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October 20, 2006

denis brown: sharpness in writing

by gl. at 11:41 pm

thus begins the calligraphy marathon: a week of calligraphy classes related to the all oregon calligraphers conference. this year it features denis brown, my favorite calligrapher in the world. he's been brilliant since he was 15, and how can i resist anyone with an irish accent?

he's been in town for a couple of days now; i attended my first session yesterday. i was half an hour late even though i had left myself a 15 minute buffer; the traffic and weather were horrible! i seriously thought about turning around because i hate it when i'm so late, and i think it's disrespectful to the teacher. fortunately (well, or not, depending on how you look at it), other people had the same issue. i wasn't even the last one in.

but before we even got to lettering, he spent a long time talking about the basic components: tools, materials, technique. i picked up some notes worth keeping:

then he walked around and gave feedback on the sharpness and on letterforms. i was intimidated and anxious, no doubt exacerbated by my late arrival, but also because i was using unfamiliar nibs (brause) and ink (black gouache, and the tubes i brought were unfortunately dry so i had to borrow a dab from my neighbor). i am an intermediate calligrapher at best, but most people at an event like this are much, much better than i am. see? i have my issues, too. :)

after lunch he showed us how to use gum sandarac, which was great. gum sandarac is something i've often heard of but had no idea how much trouble it might be to use or what a difference it would make. it turns out gum sandarac repels water: a drop of water on a pile of gum sandarac forms into a little ball, as malleable and adorable as quicksilver. thus, it keeps ink from spreading when brushed on the page. easy peasy!

he also showed us writing on black w/ white ink (more sandarac & the "flooding in" technique; permanent white=opaque, zinc white=lightfast). he also showed us sharpening a nib on an arkansas stone, though he himself has stopped sharpening nibs, prefering his own technique (namely, speed) to create his ethereal hairlines (so fine that apparently herman zapf himself wrote denis a letter asking about his technique).

posted by gl. | October 20, 2006 11:41 PM | categories: calligraphy