Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vive et Vivere (October 2010)

I was recently asked to write this for someone who wanted to put it up in her office cubicle. Apparently in Latin it means ‘live and let live’, but google this and you’ll find different formulations, including vive et sine vivere.  I know hardly any Latin, not having had the privilege of a Classical education, but I do know that word order is extremely free in the language because verbs and nouns are highly inflected for case and agreement, among other things.  Presumably, what I’ve written literally means ‘live and to live without’, but this is just a guess.  Written with a Kuretake marker.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Nibs (July 2010)

These are two nibs I ground for a fellow fountain pen enthusiast.  They were fine/medium ballpointed to begin with, so became extra-fine italic after grinding (as a rule, nibs end up a size smaller when converted from ballpointed to italic).  The writing you see was done with the pens after they were ground.

Christmas Card (2008)

This was written for fun on a scrap of art paper measuring 4.5 by 6.0 centimetres, which is roughly the size of a gift tag.  Flourished Copperplate using a vintage Hunt 56 nib and Talens gouaches (deep gold + silver).

Photographed handheld using Canon 5D Mark II and 100mm f/2.8L macro IS USM lens.

Warming Up (2010)

Something I ought to do more often — calligraphic warming up so that my hand keeps in shape.

Rude Calligraphy (September 2006)

These were three pieces commissioned in September 2006 by a freelance copywriter, whose name I’ve forgotten, for the Creative Circle Awards — a competition in which ad people create fictitious products and ad campaigns for fictitious clients. The product here was a toothpaste so pleasant that, however vile the user’s words might be, they’d still come out sounding sugar-coated. For my efforts I was paid a couple of hundred dollars, a bonus considering that I badly needed practice at the time and would gladly have done it for free.

P.S.  The last piece is particularly awful; I’ve never sat down to learn Gothic lettering properly.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guests (June 2003)

I was recently reminded of this when I stayed with two Scottish friends — I had written it for them as a parting gift on June 8, 2003, shortly before I left the UK for good. 

The main message is at first glance complimentary — Our guests always give us pleasure.  But the smaller text below adds, seemingly in a whisper, Some by coming, others by leaving. 

I can’t remember where I got this quote from, but if you do a Google search you’ll probably find different variants of it attributed to different people.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Italic Handwriting (March 2003)

This is the handwriting of the late Graham Last, a friend who was a senior education official as well as chairman of the Society for Italic Handwriting, to whose executive committee I still belong.  If I recall correctly, he was, in this note, commenting on a Sheaffer fountain pen whose nib I had just sharpened.

Graham’s handwriting was extremely regular; and while his style was not flamboyant or particularly decorative, it was supremely legible and pleasing to the eye.  To me, this feat was all the more impressive, considering he was lefthanded — though I hasten to add that I count many able lefthanded calligraphers among my friends. 

It was always a privilege to receive a letter from him on personal stationery he had printed on his handpress — in this case with his favourite Bembo type.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Christopher Brennan Poem (2010)

This is a commissioned piece I did in mid-March, for somebody who was intending to read this poem while  proposing on bended knee to the girl he wanted to marry. 

A similar piece usually takes me 7 or 8 hours to do, approximately two-thirds of which is spent ruling up the sheet and writing everything lightly in pencil first.  (The actual writing is, in fact, the easy part.)  But fortunately this piece was sent to me already typed and nicely laid out, so, apart from minor tweaks, I did not have to work out line spacing and x-height myself.

An easy job, then, though it came at a time when I thought I couldn’t get any busier!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Italic Practice (2010)

I often practise my calligraphy while listening to the BBC news or before going to bed — like cooking, it can be incredibly therapeutic.  Writing on old newspapers (on pages not covered with too many pictures) allows one to cover acres of paper without feeling too guilty about deforestation.  I usually write out whatever words I hear on the radio or spy on the pages on which I’m scribbling — or I make up words containing letters which I wish to improve or refine, for example c, o, r and g, which at the moment I’m trying to understand better.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Bookmark (2005)

Before my English classes got too big, at the end of each semester I always gave every student a bookmark with her or his name written in calligraphy — alternating between Italic and Copperplate if I taught the same student twice.  A fine way to pass on my passion for calligraphy and give students something they tend to see as rather English, I think.  Now that I typically teach more than 200 students a semester, however, this is no longer possible — a classic case of ‘the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak’!

The name above is in the Copperplate (English Round Hand) style, and was written with the pictured Hunt 56 vintage nib.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Italic Scribble (2010)

Some scribbling I did today with a Kuretake Calligraphy marker, on a postcard found in every issue of Time magazine, enticing potential subscribers with offers.  An incredible waste of paper, methinks, if not put to better use!

Calligraphy can be extremely therapeutic, especially if it is carefree scribble, and not serious commissioned work, that one knows will not be subjected to ruthless scrutiny.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

More Whiteboard Writing (2008)

Another example of calligraphic scribbling I sometimes do for fun, again with two whiteboard markers banded together, and in the Italic style.  Horizontal strokes have been rendered a bit too thick because my penhold was wrong — the ‘nib’ should be held 45 degrees to the writing line, but this was closer to 60 degrees.

Incidentally, the Admiral Vernon is a covered market that forms part of Portobello Road Market in London, which I used to visit on Saturdays when I was a student at Cambridge, and a fountain pen collector.

Whiteboard Writing (2009)

A quote by Thomas Paine, written on a whiteboard with two round-point markers banded together.  As you can see, it’s not easy to write straight at this size (x-height approx. 15 centimetres or 6 inches) without the help of guidelines! 

When doing calligraphy workshops I usually project guidelines (on a PowerPoint slide) onto the board using a projector, taking care to ensure that the slide is quite dark (e.g. grey) so it doesn’t dazzle the audience.  This was written as I was winding down after an English grammar class that ended late in the day.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Ingleezee Khafir (2000)

This is a piece I wrote c. 2000 as a birthday gift to an Irish friend.  It’s a poem by one of his favourite Irish poets, James Clarence Mangan

Despite its Middle Eastern feel, the poem is in fact filled with derogatory references to the English, for instance IngleezeeEnglish; and Djaun Bool, which clearly is John Bull, ‘a national personification of Great Britain in general and England in particular, especially in political cartoons and similar graphic works ... but has not been accepted in Scotland or Wales because he is viewed there as English rather than British.... Although embraced by Unionists, Bull is rejected by Nationalists in Northern Ireland as well’.