A Book of Remembrance – Hand lettered

As the holidays arrive, we embrace those we love and enjoy their company. Yet, there are those who we love, that are missing from our midst, as they have ‘graduated’ from this life. It can be painful and lonely without them so it helps to remember them in a warm and sensitive way.

As a calligrapher, I attempt to do just that.  I have been called upon to create either framed Eulogy’s or Books of Remembrance that capture special traits and memories of a loved one’s life….a treasured tribute that can be passed down through the family.  I will share with you one book in particular, that I created in 2017.

My college room mate’s husband, Hector Dalton, called me to memorialize Beth’s father, Dr. Robert Lincoln Mather. A gift that would go to Mrs. Mather. Hector gave me a lot of freedom in creating the book, but said that he would: 1. Like it to be in blue (family favorite colors) 2. Bring in the 1950’s as that was Dr. Mather’s special era. Since I knew Dr. Mather, I threw in a couple of interpretive ideas as well. He was an eye doctor with 4 fashionable daughters and a wife, so I wanted to include eyes and glasses to bring out his career and family in a lighthearted way. Some of the pages lent themselves to illustrations so you will find a goat, cat, dog, skunk, chickens, a car and a harmonica, as well. Below, I will share the cover and title page and then back up to show you a little of my behind the scenes work.

Credit goes to Jim at Ohio Book (Cincinnati) for creating the lovely binding, debossed gold name and decoration, sewing the pages together, plus attaching the hand marbled end papers that I purchased from Talas in New York. (It took me quite awhile to pick a paper that matched the goat skin. Since I was in Oregon when I created the book, I actually bought and shipped 4 sheets of 2 different colored patterns, so Jim could pick the closest match for the blue leather cover).  The cover is Hudson Calf Leather in Electric Blue from Pergamena in New York. I so appreciate their quality calfskin and leathers for my projects. They are one of the few tanners left in the USA, so help me keep them in business!

Above is the title page for the book. It includes some simple vine work, the color blue, eye glasses from the 1950’s era and one set, signifying Dr. Mather. Note the stethoscope, since he was an Opthamologist. I especially love to work on Twinrocker Paper because of the handmade quality and deckled edges. Note that the top edge is straight. I had to cut one large sheet into two, losing a deckled edge. Therefore, I had to alternate the deckles with straight edges within the signatures.

Now, I’m going to back up a little and show you some of ‘roughs and research’ as the project unfolded. Pinterest and the internet were helpful resources. An old Speedball Textbook had some lettering styles for the simple Decorated Capitals.

I laughed my way through researching the unique eye glasses from the 50’s. 

Below you will see some of the unique shapes often found on signs or advertisements in the 50’s.                                                      These made a nice little field for the Drop Caps to sit on.

After collecting ideas for the pages, I cut tracing paper to size and penciled in all of the words. I discovered that I had to add more pages than I thought. I initially thought I’d need 18 pages, but went to 24 in all. As mentioned, I left room for small illustrations as they came up in the stories that Hector shared at Dr. Mather’s funeral.

After transferring the pages to the Twinrocker paper, I began lettering in the simple Foundational style,                                                                                   so the text wouldn’t conflict with the artwork and caps.

 

Next, I painted all of the little decorative caps with their funky background shapes and little 23k gold stars.                                                                                   Remember how the 1950’s art sometimes had those twinkly little stars to show a gleam? The blue matched the cover of the book and the gray was a color in the marbled paper. 

The little illustrations and 19 eye glasses with eyeballs came last….below are a few of the pages with illustrations.

This book took me about a month to create. Between designing, ordering supplies, laying it out on tracing paper, lettering 20 some pages, painting and illustrating, it took 5 times what I originally thought I would take. (BUT, it would be far too boring to just have text, when Dr. Mather was full of personality. So in came the illustrations for the stories).

Side note: If I were to add one thing to this project, I would like to see a leather slip cover/case made to slide the book into.

So I hope that this gives you a little insight into my process. Now you know a unique way to memorialize a loved one, in a way that reflects their personality – a special book that can be cherished and passed down through the generations. Commissions welcomed.

Family Trees – Lettering Your Lineage

For over 35 years now, I have been asked to take on Family Tree projects. After creating a number of them, I’ve designed a workshop, teaching calligraphers and artists how to lay them out in a multitude of ways. A few of them will be shared below. Probably the two favorites have been the Berghel Family Tree, which was about 3’x5′ or so and shaped like a tree. It included birth death and marriage dates. A couple on the trunk of the tree has ancestors in the roots and descendants in the branches.  I sure wish that I had a better picture of this. I’ve learned since, that on large pieces, I should take it to a photographer who can capture the fine detail. 

A second favorite layout has been the circular Twinrocker paper with feather deckle for smaller families, again, tree shaped. If you look closely, the image below has Laotian names over on the left side of the tree. My client kindly sent me the names in the Laotian alphabet, which helped tremendously.

The family below had a favorite tree in their yard and had me paint two-tone oak leaves with gold centers. Lots of detail! Note the float mounted handmade paper. You can frame in a circle or square and then put a handsome frame on it.

Nevertheless, what I call ‘straight line’ charts are still popular and those who choose them, often like to put crest or coat of arms in the layout to fill an empty space in the chart.

 

 Besides trees and line, you can create the family tree in fan shape, circle, wreath (names on leaves), you can put or use a transfer technique to place photos, or you can create little illustrations of homesteads or family hobbies or businesses, etc.

It has been a privilege and an intrigue to create family tree books or albums. The chart folds into a front pocket in a leather book, then each new family has a heading in the book and articles, birth/death documents and other inspiring pieces of information are included. This layout can really bring the family to life, making it much more personal. The book below was hand bound in green leather by Gabrielle Fox who also made a clamshell box with special end papers.

When starting a family tree the most important thing that I ask clients to organize for me are the family names. Make sure that they are clearly typed out in their generations.

By organizing this for the calligrapher, the client themself a lot of money and prevents errors.

Family Tree’s are extremely time consuming. Mainly because as you pencil in names, there is often the need to shift names this way and that, if your original placements prove to be off a little. That being said, if you’re creating a straight-line chart, a calligrapher should start to layout the longest generation of names. Why? Because once you fit that generation across the page, you know how wide a space should be allowed for each name in the longest line of names, you will know how much space to leave for the names in other generations. This way, you give the names and page consistency.

As you consider designing your family tree, you can add other elements. One client had me put every name in a little red box and each generation had a different decorative gold gilding around each box. Another client featured the old photos of the couples in the family on the tree. Yet another tree was for an organization…it showed how the organization grew and what new organizations grew out of it. The options are countless! I’m sure that you have plenty of great ideas of your own.

(Since I created the above family tree on calfskin, I’ve learned a new method for securing the skin. It keeps it taught while still allowing it to move).

If you’re reading this and considering having your own family tree completed, mine begin around $500 and have run up to $3,000. Some could go higher. Year 2017. I often need about a month or so to complete the tree. Pricing depends on the number of names, what dates are included, layout, illustrations, tree leaves, etc.

I’m happy to speak with you on the phone if you would like to explore family tree options further!

Best of Show, Oregon State Fair

What a nice surprise! Last Friday night I was awarded Best of Show at the Oregon State Fair 2017, Calligraphy Division. The cash award made it an even sweeter win.

To submit an entry to the Oregon State Fair, the calligraphy has to be created within the last 2 years. That is always a challenge for me, since so much of my work goes directly to my clients. My assistant, Heather Barton (who is also a calligrapher and prize winner), remembered that I had the ‘Achiever’ original remaining…..scroll down….

Reproductions are available!

‘Achiever’ was a piece that I completed for Mason, Ohio, client Dawn Shiver this past winter. She and her husband own Shiver Security Systems, Inc. in Mason and were looking for some special awards for their top salesmen. Dawn commissioned me to rework the wording and create the artwork, which was later scanned, retouched, color altered and finally high end reproductions were printed one at a time from my Epson R3000 printer on Entrada digital paper. The original was created on D’Arches black 140# paper, with tinted Dr. Martin’s bleed proof white to help the capitals pop. Brown gouache was added to my gold Winsor New metallic gouache to give the script more of a bronzed look. Fabulous Frames in Cincinnati, enhanced the awards with beautiful frames. DesignSource in Oregon, framed the winning original.

Achiever, Best of Show, Oregon State Fair 2017

Achiever – Best of Show, Oregon State Fair 2017, Calligraphy Division

Bible Journaling

Cover of Bible Journaling Book Joanne Fink

Have you ever kept a diary or a journal?  You write your thoughts and experiences in a notebook in an effort to keep a record of your life…often to look back and marvel at the journey God has taken you on, or to pass down to the next generation. Bible Journaling is similar, only, as you read Scripture you pull out the phrases that are most meaningful to you, creatively illustrating and lettering them on pages of your Bible. The emphasis is definitely a memorable way to accent what God is impressing on your heart through His Word. (You can even purchase a new Bible that actually leaves space for your creations…if you don’t want to mark up your current Bible.)

Joanne Fink and Regina Yoder have kindly included some of my work in their new Bible Journaling paperback book, Fox Chapel Publishing, $19.99.  Click link to order. Read on…..

Their new book offers ‘how to’ instructions for design, illustration and lettering a Bible verse. They take you step by step, so whether you are a beginner or advanced, you have tips for making your pages meaningful, as well as attractive.  Included are sample pages from over 40 dedicated journalers, showing the diversity of artwork styles while offering inspiration for your pages. Below, see one spread from Karla Dornacher’s lovely section.

Friend and colleague, Joanne Fink decided to include some images from my collection, which expands the books’ focus from within the Bible pages, to lettering Scripture verses ‘Outside the Bible.’ In the section below, Joanne takes Proverbs 3:5-6 and compares the way that numerous artists, calligraphers or journaler’s have designed the same verse. See the book for the variety!

As you can guess, verses can be designed for greeting cards, framed art, books, walls of churches, businesses, homes, etc. You can choose where you want your art to appear – personally (in your Bible) or publicly. My focus has always been a more public application, since I have been active in business since around 1980. Below, you will see Bible Journaling’s two page spread of some of my work. On the left, it features my church wall work at Evangelical Community Church and Northminster Presbyterian Church, both in Cincinnati, OH and on the right page, 3 commissions in my collection. You will find larger pics and others in my www.HollyMonroe.com > SHOP+ > Prints > Scripture section of my website. Love and Serve, Know the Plans and Lord Provider, Jehovah Jirah.

Bible Journaling Joanne Fink Holly Monroe pages.

Two page spread of Holly Monroe’s calligraphy in new Bible Journaling book.

Lastly, I’m showing you the back cover of Joanne and Regina’s book, showing not only hand-created Bible pages from other artists, but also a list of the multitude of items included in their generous book. I believe this book will be an inspiration to adults and children, to artists/calligraphers/journal keepers who care about their walk with God, through His Word.

Bible Journaling Back Cover

Journaling has always been around, but artistic Bible Journaling is a new emphasis. I first encountered a similar type of this activity with friend and colleague Tim Botts, who would calligraphically illustrate a section of Scripture each morning, as he read his Bible. His sketches turned into his 20+ books, starting with “Doorposts” through Tyndale Book Publishers. Tim has certainly been an inspiration to me in my calligraphy career. Take a look at his work, if you haven’t discovered him yet!

 

The Modern Book of Hours Continues – pages 90 and 91

To my calligraphy friends near and far! Here is a little update on the Modern Book of Hours that I am working on. It is a book about the Passing of Time, Seasons, Seasons of Life on into Eternity. The pages shown below are pages 90 and 91.  In this blog post, I will give you a little glimpse of the process. More in future blogs. As some of you might know, my client commissioned a 144-page book project, that has taken me quite some time. Each facing page is to match and be as intricate as possible. It is a picture book, where each design can stand alone. (Reproductions are available). I will be making a Collection category of The Book of Hours images on my website in the near future. A few are posted in my SHOP now.

Now for the process…

The first image is the completed page. Calfskin with tiny strokes of watercolor and 23k gold powder applied and burnished.

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My client typed the wording that he desired and indicated whether it would go on the right or the left page. It was my job to imagine the creative layout for the illustration and calligraphy.

A pencil rough was the first step of the process. It took 2-3 years to conceive of all of the designs. In their intricacy, I would email them to my out-of-town client and he would ask for adjustments, I would rescan and when we settled on the design, I would file it away in my computer for future reference….it would then be transferred onto calfskin for the final gold and color work. On the right, below, is a sample of the pencil sketch with it’s final on the left.

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Below is what the calfskin looks like when I purchase it from Pergamena. It’s manuscript vellum, which I prefer for book projects. It is much finer than what I call Parchment (which I use for Broadsides or work that will be framed).

Full calfskin aka Parchment or Vellum

Full skin which is cut down to page size

Once the skin is prepared, I attach it to a board so it will lie flat while I paint it. By the way, the tape on the upper page/board, is typically not there. The skin had pulled away from the staples, so I taped it with Artists Tape. One mistake on my part was to have the pages cut down too small. As you can see, there is only about 1/8″ margin where the staples sit. I would have liked to have 1/2″ or more margin, which would later be trimmed off of the page. I thought I could get away without hydrating and mounting the skins, but after painting page 3, I realized that stretching the skins would give me a much better result in the end.

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Initially, I made a little paint chart, which helped me to stay on track with my colors. I’m not using all of them on the chart, but these little floret porcelain pallets will show you how I can go back and repeat similar colors on subsequent pages in the book. Using the same blues and greens, etc. gives some continuity, to a unique book.

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Below is page 91 in progress. Lettering still to be lettered. The 24k gold powder, which was burnished to give it some shine, was also debossed to create shiny little dots on the gold. The more detail the better!

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The little container with the lid, on the right, is the liquified 24k gold powder. I add distilled water and then a tiny drop of clear Elmer’s glue to help it adhere to the page. Pictured is one of my miniature Kolinsky hair brushes. This one is a 4/0. Very tiny. There is a line of ‘miniature’ brushes in the Series 7 line, which I found to be extremely helpful in getting the detail. (Many other pages have raised gold on a gesso base).

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And here you can see the agate burnishers. I use any of the 4 on various projects, but on this small page, I used the curved burnisher that is the second one down and the pointed one on the bottom for debossing the dots.

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And once again, below, is the final page. You have to angle the light just right to catch the glint of the gold. The pages will be removed from the boards and I will flip them over for pages on the opposite side. On to the next pages, which will have lettering to resemble Hebrew, wording from the Song of Solomon and the bust of a man and woman facing each other in ornate cloaks. Stay tuned!

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