Scriptorium Session #2

Here’s the work I did at the local college’s scriptorium session last Thursday. First it was i’s and o’s again:

Scriptorium 2 - Warm Ups

You can see I have a bad habit of forgetting to cross my ‘i’s. Also another pangram to practice letter spacing

Next I copied a quote the instructor had done and put up on the projector screen. A quote by Chaucer, which I though was a nice coincidence since I brought some Chaucer myself to work on!

Scriptorium 2 Chaucer Quote

Again, forgot to dot some ‘i’s. Plus a random sentence that came out of nowhere!

Then I switched to a smaller nib to work on the Chaucer quote I brought. It’s an excerpt from the prologue to Canterbury Tales. We all had to memorize it for an English class in high school and it’s stuck with me so I thought I’d turn it into a calligraphy piece! I needed to use a smaller nib to fit it all on the paper but I think that was probably a mistake; my time would have been better spent, I think, continuing to work on getting the letter forms consistent and correct because, as you can see, some of the letters are a little wonky!

Scriptorium 2 Canterbury Tales

Pay no attention to the capitals, I still need to work on them. I did dot all the I’s this time! But I misspelled some words. Oh well, it’s Middle English, no one will notice anyway.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading and as always comments and critiques are welcome!



Scriptorium Session #1

Hello everyone, as I believe I mentioned before a local college is holding weekly scriptorium sessions which I am lucky enough to attend. Before I go to the next one tomorrow I thought I’d share my work from the one last week. I had a great time working on my calligraphy with others and in just one session I saw remarkable improvement! I’m quite excited at the prospect of the rapid progress these sessions offer. Tomorrow can’t come soon enough!

I started off with i’s and o’s and after a couple of lines moved on to an alphabet chain to try to improve my m’s. Next was a pangram to work on some letter and word spacing.

Scriptorium no1 Warm up


Next I worked on a poem by Tom Clark, to figure out spacing and lay out for a final piece. But first here’s the same poem written a couple of months ago, for comparison:

Scriptorium no1-when the gods die 0

The missing letter at the beginning is a ‘W’. I planned on adding later as an illumination

And here’s the rough drafts, plus some w’s which I was having some trouble with (being left-handed it’s sometimes difficult to see if I’m getting the right angles and slant):

Scriptorium no1-when the gods die 2

Check out those w’s!

Scriptorium no1-when the gods die 1

I forgot the stanza break in this one, oops!


And finally a final working of the poem on nice, clean, unlined paper:

Scriptorium no1-when the gods die 3

Unfortunately I messed up on the stanza break again, plus I mixed up a couple of letters, so it’s not the final version yet; just more practice, which I suppose can’t be a bad thing. Also the missing letter is again a ‘w’ to be added in later as a decorated initial.

That’s all for now, I’ll have more to share after the next scriptorium session tomorrow night.

A Ductus for Tengwar

As a companion post to the previous one, I just wanted to share the ductus I made for tengwar. A ductus is simply the order and direction of pen-strokes to form a letter. It was pretty easy, I just printed out all the tengwar at a large enough size then just traced over them and recorded the order of the pen strokes. I figured out the distances for ascenders and descenders, and the body height by using the full width of the nib to make several short sideways strokes next to the the letter up up up, like a step ladder  then by counting them I can say they are all 5 pen-widths high. I used a protractor to figure out the pen angle, the angle the pen must constantly be kept at to correctly form the letters, for these tengwar it’s about 50 degrees.

I wasn’t sure about some of the names of individual tengwa so I left some incomplete or unnamed. If you have any suggestions for improvement I’d be glad to hear, this was my first time making one of these so some feedback would be nice.

Tengwar Ductus

Click Image for a slightly larger, clearer…image

Learning Tengwar

Hello long suffering readers, these past couple of weeks I have been slowly teaching myself tengwar. Tengwar is the alphabet Tolkien created for his invented elvish languages of Quenya and Sindarin. I have been using the excellent resources of quenya101 to assist as well as a somewhat incomplete guide for the ductus (the order of strokes). It has been somewhat challenging, as we are not used to seeing these tengwar everywhere like we do the roman alphabet, to get the shape of the letters right. This is a much more open and rounded hand than any I have attempted so far, and it still needs more work. But I have made progress! If you remember my previous work with tengwar hopefully you can note the improvement! So here are the few pages I’ve done.


Firstly is the first verse of the Silmarilion. This is the start of the section called the Ainulindale, the music of the Ainur, and recounts the creation of the world through song, and the conflict of Melkor and the counter themes of Iluvatar. I’ve added in the quenya in the roman alphabet over each line, so you can actually read it. Giving credit where credit is due, and most certainly deserved,  it was translated into quenya by the good folks at quenya101,

Ainulindale Tengwar

As you can see, I’ve made a few mistakes but so it goes, it’s all part of the process

A literal translation is as follows, with the original text in italics for comparison:

God there was, who called is Iluvatar in Arda; and he created

There was Eru, the One, who in Arda is called Iluvatar; and he made

firstly the Ainur, who were the children of his thought,

 firstly the Ainur, who were the children of his thought

and they were with him before all created was. And he said

and they were with him before aught else was made. And he spoke to

to them, to give melodies of music to them; and before him they sang,

them, propounding to them themes of music; and they sang before

and he was joyous. But for a long time only they sang each alone,

him, and he was glad. But for a long while they sand only each alone, 

or together few Ainur, at that time the others heard; for each only understood

or but few together, while the rest hearkened; for each comprehended

the part of Iluvatar’s mind whence they came,

only that part of the mind of Iluvatar from which he came,

and in knowledge of the brotherhood they continually grew slowly. Yet

and in the understanding of their brethren they grew but slowly. Yet

always they heard, deep they understood, and they continually grew

ever as they listened they came to deeper understanding and increased

in beauty and harmony.

in unison and harmony.

As you can see, quenya is not a complete, full, or even entirely finished language, and much must be modified to retain some semblance of meaning. Yet there are certain phrases that I actually prefer in the quenya version to the original, e.g. beauty and harmony as opposed to unison and harmony. For a fuller analysis please refer to the quenya101 site.


Next I decided to work on the poems about The Dunedain that Bilbo wrote for him. This poem is probably the most famous of all of Tolkien’s poetry and it’s not too long, perfect for practice! It is, of course, the All that is gold does not glitter poem. The translation into quenya, again was by quenya101, they do some marvelous work over there, if I haven’t convinced you yet just go over there and poke  around, you’ll be glad you did. Also again I added the quenya in the roman alphabet so you can know what’s going on.

I was inspired by an exhibition of Persian Calligraphy to try a new kind of border.

I was inspired by an exhibition of Persian Calligraphy to try a new kind of border.

While I am not sure of a literal translation, here is the full poem in English:

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Lastly, because I thought I could do better on the tengwar, I redid the poem. unfortunately I made a mistake (can you find it?) and am not sure how to correct it, so I haven’t finished the piece. I will probably just end up doing it again.

Just look at the progress I've made!

Just look at the progress I’ve made!


That’s all for now. In other news I have discovered an opportunity to learn calligraphy with others. Each Thursday a local college has open scriptorium sessions, which I will now be attending, this will be a fantastic chance for me to improve my calligraphy and get feedback in person, without having to pay for a class! I am super excited about this and it’s sure to be lots of fun!

The Saga of the Light-box

I’ve wanted a light-box for a long while now, and after doing some quick research I soon decided that making one myself would be the best way to go. I found a few DIY and How-to sites but when it came down to it I really just made most of it up and followed my own plans. I tried to take as many pictures as I could throughout the process but I often got caught up in things so I didn’t get a picture of every step.

The first thing to do was figure out some dimensions. I found a nice piece of plexiglass at Scrap (a donation-based creative reuse store and donation center) and used that as a basis for the dimensions of the light box. The finished box is roughly 12 1/2 by 18 inches with a height of 4 inches in the back, sloping down to 1 1/2 inches in the front, giving a total lighted surface of 16 1/2 by 12 inches; more than enough for a standard piece of writing paper (landscape or portrait).

My original plan turned out to be too complicated and when I finished cutting and gluing all the pieces it all didn’t quite fit together right. So I had to come up with a new plan which, in the end, turned out much better.


Here’s most of the tools I used. Not pictured: table-saw

With new designs in hand I found a piece of ply wood big enough to serve as a base and various other pieces of poplar that would work as sides. I used a table-saw to cut them down to size and to cut out the necessary joinery. A Japanese handsaw allowed me to do some fine tuning and lastly I smoothed it all out with a rasp and sandpaper.

Here are all the wooden pieces laid out all nice

Here are all the wooden pieces laid out all nice

And here's another view, because why not

And here’s another view, because why not

Next are some close up shots of the cuts, so you can admire my skills with a table saw and maybe  see how this will all fit together:

DSCN0049 DSCN0048 DSCN0047 DSCN0043

It was time to glue it all together! I had to improvise a bit because I couldn’t find a fourth clamp but it worked out all right in the end.


Just look at that admirable clamping job.

Just look at that admirable clamping job.

I decided that I was going to paint the box to protect the wood and so I could put a bit of decoration on the outside. That meant first putting on a coat of primer:

Such a nice paint-job

Such a nice paint-job

DSCN0065And another coat of primer, because one just wasn’t enough! (You could still see the grain of the wood showing through)

All primed and ready to go!

All primed and ready to go!

This is what it looks like from the side, you can see the nice gentle slope

This is what it looks like from the side, you can see the nice gentle slope

And lastly two coats of a nice burgundy color:

I tried to be careful and not get any on the inside

I tried to be careful and not get any on the inside, but I wasn’t quite careful enough!

what a nice color!

what a nice color!

I still haven’t put any decoration or designs on the outside, I need to plan those out a bit more before I add them.

Now for some electrical work. I had purchased a strand of waterproof LED’s from RadioShack, but they needed an adapter to plug into the wall which I didn’t know because the lady at the store didn’t say anything about it (even though I asked). I ended up using a spare laptop charger cord that had the right specifications. I cut off the part that plugs into the computer and separated out the wire so I could attach it to the positive and negative of the LED cord.

Here is a not-so-good photo of all the electrical tools/components that I used

Here is a not-so-good photo of all the electrical tools/components that I used. Note the cut off end of the computer cord!

The LED had this weird plastic covering on it that would supposedly keep out water but since I wasn’t planning on using the light-box as a sink I carefully  removed the covering with a utility knife.

Next I tested out the LED’s. They were super bright (!) and I did some experimenting to see how best to lay them out inside the box. Next it was hot glue time! I used a hot glue gun to glue down the LED’s around the inside perimeter of the box and that was that, I had a functioning light-box!

Ta-da! Almost done!

Ta-da! Almost done!

All that was left was fitting the plexiglass into place:


It was so bright the camera had some trouble photographing it.

Maybe this is a better shot

Maybe this is a better shot

It has been super helpful so far! I no longer have to make hundreds of pencil lines before I write; it’s really sped things up. Plus I can get back to writing out the Hobbit, which was the main goal all along!DSCN0088 DSCN0089 DSCN0093

Edward Hopper

I’ve admired Edward Hopper for a while, his paintings have a certain quality; maybe it’s uncertainty or a slight dissatisfaction with life. He captures quiet moments and soft street scenes. Gentle, soft, quiet. I associate those things with Hopper’s art. Recently I came across a quote by Hopper and decided it would make for a good piece.

Here’s some examples of Hopper’s work, so you can get an idea of what I’m talking about:

Hotel by a Railroad 1952

Eleven AM 1926

Bistro 1909

I’ve been practicing acanthus leaves from a fantastic tutorial here (honestly that entire website is super helpful, check it out if you are at all interested in calligraphy) and the Hopper quote was a great place to put them to use.

With Pencil, Pen and Ink, Watercolor, and Markers

With Pencil, Pen and Ink, Watercolor, and Markers

And Colored Pencil (the marker bled through)

And Colored Pencil (the marker bled through)

Also it was my first time using gouache, which was interesting. Gouache is often used in calligraphy, particularly with dip pens. It’s slightly thicker than inks, and more opaque than watercolors. It took a bit of getting used to and more than a few tries to get the right consistency; too much water and it’s super runny, not enough water and it’s super thick!

First the text, and the flourishing around the "I"

First the text, and the flourishing around the “I”

Then the acanthus leaves in gouache

Then the acanthus leaves in gouache

And after some fine tuning, the final product!

And after some fine tuning, the final product!

I have also been working on my light-box; which, I’m proud to say, is finished! I’m going to do some detail painting early this weekend, then I should have a big long post about it late Sunday! It is fantastic and will make things go so much faster! I no longer have to make hundreds of lines before I write!

Fun with Index Cards!

I have discovered index cards! Well, I’ve used them before but I’ve found out that they are marvelous for calligraphy! Not large enough to be intimidating; not small enough to be cramped; but just the right size for a couple of words or short phrases.

This started when I wrote the word Hogwash at the start of my practice session. Then the session got derailed a bit as I thought of more synonyms. I came up with poppycock, tommyrot, and codswallop. Using my best gothic littera bastarda I wrote them each out in the middle of an index card.Baloney 04

Then using a fantastic tutorial for borders I found here (the one under the heading Border Bar with Ivy) I added the border; in pencil first, then I went over it with aurora black, using my dip pen.Baloney Border 04Next I added the gold color. I don’t have any gold leaf, or any practice with it, but I do have sharpie’s metallic gold oil based paint which I used to great effect. It’s even shimmery in person!Baloney Gold 04

Next I needed to fill in the white space with red and blue. I did several practice runs with different media because I wasn’t sure which would work best. I tried colored pencil, which seemed a little faint beside the strong opacity of the gold. Next was fountain pen ink. But that didn’t work either, it was way too dark and I couldn’t see the black lines beneath, plus it made them bleed and was just no good! Then I tried watercolor but of course it was way to transparent and etherial, no matter how little water I added. Lastly I tried markers. I thought they would be way too overpowering but they weren’t and actually worked almost perfectly! So that’s what I used to add the red and blue, prismacolor premier art markers.Baloney colored 04

Now all that was left was adding some details, like buds and so-called pen sprays and I was done!Baloney Final 04

Here are all four index cards in finished form. Unfortunately I didn’t wait long enough to erase the writing lines and the ink smeared on some of them but other than that I think they came out pretty well! Baloney Final 01 Baloney Final 02 Baloney Final 03 Baloney Final 04

Project Dump: A Progress Report

Hey folks, time for a monthly update! Has it really been that long? Dang, I really hope that’s not the way things will be from now on!

I’ve been working some on emulating medieval manuscripts, I just love the blue and red capitals, and the nice spacing: wide margins and compact scripts.

Here's some Gothic Littera Bastarda Practice

Here’s some Gothic Littera Bastarda Practice

Some experimentation with line spacing and nib size

Some experimentation with line spacing and nib size

And some practice, quoted from Caesars Gallic Wars

And some practice, quoted from Caesars Gallic Wars

And Lastly some more formal practice, with the first verse of the Beren and Luthien story given in the Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

And Lastly some more formal practice with the first verse of the Beren and Luthien poem given in the Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

I’m thinking of learning a new hand, most probably Carolingian. A couple good examples of this hand are found in the Grandval Bible:

A page from the Grandval Bible, c. 830-40

More here (just scroll down a little bit and click on the thumbnail).

And the Ramsey Psalter:

An example page from the Ramsey Psalter, late 900s

Some more here.

I am also working on transcribing Lloyd Reynolds TV program, god knows why. I just finished the first episode and it took me ages! We’ll see if that continues. Unfortunately my hope of focusing on the quenya textbook did not pan out. But I do have some other things to share with you.

Progress on the light box has continued apace, but not quite on schedule. I discovered, upon cutting and gluing some of the pieces, that my design in not a simple as it could be and I am in the process of redesigning now. So yet again work on the hobbit will have to wait. 

Another couple of projects I’m working on is a lovely poem by Tom Clark:

Trying it out in Gothic...

Trying it out in Gothic…

...and in Italic.

…and in Italic.

I think the final will be in italic, with a heavy border along the bottom.

Lastly I’m creating a piece with a couple of lyrics from a Gregory Alan Isakov song:

All shades of blue. practice 01 All shades of blue. practice 02 All shades of blue. practice 03 All shades of blue. practice 04 All shades of blue. practice 05

I’ll have more on those two projects as I keep working on them.

Well that about wraps it up for now. I hope to be able to share some more with you before the week is out. And maybe pick up my posting schedule a bit!

New Year, Old Stuff

Before we get too far into the new year I want to let you all know what all I’ve been up to and what I have planned for the auspicious year of 2014. Mostly I’ve just been practicing so I don’t have much to share. I have done a couple quick projects to practice some layouts and such. So here they are:Anarchy


I have also been doing some research into illuminated manuscripts of the  middle ages. Fascinating stuff! A couple good books I can recommend so far are Illuminated Manuscripts and their Makers by Rowan Watson, published by V and A publications c. 2003; and the Book of Kells by Bernard Meehan, published by Thames & Hudson c.2012. The first is a pretty good introduction to the various aspects of illuminated manuscripts, e.g. minuratures, flourishes, grotesques, historiated initials, as well as a good overview of their production throughout the middle ages. With over a hundred example facsimiles in full color from the Victoria and Albert museum. The second is a fairly thorough overview of the Book of Kells. With enough detail that nothing seems left out but not too much, so that it’s hard to keep track of and gets confusing. With 250 plates, 230 of them in color, The Book of Kells is a fantastic resource!

I have put some of my other projects on hold for the school year, waiting for breaks and such when I can devote more time to them. But I am making strides on completing my light box (!) updates to come. I plan on working on the Hobbit, when I finish my light board, and the quenya textbook during the semester as well as keeping up with calligraphy practice. Well that’s all for now, until next time, fare well.


I’m not dead yet!

I’m just pining for the fjords! I have been rather busy with school and have, consequently, let this blog wallow on its own. No longer! Seeing as this is the week before finals, I will be busy with finishing up projects and studying up. However, fear not! I will do my best to post something this weekend. I have not let my calligraphy fall nearly as low as this blog: I have been busy with some projects. But I’ll tell you about it all this weekend. In the meantime, enjoy some Monty Python!