Saturday, January 18, 2014
I took a workshop last week with Laurie Doctor, the wonderful calligrapher and painter with whom I have studied several times in the past. She helped me get unblocked from my lifelong fear of making marks with pens, pencils and brushes. At that time I made huge progress with using a pen, but this time I made friends with a brush.
Laurie's mantra is that you must develop "the credibility of the line," which I take to mean that your mark must have character and be true to itself. Wobbling is OK as long as it's authentic wobbling; whatever you do, do it with confidence and let your own voice come through. As Martin Luther famously said, If you must sin, sin boldly.
One assignment that made a big impact was to write a word with a big brush, going across the entire height of the paper. We were supposed to do this with our eyes closed but I have a hard time following directions exactly, so I made a few modifications to fit my own needs.
Mainly, I wanted to use a small brush, not a big one. That meant I had to re-dip it in the paint frequently so I couldn't close my eyes. But I hadn't made more than three or four inches worth of my first downstroke before I realized that I was making an exceptionally credible line. Even better, I was able to keep it up through the entire word, maintaining the same feel and strength throughout.
So what did I do with my great accomplishment? I tore down the paper and bound it into a little book. It really hurt to tear that word apart but I kept remembering the quote from some famous writer, I forget who, that you should "kill your darlings." Not sure exactly what he meant by that, or whether it's even good advice, but I made the book.