Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quills — Experimentation

I've been wanting to try my hand at making and using a real quill pen for a while now. Thanks to my wonderful fiancé and family, I was gifted a number of uncured goose feathers and a quill knife this Christmas!

I haven't had an opportunity to take a class on making quills. So before trying it myself, I scoured the web in search of instructions. Most of what I found seems to agree on the basic steps, but the specifics vary.

  1. Prepare the feather — Cut off the tip, clean the membrane from the surface and inside of the barrel, trim it to length, and trim off the barbs to make holding it more comfortable.
  2. Cure the barrel of the feather (also referred to as tempering or dutching) — Fresh feathers are too soft and flexible to be cut and used as a pen. The barrel is hardened through aging or heat treating so it can hold its shape and last longer. The methods for this process vary quite a bit: from baking the feathers in an oven, immersing them in hot sand or boiling water, to rolling them against a heated metal surface.
  3. Cut the quill — The cutting of the writing tip. The steps vary in order, but the shape of the end result is the same.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Guidelines & the AMES Lettering Guide

The Medieval and Renaissance calligraphy I emulate was penned by monks and professional scribes who spent a good portion of their lives perfecting their art. I on the other hand have mundane commitments that come first, and do calligraphy as a hobby in (a portion of) my spare time.

What does this have to do with guidelines? As an amateur calligrapher, pencil guidelines help my calligraphy look better. They are erased when I'm done, leaving straight, evenly-spaced text that matches the appearance of the work of professional period scribes. This article is about the modern tools and shortcuts I use to help me get my projects done, not the medieval methods.

Because of the length of this article, I've divided it into sections to allow you to skip ahead to the subject that interests you, or to more easily take it a bit at a time and return to where you left off.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Project - Veronica's Tyger's Cub - A.S XLV

Project: Order of the Tyger's Cub for my niece, Veronica Vesalius. I did both the calligraphy and illumination on this scroll.
Words: by Lord Iain of Malagentia.
Paper: Heavy Weight Pergamenata.
Pens: Brause 0.5mm nib.
Ink: Winsor & Newton Sepia calligraphy ink.
Illumination Materials: The ink surrounding the gold leafed areas is India ink from a Rapidograph pen. The Sizing for the Gold is Miniatum with some red W&N ink added to help see where it was painted. The paint is all Holbein Gouache, most of it custom mixed colors.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Technique - Copying a Period Hand

When I started making scrolls, I used the ductus in my calligraphy books for whichever script I needed. As I got more and more comfortable with each of the scripts, I wanted to expand my knowledge and skill by attempting to replicate period scribes' hands.

I would suggest trying this after you have some experience with a few different scripts, and working at a few different sizes. It helps to be comfortable with the pen and forming letter shapes that you can figure out how to make the letters on your own. That said, it can also be a good exercise to train your eye and hand by spending quality time with period calligraphy.

Step 1 - Get a good copy of your example

You want the highest quality version of the original you can get to start. I like digital best, as you can zoom in very close, and adjust the contrast and brightness of the image if needed. For my examples in this post, I'm using a contrast adjusted version of the Magna Carta as inspiration, taken from Wikipedia. I was trying to learn this hand for the making of the Serjeanty for Master Phillip Reed.

If the final piece has illumination done by a different artist, work with them to make sure the hand you choose goes with the illumination style of the finished piece. I'm fortunate to work with many illuminators who know my interests, and they provide me with a specific example that includes calligraphy they are using as inspiration.