Saturday, January 18, 2014

Brush time

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.

This may seem like a pretty feeble accomplishment: to write six letters that resemble one another.  But for me it was something to be proud of.  I want to return to this brush and this paint and see if I can make these letters consistently.

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.

After all, I can always do the word over again.  See how my confidence has grown?  Thanks, Laurie!


  1. What a good word to choose - and it looks great in the book, moving on into another life!
    It's an interesting process, facing our great fears.

  2. that book looks beautiful-good for you!

  3. Your work was soooooo beautiful. Not sure what you unblocked.........I know it worked!

  4. Sandra Palmer CiolinoJanuary 21, 2014 at 12:27 AM

    Refreshing and inspiring post.