Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Calligraphy update -- coke can pen

I've written before about how in my daily art I have tried to emulate what you might call calligraphy brut -- strokes and letterforms that look like they were written with crude tools by a caveman.  In the summer I tried to accomplish this by using a pen made by cutting and folding a chunk cut from a coke can, but wasn't pleased with the results.  I did other things instead, but in the last several weeks the coke can pen, sitting in my pen-and-pencil cup on the dining room table, has called out to me.

I want to love this pen for its uncontrollability, but it was behaving too well.  It was giving me smooth lines that almost looked like they came from an actual commercial-pointed pen.

This wasn't bad, but it wasn't brut.  I kept trying, but still wasn't getting the results I wanted.  This next writing improved when I whapped the pen against my finger to splatter some ink spots over the page at the end.

And then one day, out of the blue, look what happened about halfway through the writing -- the pen started to stutter on the upstroke and give me some beautiful ripples.  (I'm still surprised at how symmetrical they are -- the pen seemed to fall into the same vibrating rhythm on so many of the lines.)

I loved it!  And have been trying to get the same effect ever since.  Some days the pen stutters and the writing looks totally brut; other days it refuses to cooperate and just gives me smooth lines, like the example below.

I finally deduced that to get the stutter, the two flaps of metal at the tip of the pen have to move independently.  When I run a knife blade in between before writing, to clear out any dried-on ink that might be pasting the two flaps together, the chances of stutter/splatter improve.

But not always.

I guess if you're in love with accidental effects, as I most definitely am, you have to embrace the fact that they're accidental, for heaven's sake, and they don't always come when you call.  

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to use the pen most days and hope for brut.

You can check out all my daily calligraphy here.


  1. whatba fascinating post. I did calligraphy at school for my advanced level exam, we often worked on vellum that we had scraped with razor blade to remove the fat. I therefor have an interest in what you are doing in this area, todays is so interesting. I love how you persevere, a lesson to many of us Irene from Northern Ireland

  2. For a real thrill in randomness try very skinny pieces of cedar bark that have the ends smashed. The "pen" takes over and you get some incredibly beautiful marks.