new products. During this morning's commission I noticed how much I prefer the Escoda Brush to any other in my brush box. I painted the entire piece with the size 4/0 Kolinsky sable brush. It felt very comfortable in my hand and the brush hairs have excellent springiness and water hold out.It maintains its point and there are no stray hairs in any of my Escoda Brushes. I was very impressed and find that I reach for the Escoda more than any other of my Sable brushes. The piece was done with an Esterbrook 818 Extra Fine which is another new favourite for me. It is very flexible yet not overly sharp so it doesn't catch the fibres in the paper no matter how much pressure I put on it. Another big change for me is from the oblique to the straight pen holder. Although I still use the oblique pen holder with my Spencerian work, all of my pen drawn floral flourishes, European style thrown flourishing and even Golden Age Style Offhand Flourishing are now done with my Snakewood Straight holder. The holder is very precious to me as my husband made it for me. I still get to spend time turning my own pen holders on the lathe, but the majority of the work is done by Chris. This commission was done for a birthday card. The terminal lobes of the ribbon script letters are gilded with 23 K gold leaf. Staedtler Aquarelle Watercolour pencil was used to colour the design and my favourite Diane Townsend Pastels, Finetec Gold, Sakura Gelly Roll pen and Hot Foil were used to add accents. It was done on another new favourite, the new diploma parchment from John Neal.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


I had some time to finish an illumination that I started in April. The design is loosely based on a 14th Century French manuscript but the Little Butterfly kept developing into something more whimsical. Somehow he ended up with a bumblebee- type body and butterfly wings. I have seen so many other blended animals and bugs in medieval manuscripts that I thought this little Bumblefly would fit right in. The finished size is 4"x3" on 140 lb. Arches Hot Press paper. When I pulled the painting from its folder on my desk to finish it, I noticed that I had not gilded one of the little orbs. Interesting to note that the Rolco gold size was able to adhere the gold leaf even though it had initially been applied weeks ago.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

For the Love of Letters

It's been a rewarding experience for an introvert like me to get out and travel to other guilds. I always wrestle with the fear of flying but once I arrive at my destination, I am so happy to be in an environment where I can share my love of letters. I am preparing for another teaching venue shortly and had to complete some commission work before I go.
I still get excited when I start to design one of these Victorian letters. I find it so peaceful and meditative and I often look back in wonder at how much the love of letters has shaped my life.
These three are done with the Staedtler Aquarelle watercolour pencils, 22K gold leaf and Diane Townsend pastels. Accent strokes are with my finetec gold metallic watercolours which are still going strong after almost daily use for three years!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Victorian Gilded Flourish

Years ago, Master Penman Brian Walker started encouraging me to add gilded touches to my offhand flourishes.I love being able to add the little hints of shimmering gold into my flourishing work. This 5x7 piece is done on John Neal's new diploma parchment with McCaffery brown ink. I have added shell gold highlights to the little cherub's hair and wings. My studies into the work of Kate Greenaway and Victorian ornamental scroll designs were underlying influences in this piece. I used watercolour as well as Derwent Metallic watercolour pencils to colour the design. The Derwent Metallic Watercolour pencils are very close to the palette that Kate Greenaway used in her work.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Philadelphia Visit

It was my pleasure to bring the Enchanted Letter Workshop to a wonderful group of calligraphers in Philadelphia. I designed the Enchanted Letter class for the Birmingham Pointed Pen Extended Study Group and this was the first time I taught the class to a group of calligraphers who did not take previous classes in flourishing with me. Their work was outstanding and I was so happy to be able to visit Philadelphia. I had been corresponding with my fellow pointed pen enthusiast Nick D'Aquanno for over 9 years but had never had the opportunity to visit him! While in Philadelphia, we got the chance to meet and I visited his beautiful pen room. I was thrilled to view his collection of scrapbooks, signature writing and incredible F. B. Courtney Flourishes! I wanted to send him a thank you for the visit and worked on this flourish this morning. Once again, John Neal's new diploma parchement provided the surface. I used McCaffery brown ink, pastel, graphitint pencils and gilded the flourish with 23 K gold leaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!!

Original miniature desgin in the style of 15th Century German Manuscript illumination. Watercolor and Gouache on 2"x3" Fabriano artistico paper. 23 K flat gilding. It turned out a bit Christmasey looking in my use of traditional illumination colours but best wishes dear friends for a Happy Easter.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

From Pen Sketch to Painting

Working today on expanding The Enchanted Letter Workshop. I am adding more content to Fairy Tale Foliates! Today's work was interesting. I worked on Somerset Satin Print Making paper as well as Arches Hot Press Paper. Rather than the usual suspects, I used Old World Iron Gall ink for the sketch work. Usually I wait a few hours before painting the foliates if I am using any ink other than McCaffery Brown. But I was impatient and painted as soon as the ink was dry. There was a lot of bleeding with the Old World Ink on both the Somerset Paper and the Arches. It does dry to a waterproof state but patience is the key. I wasn't unhappy with the work. I kept the wash very light and it almost had a Victorian Chromolithograph feel to it. These foliates are unplanned and sketched out very lightly with pencil before inking them in. The result is more flowing than a pre-planned design.