Category Archives: Beginners

Dunstable Medieval Weekend with Brother William


Medieval Dunstable.Ye Scriptorium. Img.jpg

After a week of making up bookmarks, wall-plates etc. and framing of prints, we loaded the scriptorium into the car and headed off to wildest Medieval Dunstable. Only four miles down the road but eight hundred years on the time scale.

We were greeted at the entrance of Priory House by one of what seemed to be a whole battalion of immaculately turned out Army Cadets. We were shown to our tent by Lisa the event organiser and, helped by half a dozen Cadets, unloaded everything into a marquee that had been erected onto the rain-soaked grass. At that time, in the totally empty space which was to house us, The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service, The Dunstable History Society and The Manshead Archaeological  Society, were about six large, soaking wet tables. Three of these were quickly dried off for us  by the cadets and placed in what I thought would be the prime spot. I left Gill to arrange the stall while I went off to park the car. The idea was to have one table as a work bench, one for our wares, and another, spread with paper and scattered with double pencils and coloured felt tips, for anyone to try their hand at calligraphy. When I returned it was looking like this.

Medieval Dunstable. Our stall. img. jpg.

Then after setting up my writing slope and trying out the pens and coloured inks, I found that due to the humidity, the colours were feathering on the card and though I could get some quite pretty effects, it was not a good representation of the lettering arts. Luckily I found that gold and silver worked quite well, so by the time our first customers appeared I had my mind made up for me that the metallic inks  were the best alternative.

Brother William at Medieval Dunstable.img. jpg

Here I am with one of the first of many customers which became a steady stream throughout the day.

Lady Gillian at Medieval Dunstable. img. jpg.

Lady Gillian taking her shift.

Brother William and lady Gillian at Medieval Dunstable.img. jpg

A break in proceedings while all visitors were watching the battles or the jousts,  punctuated by the roar of cannon fire and the shouts of the combatants. These occurred at intervals during each day and were performed by the Medieval Siege Society. We were pleased to meet a number of the S0ciety members.

Gill gets in some practice and then has a wander round with the camera,

Medieval instrument maker. img.jpg.

and finds Trevor James of Beccles playing an assortment of hand made medieval musical instruments.

It was good to see so many people, both young and old, taking an interest in the calligraphy demonstrations and getting the hang of using double pencils.

Youngsters with double pencils.img. jpg.

Over the two days we used about 30 metres of lining paper and only had to scrap one sheet, because it had been covered in obscenities by one youngster who had been told “Anything you like” in answer to his question, “What shall I put on here?” He then ran off laughing. Gill was very quick to remove the offending piece before it was noticed by anyone else.

We used up all but one of the bookmarks and had only two or three wall-plates to take home with us. It was good also, that a few people liked the prints, both framed and unframed, enough to buy them.

It was a joy for us both to work with these budding scribes, most of whom were eager to blow a little magic into the bottle, because it “made the pen work” and then watch it swirling around in the ink. Truth be told, watching their faces, the adults also thought this might be true.

Brother William at Medieval Dunstable. img .jpg.

This young lady took lots of snaps. When I commented on her really tasty camera, she hugged it and laughed and said, “It is my baby”.

Brother William at Medieval Dunstable.img.jpg.

I was pleased so many friends came to say hello. Some of whom we had lost contact with.  It was really good to see you.  Gill, a Dunstablian, was recognised by a neighbour she had not seen since childhood, and people she used to work alongside at the L&D hospital. Heheh!  Fame at last.

Brother William at Medieval Dunstable. img.jpg

These two days have flown by. We have made another load of friends and contacts. There are promises of intended commissions, and invitations to similar events all over the country. The weather has been great in spite of the downpour the night before we arrived, and in spite of the “doom and gloom” forecast for the weekend.

Many thanks to Jean Yates, the Project Officer, and Dunstable Town Council for inviting us. To the Army Cadets for brightening up a really gloomy start, all the cheerful faces of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade who came to see us throughout the weekend, (luckily, it seems there were no major incidents for them to deal with).  And mostly to Lisa, the Event Organiser and her assistant, Lauren, for all you did for us before and during the event. You are a great team.

 

By the bye.

 

Dunstable War Memorial. WWII.  C.C Stenning

Just a few yards from where we were working.  On the war memorial, Stenning, C.C. Gill’s uncle, who lied about his age to join the RAF. Became a rear gunner and was shot down, aged 18. RIP.

Strangely enough, next year’s event, on the centenary of the 1st World War, will be remembering Dunstable during WW I. Those who know me well will have an idea of what or whom I shall be portraying, if, indeed, I am invited.

Keep Watching this space.

Cheers.   Bill.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4


Link to week 3

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4.Img. jpg

Before I begin this week’s write up, I would like to thank Andrew for getting in touch and offering some toughened glass suitable for light-tables, and also for delivering same to the museum. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. They were soon snapped up and are probably in use already.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Light Table. img.jpg.

Here Peter is trying my portable Light-Table and finding it easier to transfer lines from his guideline sheet.  For more information on working with Light- Tables, especially layout issues as discussed this week, have a look at this earlier post on hints and tips.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Pen-work. img. jpg

Now, while beginning to get to grips with broad nib and ink, we explored how the balance of the written page is found, bearing in mind that the optical centre, is, as with letter construction, (i.e. the central cross stroke on “E” sits on the centre line rather than straddling or hanging from it), slightly above a measured centre. The hints from “My Cool School”, on putting together a brochure give a very good illustration. As the author writes,

You can measure all you want, follow all the rules, and do everything you have been taught, but the bottom line is:  If it doesn’t Look right – it isn’t!”

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. Coming on Nicely. img jpg.

Next, how to plan a page of script, perhaps a poem, without having to write out the whole page only to find you haven’t left enough room. It is a good idea to always copy text from a printed page. It saves any ambiguity (specially when dealing with a client), and at a glance you can pick out the longest line. After first working out, with your guide-line sheets, how many lines you can get on your page, write this longest line in the chosen script  and size. If it is too long or short for the sheet it is meant for, you can either modify the page size, or the size of script, or use a more compressed script, or opt to write that particular line on two lines. Either way you are now in a position to know that what you have planned for the page will actually fit. Your work will now fail only due to faulty execution rather than bad planning.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 4. A nicely balanced page. img. jpg.

Having been asked to PPP with all their might, the slightly bemused, exhausted group, left with these words ringing in their ears, “Heheheh”.  “Just wait to see what I have in store for you next week”

Looking forward to the final session, for now, I hope, and to seeing you all next week.

Cheers.   Bill.

Link to week 5

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 3


Link to Week 2

This week we concentrated on the transition from double pencil alphabets

calligraphy. A Roundhand alphabet.double pencil.img.jpg.

to using dip pens, fountain pens and marker pens, using at first the widest nib in our kit.

calligraphy. A Roundhand alphabet. written with a broad pen. Img. jpg.

If using a dip pen, first we need to remove the thin protective lacquer coating by running the nib through a flame just for a second or two, then a dip in water; or dip in boiling water and then dry with a cloth before applying the reservoir which slides under the nib to within about 1/16″ (2mm) of the tip.  I was intrigued to find that the ink converter on the Manuscript cartridge pen does not fit the length of the barrel. I shall be looking into this.

A few tries to get the ink flowing, adjustments to reservoirs, inky fingers and smudged paper, then using the more closely lined guideline sheet to gauge the x height needed for the size of nib chosen and that is the next stage of the journey started. All that is needed now, as before, is Practice, Practice, Practice, on which subject I shall point you to one of my earlier posts, Positive Practice.

We did not delve too deeply into layout this week but in the next session we shall be looking at the easiest ways of judging how to fit the printed copy onto our shiny new page at the first attempt, after writing out just one line on a piece of scrap paper.

Looking forward to seeing you all again next week.

’til then PPP.

Keep watching this space.

Link to week 4

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 2


Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

 Link to WEEK 1

Sorry to see a few people missing from the last session due to holidays, work commitments, illness etc. Hope to see you all again soon. Some new faces though, made the mix of abilities even more interesting and everyone had the chance to recap as the roundhand alphabet was demonstrated once more with the double pencils and then later with a broad nib.

Then, a look around the room to find that most had been doing their homework “PPP” and had even made a start on the Roman Capitals. Some though were a bit confused by my notations on the sample. I apologise for not pointing out the formula for letter proportion which can be found on Lesson 2 Roman Capitals.

Monumental capitals might be 8 to 10 nib-widths high. These on the example are 7. Pen angle should be 30 degrees except for diagonals -AWXYZ- 45 degrees, and legs of N, written with an almost upright pen. Capitals in body text are better kept to perhaps half again as high as the minuscules. Widths of Roman capitals vary from 1 nib width – ”I”, to half a square – “E”,  3/4 – ”G”, 1 square – ”O”, to one and a half squares -”W”.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

We have one left handed scribe among us and it might be worth mentioning that he took calligraphy classes while on a graphic design course but was never asked to try to write from below the line rather than over the top, which is more natural for a “leftie” when writing with a pencil or ballpoint, but not as efficient when using a broad nibbed pen. I must say I am impressed with his progress so far with the double pencils, I am hoping the transition to pen and ink will be as painless.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

Just a couple of comments in passing, this week, on spacing, make sure to use the balloon example, even when practising, to give your eye, brain, hand and arm, plenty of exercise and to build up coordination.

Balloon.calligraphy spacing guide.Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

On layout. You will notice that all your guideline sheets have borders. Not very big ones so far as we need to conserve paper while practising. Later on in the course we will be looking into the correlation of white and black space but it is a good idea to bear in mind that a page with half the amount of black space to white, if nicely balanced, is easier to read and much more restful to the eye than a page crammed from corner to corner.

calligraphy templates.combinations.x height guide.jpg.Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

To make it easier to work out what this is all about. The x’s to the left of the page have the space of two x’s between them, making room for  ascender and descender . The x’s to the right of the page have only one x between them, useful for a page of capitals or uncials, or, short or intermingling ascenders and descenders. So if we always work in multiples of 1/8 of an inch, one guide line sheet will suffice for any number of layouts. More on this later.

Calligraphy Workshops Luton.Wardown park Museum. img.jpg

Hoping you are able to make the next session where we will be putting the above into action.

Link to WEEK 3

Luton Calligraphy Workshops. Week 1


Link to INTRODUCTION

It was good to see so many people showing an interest and turning out on such a freezing cold day. I know that some had some experience, but most had no idea what they were letting themselves in for. They each received a starter pack with the instructions, “On pain of death, do not write on these guideline sheets”. “Why not?” you may ask. Well, with care these sheets will last a lifetime. Once written on, unless you have unlimited access to a copier or PC with a printer, they are gone.

In the pack were …. A3, Roundhand and Roman alphabets. 1 inch lines, a double page spread of 1/8 inch lines. A4, a sheet of 1/8 inch lines with various combinations of letter sizes that can be used using the same guideline sheet, and a simple spacing guide, “the balloon is going up”.

New roundhand alphabet.double pencils.img.jpg New Roman Alphabet.double pencils.img.jpg. Template. 1 inch guidelines. A3.calligraphy.img.jpg.  Template.1/8" guidelines. A3. double page spread.img.jpg. A4 Template combinations using 1/8" guidelines.img.jpg. The balloon is going up.a lesson in spacing.Bill Grant.img.jpg.

…….. and a set of double pencils.

First, with a sheet of decorators lining paper spread across two tables, a very brief  (we are here to learn how to do, rather than why) history of the scripts we were going to be using in this session, from Greek, to Roman Capitals, Roman Cursive, leaving Uncials for another day, through Alcuin’s involvement with the Carolingian and Humanist scripts, to Edward Johnston’s study of his foundational hand with which we begin  today. Incidentally, Johnston’s book, Writing & Illuminating & Lettering is available, free, to download or read online.

Perhaps I should have used Jeffrey’s video to illustrate.

Or

From Alpha to Omega, and A to Z and then a 30 foot roll of humanist minuscules with an x height of 12 inches spread before them the participants were invited to join in with their double pencils. Then, when I thought I had them on the ropes, I allowed a weary but cheery group to take a seat and with their 1 inch guidelines, begin the first lesson in earnest.

Update. This video was filmed at Luton Irish Forum Calligraphy Group on 1st October 2013 by Peter Moss.

 

Calligraphy workshop day 1.jpg.

 

First tracing from the guide sheet and then freehand using the 1 inch lines and referring to Calligradoodles 0002, cups of tea and lots of chat, time was flying and skills increasing. Roman Capitals (Lesson Two) will have to wait ’til  next time but has been set as “gentle” homework as our next meeting is two weeks from now.

A very quick look at what we shall be playing with over the next four sessions,

plus, at some point we are hoping to do a live filming of Old English Blackletter Caps and minuscules as they are demonstrated. It looks as if we are going to be kept very busy indeed.

I know that some of the class are unable, due to previous engagements, work etc to attend each session, but if you follow the blog and practise whenever you can, you should be able to keep up with events.

With Thanks to Luton Culture and the Museum staff for putting up with us, and  JEWELS for their generously discounted materials.

Don’t forget. If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to use the comments box.

More help and support at Calligraphy at Bill’s Space Mk II on Facebook.

Looking forward to next time.

Link to WEEK 2

Keep watching this space, and P,P,P.

Luton Calligraphy Workshops


Wardown Park Museum Luton. Calligraphy workshops. Img.jpg

 

If you have signed up for or are thinking of attending the Calligraphy Workshops at Wardown Park Museum, or would like to follow the progress of the group, this is the place to come for information and support.

These sessions will be very informal with the emphasis being on doing, rather than listening and taking copious notes.

I usually ask participants to bring with them the following articles if at all possible, but to start with, you can get by with 2 pencils and 2 elastic bands.

A drawing board, approximately 18” x 24”. MDF or something similar will do, Something to prop it up to make a writing slope, i.e., a piece of wood 4” x 4” or perhaps a brick wrapped in a carrier bag.

A ruler , preferably 2 foot, and a set square.

A set of roundhand nibs with penholder and reservoirs.

A calligraphy fountain pen is a handy addition for practice work. (Any left-handers will benefit by choosing left hand oblique nibs).

Calligraphy ink. NOT WATERPROOF. Avoid Indian ink whether waterproof or not

Gouache or watercolours. Coeruleum Blue, and Vermilion. Winsor & Newton Gold ink. (Optional but very handy.)

2 HB and I 2H pencil. A 00 paint brush. A cheap brush for mixing. A palette or saucer. A jar for water and a kitchen roll.

An A3 Layout pad or even a cheap sketch book. If you have some, a nice HP watercolour paper for your finished work.

Jewels Arts and Crafts Centre in H/Regis, (where I should be on Tuesday afternoons), have agreed to supply some of the above on a sale or return basis, at 10% discount. If you can visit Jewels, mention the workshop and you will get the same discount. I am sure you will be surprised at the diversity of the stock and the number of workshops and groups that happen there.

To get a head start it would be to your advantage to see Getting started in Calligraphy and then Lesson one  Roundhand.

At the end of week-one I shall post a resume of what has been covered so-far and links appertaining to the next session.

If you have any questions or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to use the comments box.

I look forward to meeting you all.

Cheers.   Bill

Luton Calligraphy Workshops Week 1

Calligraphy and handwriting for Children



I am often asked how long I have been doing calligraphy and how I got interested in the first place.

As a youngster, the only books in the house were a 10 volume Arthur Mee Childrens Encyclopaedia.  The many articles and illustrations of ancient civilisations, carvings and manuscripts that I found there really fuelled my imagination and have been my inspiration to this day.

At about age eleven  I was lucky enough to have an art teacher who had a great interest in calligraphy / lettering.  He taught us a form of italic script and issued licences, to those of us who became proficient enough, to use it in the classroom.  To my great shame, I never attained the standard required and so, was not allowed to use italics to write my essays and compositions.  I did, however, at that early age, have my own fountain pen.  I don’t remember how I came by it, but it was probably a Christmas or Birthday present.  This pen was an Osmiroid 65 with a medium italic nib and I was soon in great demand in the neighbourhood to write cards and envelopes and suchlike, but my first real commission, for which I received one shilling, was The Lord’s Prayer written in a spiral.  That pen was lost some time ago but lately I found another on eBay complete with ten nibs. Writing with it really brings back memories.  One other thing I was taught at that time has been a great help all through my life.  When drawing or colouring letters,  don’t turn the paper to give better access to the brush, crayon or whatever.  One day you might have to put your letters on a wall, so learn to always work  in the one position. (Except when doing this)…………………………..

 

 

Not my first commission, but very similar.
Here are a number of links and videos all with a view to teaching children to enjoy the making of good letters.  Whether you are a parent, a teacher, a youngster, or an older beginner, there will be much here to stir the interest and get you or your class started .  Don’t forget the links to “Lessons” on the right of this page and the many art / calligraphy based links to be found elsewhere at Bill’s Space.

A very interesting study of cursive writing /learning.” What’s Lost as Handwriting Fades”. “Does handwriting matter?”

Cursive writing under threat.

Doodling with double pencils or markers, and filling with colour is a very good introduction to learning how the thick and thin strokes are formed.

 

This one is from the Monica Dengo calligraphy teaching site.  In Italian but the enthusiasm shines through just the same.

 

 

An educational philosophy encompassing all creative subjects backs up the teaching of handwriting in France. The French believe that giving children the ability to write will free their minds to perform creatively throughout their lives. So they teach handwriting as a subject in its own right.And they teach handwriting in a uniform way throughout primary schools, using traditional calligraphy to produce a distinctive, ornate hand.This programme visits a school in Lyon to see how students in Year 1 and Year 6 develop this ability.

 

 

Calli and Graphy

Home Education Resources  Free printable practice sheets

Alphabet Handwriting worksheets plus colouring pages etc.

See also the rest of the series
Learn to Write Calligraphy

Teaching cursive

 

 

See also the rest of the series

As I come across new material on this subject, I shall add it on, so keep watching this space.

Graduation of the first Children’s Group at the Russian Contemporary Museum Of Calligraphy.

National Handwriting Association.

Berol Teachers Club

Meanwhile, colouring ready made letters is a good way of getting a feel for letterform, so here are a few to play with.  Print them off and have fun.



Enjoy.
Please let me know if there is anything you are unsure of.  If I don’t know the answer, I’m sure to know someone who does.