CHALKBOARD CALLIGRAPHY – Fan into Flame

My studio work takes me in so many directions! Chalkboards have become very popular for signage at weddings and for stores. (See my chalkboard post for my daughters wedding.) This past week my church requested that I letter on a 9′ chalkboard to bring home a scripture verse that was the focus of the international IF: Gathering 2018, telecast at Riverwest Church….as well as many others across the country and world. I was given a script version that the conference had designed, but decided to take things a step further and design my own. Below is a picture of the finished work. Beyond that, I will describe how I created the artwork including the tools and materials that I used. This one took me about 7 hours to create. 

Since I have been creating designs since about 1980, I’ve learned that I have to sketch out an idea first. It went from a very rough pencil sketch on copy paper to an actual size template on brown butcher paper. I then taped the brown copy to the chalkboard.

Some people chalk the backside of the paper to transfer, but because this was so large, I used white Saral paper, a transfer paper that I use for many projects. Although you can’t see it, it’s taped behind the brown paper. My happy discovery was that the white lines were as easily wiped away as the chalk lines. Below is a picture of some of the supplies that I used. Chalkista markers….with the pointed tip (they had a great rating online, but I found that with this large board, the rounded tip wore down on the white. The Jumbo Bistro white marker was helpful for the larger areas, the smaller markers for detail. Also pictured: scissors, pencil, artists tape, rulers, white Saral Transfer Paper in roll form. I also used NuPastels for some of the color. It smudges quite a bit, but gave me a soft effect on the berries and leaves. The Dover book of Banners, Ribbons & Scrolls is a handy resource that  I had on hand. I was grateful for the article that colleague Kathrine Malmsten wrote for Bound & Lettered, Volume 15, No. 1 , Chalkboards Aren’t Just for Classrooms Anymore!, as it helped me zero in on the process and materials.

Below is a picture of the piece, in progress, once I transferred the outline to the chalkboard. (This was a handmade chalkboard made by Jenna Gilchrist’s husband, painted with chalkboard paint). If you look closely, you can see the white lines on the bottom half of the chalkboard. 

And here is another little quickie tent sign that was lettered for the event.

 

The design was well enough received that I made it into an art print in three colors, plus a greeting card. You can order from my website…. Fan into Flame. Below are pictures of the new art print and greeting card color options. Since I lettered this one on my drawing board, there are some variations from the original. 

 

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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All that Glitters is Gold (Part 1) Shell Gold & Gold Powder

Last month, when I lettered on the church soffits, I laid genuine 23k gold on the walls. (Scroll down to the capital “O” in my last post). So I thought it a perfect segue into an explanation of some of the gold methods that I use.

One of the easiest methods I use to add gold to a project is the application of shell gold or gold powder. Mixed with distilled water and a touch of a binder, I typically paint it on fine art/hand made paper or calfskin with a miniature brush, burnish with an agate stone and voila! Instant impact!  This kind of gold is excellent for achieving tiny details. You can even tool tiny designs into a field of the gold with a very pointed burnisher.

Powdered gold lies behind the clover

 

There are many imitation golds, but the brilliance of the real thing drives me to be a purest. I use this method when a client wants gold, but doesn’t want the cost of the raised gesso with gold leaf, when I want to contrast the raised gold with the flat powder on the same design or when one of my prints needs a touch of elegance.

I will be teaching weekend retreats from my studio. Lodging available.  If you are interested, let me know!