So. Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and let’s face it — not everyone is in the mood for cheesy love cards. I wanted to paint something using my black Higgins Eternal ink, but I was painting with my 5-year old (and she was happily blending reds and greens to make cherries) so I thought pink would be nice.
Here’s my interpretation of the unromantic Valentine card. A prickly cactus in a blend of pink and purple, giving free hugs to those who dare. I threw in a tiny heart just for kicks. Perfect for those you have utterly no romantic feelings for, but you love ’em anyway. Hope you love this free printable as much as I did!
The past two years have all been about vintage and rustic weddings, with white, blush and champagne. It’s a very pretty, pleasing theme and I always enjoyed designing invitations in such a warm colour palette.
Last year, I was approached by Wedrock Weddings and Ideal Weddings Magazine for an Industrial-themed wedding styled shoot. It would be mostly grey, with hints of magenta, copper and forest green. So it’s cool, with hints of warm tones to balance everything. Without a thought, I said I was in!
The venue was at a restaurant in the East, with raw grey walls and marble countertops — perfect for an industrial wedding, indeed. For this editorial shoot, I provided lettering and calligraphy for an invitation suite and envelopes, framed signage, and menu.
Hope you lovely couples who are planning a wedding would find inspiration from these stunning photos from the shoot!
Woot woot! Time for a year-end giveaway! 2016 is coming to a close, and I have to say that this year is indeed a very special one. I have so much to be thankful for, despite the ups and downs that almost made me feel like I was riding a year-long roller coaster. So who wants to win for herself (or himself!) a custom-made wooden oblique holder set?
This year our little family had another addition. The Happy Hour Workshops continued to be extremely in-demand, and I have grown so much just by teaching the craft I loved most. I had my first online workshop (or more appropriately, speaking engagement) over at Modern Thrive. I continued having classes at my favourite studio, The Untitled Space, and said goodbye to it last November. I’ve had lots of amazing memories in that place, but now I am on the lookout for new workshop venues. That in itself, is another adventure. I adore the wedding invitation suites that I designed this year — thanks to brides who were never short of creative ideas!
So guys, to give thanks to everyone of you who stuck around Happy Hands Project and continued following this humble blog of mine, I’m giving away a set of the Happy Hands Project oblique holder set, crafted in collaboration with woodworker Mr Keiichi Sato in Japan.
Join in! The set consists of an oblique holder for right-handed writers, an ink jar holder with 2 ink bottles included, and a pen rest. I will ship the set to anywhere in the world via Singpost registered mail. One winner will be randomly chosen on 1 January 2017 and will be announced thereafter. The giveaway opens 14 December 2016, and closes on 31 December 2016.
I finally have the date for the next intermediate calligraphy class, and it’s the most special one I’ll have in my almost 3 years of teaching. When I started with modern calligraphy, I’ve been using a straight holder. After getting Copperplate lessons from Eleanor Winters, I became more comfortable with an oblique pen and now I use an oblique 99% of the time.
Now what makes the upcoming workshop so special, you might ask?
Well… (drum roll please), introducing — the custom wooden calligraphy set specially customized for the Happy Hour Workshops! It’s a collaboration between yours truly and wood worker Keiichi Sato of @garagewoodworkingjp in Japan. I’ve worked closely with Mr Sato with regards to the grip, flange, size and finishing for this beautiful set, and I’m blown away with how amazing everything turned out. I have been using the oblique holder for a couple of months now, and it’s been my go-to pen ever since.
Participants to the workshop will each receive a wooden oblique made of Hinoki, or Japanese Cypress with a flange to fit most nibs. It’s handy and lightweight, which is one of the first things I look for in a holder. The set also includes a matching base for ink jars and a pen rest made of Douglas Fir. The wooden base for inks is specially designed to stabilize those jars — I’ve been known to spill inks all over my desk (which also happens to be white) so this made my life easier.
Mr Sato opts for natural, old-fashioned finishes like shellac and beeswax. A traditional woodworker, he uses hand tools made in the late 18th century. When asked about his choice of wood, he explained that he likes using Japanese Cypress for the holders because it is a softwood that’s lightweight and gives a good feel. “Weight is very important to make hours of writing comfortable”, he noted. “Japanese Cypress is also waterproof. As a matter of fact, many high end Japanese ryokans use Japanese Cypress to make bathtubs because of its nice smell and water repellency”.
Making calligraphy holders is also different from other wooden pieces because according to Mr Sato, holders are not art pieces but practical tools. Some calligraphers like his daughter for instance, don’t like staining their pens with ink (quite contrary to me, because I stain mine all the time). Liquid can be trapped in the slots for flanges which may result in problems only a woodworker may understand. “It’s a huge challenge for me, and I am learning new things everyday”, he mused, and I can only nod in response.
“I used to travel 100,00 miles a year when I was a sports photographer in the US”, he told me. “Now I stay in my garage with a Siberian Husky.” When asked how he got started making wooden pieces for calligraphy, he said, “I love woodworking because I love to use my hands. My daughter is a wonderful calligrapher, and I started making calligraphy supplies with wood to support her.”
When it comes to aesthetic, Mr Sato is a mad snake when it comes to details (my words, not his). “I don’t mind spending hours perfecting details while keeping the design as simple as possible”, he replied. He values good relationships with calligraphers, many of them asking for custom pieces like boxes, pen trays, coffee scoops and chopping boards, to name a few.
“If I were living in Singapore, I’d love to make my shop open to calligraphers to stop by. Fix their holders, change their grips, or anything I can do to help them”, he offered. I’m sure I won’t be the only one hanging out in his shop everyday if that happens!
Now that I’ve shown you all this beautiful set, I’d love to have you at my Intermediate Workshop! Interested in advancing your skills in modern calligraphy, and the same time snagging your own custom oblique set? More details can be found here. Hope you’re as excited as I am!
Instagram has been an important part of my journey in calligraphy and lettering. I’d say I’m quite a visual person — I get inspired by the things I see. The lettering and calligraphy community on Insta is like one big happy family, and when one is stuck in a rut, there’s always someone out there who’s ready to help. I’ve personally met some really inspiring people over there (if you’re reading this, hi!) and it was awesome.
For those of you looking for inspiration on social media, look no further. Here, I’ve compiled 8 up-and-coming lettering artists from different parts of the globe to inspire the handlettering lover in you!
When I started with calligraphy, I was writing with a straight wooden holder. I became familiar with the oblique when I learned Copperplate with Eleanor Winters, and I never used a straight one since then. Because Copperplate needs to strictly follow the 55-degree angle, the oblique pen holder has helped me maintain a consistent angle.
After using a Speedball for some time, I felt that I was ready to have a custom pen made. It was kind of like a coming-of-age moment (in calligraphy years). I had an ergonomic one made by Heber Miranda and it’s still by far one of my favourites because it’s lightweight and has a Bullock-style flange that’s perfect for someone who uses various kinds of nibs.
I received one comment on Instagram asking me why I have quite a number of holders when they all work the same way. Well… it’s kind of like shoes. You may have several strappy high heels, but they come in different colours and each pair fits your feet differently. They’re all strappy high heels but one pair is used for a particular dress style, and some of them won’t look nice with jeans. I could go on and on but well, you get the picture. So I guess it’s the same with my holders! I have ones with Bullock-style flanges, and I have a couple of ergonomic ones, so depending on the nib — and my mood — I would reach for one that would be best suited for the job. Oh, and I have a leather pen roll that fits 18 or so pens so I want to fill it to the brim.
If you’re curious, here are the oblique holders from my collection so far:
I have one more pen that I have yet to reveal, and it deserves its very own blog post because it’s extremely special. I’ll update you all next month, but in the meantime, I hope you liked reading about my modest collection. If you have a pen maker in mind, let me know in the comments so I and the lovely readers can check their work out!
I remember the time when I was on my diligent quest for the perfect white ink. I wanted something opaque, yet thin enough to flow through a variety of nibs. At some point I thought I’ve found it — I was happy with the PH Martins Pen White. It could be the stuffy weather here in Singapore, or it could be the way I was storing my inks (like all over the place… oops), but every time I pick up the bottle and open it, I had to add a few drops of water to thin the ink out. If I have to add water every single time, then it’s not so perfect after all, isn’t it?
Then I had to mix some custom ink colours for a project. Before I used gouache, I was using pre-mixed inks in various colours (note: I wouldn’t recommend that at all). Aside from the fact that I had to buy a bottle of ink for every colour I need, the pre-mixed inks just can’t do the job. They’re too watery (yes, I’m talking about you, Daler Rowney Calli!).
During that time, I’ve heard about calligraphers mixing their own gouache. It was intimidating, and I thought I had to leave that to the pros. But I’m glad I experimented! As with all experiments, the first try wasn’t as good. But… BUT! I got better with it, and I realised it’s not that difficult at all.
So now I mix my own white ink using gouache. What you’ll need is pretty simple actually:
:: tube of white gouache (I use Daler Rowney Designer Gouache)
:: plastic pipette
:: gum arabic powder (optional, I use Jacquard)
:: tap water
:: ink jar
Ok, so what do we do now? Before we mix everything up, let me give you some background about gum arabic. There is liquid gum arabic, and there’s powder. I use powder and dissolve it in warm tap water — I usually mix 1 part powder to 3 parts water, stir it and keep it in a small plastic jar for multiple uses. Warm water dissolves the powder easily and does not result in a clumpy mess. Gum arabic is basically a binder that controls viscosity and does a great job in preventing feathering. It’s optional because mixing gouache and water alone produces great results as well, depending on the paper used.
Mixing your own gouache is trial-and-error, and you’ll get better the more often you do this (pretty much like calligraphy!). So fill your jar with some white gouache, add a few drops of your gum arabic mixture, and a few drops of water. Mix it well and add a few drops of water until you reach the right consistency. Test it with your nib to see if your ink flows. If not, then it’s still too thick. Just keep on adding drops of water and testing till you get the consistency that works well for you.
And there you have it — solid white ink that’s better than store-bought ones! What’s your favourite white ink? Let me know in the comments!
I love designing destination wedding invites, specially Boracay Island wedding invitations. It usually has a very carefree feel, and this invite for Aiza and Melvin is no different.
This is a combination of watercolour washes, illustrations and calligraphy using very soft hues that displayed a sweet, relaxed vibe. We started out with the Save the Date cards with a hand-illustrated ‘relationship timeline’ where I painted some landmarks close to the couple’s hearts — think Japan’s Mount Fuji for instance (where he proposed! Insert hearts here).
Once the Save the Dates were out, I then worked with the bride on the wedding logo which will appear on the main invite card. More painting ensued, including a map of Boracay Island (that was FUN, I’m telling ya). What I love about this invitation suite is how pointed pen calligraphy, watercolours and illustrations in ink complemented each other beautifully.
Here are photos from Aiza and Melvin’s wedding… enjoy!
I was messing around with my guidelines and tracing paper, thinking of writing in another freehand style of modern calligraphy. Since I’ve become comfortable with my own style, it’s become difficult for me to try to come up with an entirely different way of writing the alphabet.
After a few tries, I came up with an entrance stroke that was pretty simple but all new to me. I wrote the uppercase letters in a similar style, but did not use my usual slant. Instead, I wrote this in a slightly upright manner, and that is how I came up with The Eloise Exemplar.
So why did I explore this other style? Well, I’m not planning on using this type of freehand in any of my calligraphy pieces, but it was a good exercise. I am very comfortable with my own calligraphy handwriting so coming up with a different way of writing letters (and eventually an entire alphabet!) was a challenge. But I’m telling ya, it was super fun.
So how about if I share this exemplar to my lovely readers? Yes? Modern calligraphy beginners, this will serve as a good alphabet guide that you can print out and copy. Having an alphabet guide in front of you while practicing will help you familiarise yourselves with the letter forms. This will also show you which stroke should be an upstroke (thin) and which should be a downstroke (thick). Once you are comfortable with writing each letter, then you can explore different styles and eventually come up with your own. How cool is that?
So get your dotted pad, ink, holder and Nikko G nib ready and print this exemplar on an A4 sized card stock. Happy writing! And remember — practice makes pretty!
Are you just starting to hand-letter using a brush pen? Or are you interested in creating brush lettering pieces but don’t know where to start? Well, I’ve been there. About 3 years ago I wanted to hand-letter using a brush but was totally lost. I tried using a small brush and some paint but found it extremely tough.
After some research, I stumbled upon the first ever brush pen in my collection — the Tombow Dual Brush. Oh, I didn’t traipse into brush lettering wonderland right then, but it was a good start. For beginners in brush lettering, let me share with you 6 brush pens that you can start with. My advise is try 1 or 2 of these and practice, practice, practice. You’ll get better I promise!
Kuretake Fudebiyori Pocket Color Brush Pens
I love this pen. If I will be asked to bring just one tool for lettering, this is what I will most likely bring. This nifty brush pen has the perfect bristles for lettering and will give you a good variation of thick and thin strokes. I say it’s perfect because there are brush pens that are either too soft or too stiff, but the Kuretake pen has just the right flexibility.
Tombow Dual Brush Pen
Aah, the pen that started it all. For me, at least. The Tombow dual brush has a great tip and is slightly softer than the Kuretake. As the name suggests, each pen has a brush tip on one end and a fine tip on the opposite end. Some letterers use this pen for blending with other colours and they work great. The ink colours are a little less saturated and will not be so vibrant especially when used on coated paper, but I don’t mind this one bit because these are really great for practice and these pens have served me well during my learning journey in brush lettering.
Pentel Fude Touch Sign Pen
The Pentel Touch has a small brush tip, and is pretty stiff. It’s great for writing small letters and is easy to use. It won’t give you drastic line variations like the first 2 pens mentioned above because if its small brush tip but if you want to practice writing small letters and strokes, this works great. It’s a small pen that can fit in your pocket, and has bright colours to choose from.
Copic Ciao Marker
Honestly? The Copic Ciao marker is on this list mainly because of its availability here in Singapore — Art Friend has a bazillion colours of the Copic Ciao that it’s so difficult to walk away with just one. It has a thick body which gives the writer a good grip. The brush tip is on one end and a broad edge tip is on the other end. It has great colours as well, and is refillable! That’s awesome, don’t you think?
Lyra Aqua Brush Duo
This pen is very much similar to the Tombow with a slightly smaller brush tip. This will give you good line variation, and it also has 2 tips — one with a brush and another with a fine tip. Here’s the first time I tried it, and I fell in love with it instantly! It’s very comfortable to write with and I highly recommend this for beginners.
Pentel Aquash Waterbrush
Now this one’s different from the rest, and slightly more challenging to use than the rest of the pens on this list. The water brush from Pentel is super convenient to use, has lettering-friendly bristles, and is lightweight. This practically replaces your jar of water when doing watercolour lettering or painting because the water will be in the pen itself, and you just give the pen a little squeeze to make the water come out. Talk about convenience! The Aquash also has a variety of brush sizes, and my favourite is the fine tip. It gives me a lot of flexibility and lets me blend colours nicely so obviously, that one’s my absolute favourite.
Unfortunately I haven’t seen the Kuretake Fudebiyori pen in any of the shops here in Singapore, but Overjoyed has several kinds worth checking out as well.
So there you have it, 6 brush pens that beginners in lettering can try. I know I’ve left out some pens that are really popular to letterers, but I guess some of those pens don’t really work for me. Do you have a favourite brush pen? Lemme know in the comments!