Last year I wrote something called Lettering Without Thinking. With all the calligraphy commission works I’ve been doing lately, I didn’t have much time to use my brushes and just play with them. With calligraphy, I’m always concerned about legibility and balance, and whether the thickness of my strokes are consistent. I do play around with my pointed pen, but it’s not as carefree as no-nonsense writing with a brush.
Let me share with you a couple of pieces I’ve done a week ago, using a round #8 brush and black Ecoline watercolour. The only thing I wanted to do here is to centralise all the words, write them big and small, make a mess, and have fun. And I was able to do all those — I just made sure I had a lot of paper that’s ready to use. I didn’t do these all in one go! I did a few different styles and chose these two as my favourites.
Here are a few suggestions on how to experiment. You’ll get different results every time!
Try different brushes
Use watercolours, and don’t wash your brush when changing colours
Tear your papers’ edges for a rustic look
Splatter some ink when you’re done, just resist the urge to overdo it!
Most of you might not know this, but I’m a self-taught calligrapher. I was able to take a course with Eleanor Winters(all hail), but that was after I struggled for a couple of years to teach myself. I must admit that I had experience in Italic and Blackletter when I studied Art in college, but those two styles really did not strike my fancy. Fast forward to 2010, this was the time when I became very much influenced by the beautiful scripts I saw on wedding stationery.
I told myself — you can do this! Remember your Typography class? Piece of cake!
Um, no. The flexible pen used to write scripts is difficult to control, ink was splattering everywhere, a bazillion sheets of paper was wasted. So I did my research and taught myself. During that time, there was no abundance of workshops like what we have now, so I guess ‘struggled’ is an understatement. I went straight to writing letters and sentences, flourishing here and there as I went along. I told myself, you can do this! Write longer words and everything will all fall into place!
Again, no. I realised after a bit more reading and practicing that I need to start at the very beginning. I need to start with the basics, and basics meant drills. Those boring, repetitive loops and strokes that I tried to avoid for as long as I possibly could. There was no escaping it. So I got myself the best book in my possession (after my Harry Potter collection, I suppose) — Eleanor Winters’ Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy. I drew my grids, prepared my workspace, took a deep breath and started writing. And you know what? A few years later, I’m still practicing with drills and have become really fascinated with the rhythm and consistency of the letters I make. These exercises made me write better.
My simple advice? Practice with drills before you actually start writing. Throw in some fun coloured inks to make it more enjoyable (I usually practice with walnut ink). Think of it as a warm up, and would give you the momentum when you finally start writing your project for the day. I’m always looking forward to finishing calligraphy commission works because that means I’d have more time to practice. Have fun writing!
I don’t own a lot of custom-made wooden pens for calligraphy. I’ve gotten by with my century oblique holder for a loooong time. Well, I’ve been looking around for custom-made pens and I must admit they’re all extremely beautiful. I’ve ordered a few wooden pens for the last few months (I feel sorry for my credit card, but hey, I call it Investment), and I’m looking at ordering one or two more in the next few months.
First off, this is not a sponsored post — I just fell in love with this pen! The latest one I’ve acquired (or more like invested on) is this beautifully-handcrafted wooden oblique from the Philippines. It’s called the Manansala, named after cubist painter and illustrator Vicente Silva Manansala (1910-1981).
This belongs to a family of pens which are the first oblique holders ever made in the Philippines, thanks to Lennie of The Curious Artisan. She describes the pen as ‘made from Kamagong (Ironwood) with Mother of Pearl shell body; Magnusson-inspired silver nickel flange; comfort curve pen foot and is approximately 8.5 inches long. The cube pattern shell inlay of the holder’s body using Mother of Pearl shell is inspired by Manansala’s signature cubism’.
It’s my first time to try a Mag-inspired flange and I love it. It’s perfect for Copperplate, and I’ve been using it to practice lately. I think this has magic powers as well because somehow my writing looks prettier when I use it. Not kidding. Oh, and I haven’t even started on the packaging yet. Look at that typewritten note!
If you’re in Singapore — news flash — this pen and the rest of its siblings will be coming here! I’ll be updating on Facebook, and you can also contact @thecuriousartisan on Instagram for overseas orders.
I never knew that preparing for a workshop on hand lettering would be this fun. In collaboration with The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf Singapore, this class has been months in the making (we actually started planning in 2014!). This workshop is in conjunction with SG50, Singapore’s 50th anniversary of independence.
We started with lettering exercises, with worksheets that I designed myself. There were also hand-lettered cheat sheets and prints that they got to bring home, on top of the markers and goodie bags from Coffee Bean. Each participant was to design a piece as an entry to Coffee Bean’s SG50 card design contest.
We had a wonderful combination of coffee, pastry, conversations and laughter — apart from the actual lettering, of course. It was an awesome way to spend a Saturday morning!
Head over to the Coffee Bean’s Facebook page to see more photos, and who knows, they might have more activities in store for us in the near future.
The video and all photos are courtesy of The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf Singapore.
I’m sure a lot of you are big fans of Pinterest, and other social media. If you’re stuck in a rut, it’s so easy to look something up through good ol’ Google and voila — you’ve got your momentum back again. When designing, it’s obviously so much easier to ‘find inspiration’ online than detach yourself from your computer (or smartphone) to overcome the block.
I’ve been in this stage more than a few times. I see designs, lettering, calligraphy, in the same styles. I can tell when a certain font is overly popular, and I can tell when everyone’s trying to imitate a certain calligraphy or watercolour style. We can’t help it. We see the same style all the time!
Sometimes (and when we have the luxury of time), it’s pretty cool to get out there to get our creative juices flowing. One thing to remember is that we need to keep our eyes open because you’ll never know when inspiration will hit you in the face. Here are a few simple things I do (stressing on ‘simple’) to get inspired and be able to come up with new things for my art:
GO OUT FOR A WALK
Found this wall while walking along Chinatown.
Singapore is a tiny city with lots of nice restored architecture. There are cafes with wall art worth looking at, little indie shops that have interesting nooks and crannies. There are a number of hidden gems where you can get your creative juices flowing.
VISIT YOUR LIBRARY
Above: Calligraphy on display by Dr Ludwig Tan. Bottom: A scene from library@orchard.
If there is no library nearby, why not read some magazines at a local cafe? You can even browse magazines at some bookstores. The only good thing about the library and cafe is that you get to bring your notepad and be able to write down or sketch ideas instantly.
SPEND TIME WITH LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE
Spending a couple of hours with fellow artists is enough of an inspiration for me. A great conversation would leave you with good vibes to last you a while, and this helps. A couple of weeks ago I was at library@orchard, listening to a talk about Western Calligraphy (because there’s also Chinese Calligraphy here) by local calligrapher Ludwig Tan. Listening to an expert talk about the history of calligraphy was awesome and made me appreciate this art even more.
ATTEND A WORKSHOP
I’ve been to one modern calligraphy class with Maybelle Imasa-Stukuls, and one on Copperplate by Eleanor Winters. These were important parts of my journey in calligraphy and wouldn’t trade it for anything else. If there’s a class in your area, go and participate! It’s perfectly alright to be self-taught, but having your heroes teach you and tell you that what you’re doing is right absolutely inspires to keep going.
Well, these aren’t so bad, weren’t they? Hope we’ll always be inspired to make beautiful things, and always find inspiration when we need it.
Last month, I had the pleasure of bringing the Happy Hour Beginners’ Calligraphy Workshop to Manila, Philippines! It was for the Picasso Boutique and Serviced Residences‘ Live Art Project, where they invite different artists to teach a craft to a select number of people.
The Picasso is a boutique hotel known for having an Art Gallery and Picasso-inspired pieces of art in their rooms (which are amazingly spacious, by the way). It was an evening class, which was a first for me. It was also catered with delish finger food and champagne – which was definitely another first for me! Didn’t dare take another glass after the first one, though!
Everyone was really into the craft, with some practicing the letter forms even before we started. I’m hoping they will continue practicing calligraphy after this class. It was an awesome group, and the lovely staff at The Picasso were very warm and accommodating. Some of them even tried their hand at calligraphy as well!
I cannot wait to be back in Manila and meet another group of calligraphy enthusiasts. Thanks to everyone at The Picasso for having me!
I’ve been using selected colours of Sharpies in the past few years. Aside from black which I use almost every time I do script lettering for commission works, I also have silver, gold and bronze. As a graphic designer, I create all my lettering in black then colour them in my trusty laptop.
Everything totally changed last week when I received a full set of Sharpies for a class I will be teaching in a couple of weeks. I wanted to test the tools and see if the markers will work well with the paper. I made my sketch in pencil and started filling it with colour… and I was hooked! I just realised that it’s actually fun to go totally traditional and colour my artwork on paper.
I mean seriously, why would we rely on the computer when it’s all the more fun to fill in the colours by hand? I was thinking about why I didn’t do this before, and I could only think of a couple of things — first, colouring it in Illustrator is more convenient. I can do and redo as I please. Command Z. Trusty shortcuts. The works. Second, I wasn’t confident that I’ll be able to nail the colours in one go. There’s no ‘undo’ in the analog world. If I’m not pleased with my work in the end, there’s no other choice but to crumple the paper and do the whole thing all over again.
Well, obviously my lettering still needs a lot of improvement, but I’m quite happy that I did it anyway. I guess it never hurts to try a new tool, and if it doesn’t work the way you expected it to, don’t give up! I’ll probably be opening a Beginners’ Lettering Class here in Singapore in the near future so if you’re on this island, email me if you’re interested! In the meantime, here are a few more Sharpie DIYs around the web that I think might be fun to try:
If addressing envelopes in calligraphy seem intimidating for a beginner, here’s a way to use Sharpies instead. So pretty!
For coffee lovers like me (who can’t get enough of mugs), this is a fun DIY to try.
I’m in love with these black journals with gold Sharpie lettering! Gold on black never goes out of style, even if it’s not Christmas.
Gosh, it’s Friday already? I hope you’ll all forgive me for the lack of posts the last couple of weeks. The thing is, I was on holiday with my family in Manila, Philippines (which is also my hometown) where I was invited to teach a beginners’ calligraphy workshop as well. It was a pretty big deal for me because it was the first time that I ever brought The Happy Hour Workshop outside of Singapore!
So now that I’m back at the Little Red Dot, I’m on Pinterest looking for some calligraphy inspiration. There’s this style that I’m recently falling in love with, and it’s this playful, no holds barred style of freehand. Each calligrapher has his or her own way of doing this, and I’ve selected four of my favourites from all over the web.
This style works so well on a rustic setting, surrounded by wild flowers and timber and early morning sunlight. For those of you looking for inspiration for your next calligraphy project, check out these truly amazing works. Too beautiful for words, really.
WildField Paper Co. (top row)
The first one on the left was written in watercolour by Annie Mertlich. For some reason, the lettering on wood that I stumbled upon was again done by Annie Mertlich. So I guess I can say I’m a fan! You can see the full blog post on Green Wedding Shoes here.
Shannon Kirsten (bottom left)
This white lettering on black is up on Etsy, and was written by Florida-based calligrapher Shannon Kirsten.
Sam Dubeau (bottom right)
Oh, this hand-lettered piece was an instant favourite of mine! By Toronto-based Sam Dubeau, this piece is a lovely example of hand-painted lettering.
Hey you guys! I’m still on a high from weeks ago where I had the first ever Calligraphy In Colour Advanced Workshop. I kept thinking about how immensely talented each of the participants were, and when I saw them writing all I could say was, ‘Wow, you have been all practicing, weren’t you?’
And they were! Some were present in my beginners’ class from months ago, and they have been practicing diligently and have improved their calligraphy by doing so. I’ve probably said this before, but it took me 2 years to find my own style. Calligraphy is not easy, but it’s a continuous learning experience for me. I never stop learning, and I never stop practicing. That’s what’s great about this craft. There’s always room to grow.
In calligraphy, practice is something that you cannot be without — that’s why I came up with this calligraphy quote. Making time for the things you love is important, because simply put, it makes you happy. If you like to read, set aside even a few minutes to have time for yourself. With calligraphy, it’s not easy to be able to practice daily specially with everything that’s going on around us. Why not set aside an hour every Saturday? It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing!
Oh, I currently have a bunch of downloadable calligraphy over at the shop, the ones above included… go get ’em! It’s been a while since I’ve put new items for sale and this is the start of a new batch of downloadable calligraphy. I hope one of these will adorn your walls someday.
It’s such a pleasure to be showing you the logo for Mita Kelder, a photographer here in Singapore. I really enjoyed working alongside this lady! Mita wanted a logo, and a logo mark as well that will serve as her photos’ watermark. She also wanted a hand-drawn camera to go with her name.
I’ve been doing a number of photographers’ logos lately, but each one is different. I enjoyed drawing different styles of the camera for her, and after a few mixing and matching, I was able to finalise the logo and watermark symbol. I’m very much delighted to share these photos with you today!