Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Abecedary to color: R

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable to color in.
When calligraphers start learning letters, they deal with only with two dimensions, letting the pen lay down a flat trail of ink on a flat page. But the minute they start drawing the capitals, it's hard to resist exploring the third dimension.  
Each of the designs here creates the illusion of depth: the robed people kneel in a crowd; the plump angels hover; and even the flat strip seems to curl up off the page.  You can let them fool the eye without extra help, or add to the effect by shading your colors.  

This letter R starts with a simple outline, but is looped with twisted cord, draped with little pearl drop earrings, and adorned with one large gem. It makes you think that at least parts of it stick up from the page, even if you can't actually walk around it.  (You might try coloring that cut gem with several colors to suggest its shiny facets.)  

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Abecedary to color: Q

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable.
 Q !  is a letter that calligraphers just love to find at the start of a quotation.  But a glance at the statistical tables tells them that they can't expect many opportunities in English; Q is third from the last in the list of letters that start words, and dead last in letters that start sentences. 
Medieval scribes, in contrast, copied the Bible in Latin, where they could start words, sentences, and verses with the letter Q often. Creative Q shapes included all sorts of tails: animals, vines, whole people.  A favorite motif was a knight killing a dragon, with the tail of the dragon forming the tail of the Q.   

Here is the original letter that I outlined on my abecedary page, in its original colors.  That tail could be redrawn into almost any shape. This dragon's color seems opposite to what modern custom suggests; since the discovery of the island where Komodo dragons live, green has become the default dragon color.  But early manuscript illuminations--and the illustrations to J R R Tolkein's The Hobbit--portrayed them as red.  

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

An Abecedary to Color: P

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable.
P doesn't have to stay in one shape, but offers you a tail that you can lengthen to stretch down a margin or shorten to cram into a box.  The tail can even turn a corner to turn itself into a leg with a foot, as in the third and sixth designs here.  

Medieval isn't everything. This P to be a total anachronism: I took a 16th century design from an 19th century Victorian sample book, and colored it with 21st century retro girly colors.  You can find similar inspiration [!] on my Pinterest boards. Enjoy. 


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

An Abecedary to Color: O

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable.
 O  is a gift to illuminators, providing a beautiful frame around portraits, scenes, and patterns.  And because so many old poems or Bible verses use the vocative O to start a sentence, such as "O Lord" or "O my beloved," the English language will offer a lot of chances to use O.  
It doesn't give calligraphers total freedom, though; you'll have no serifs to work with.  

In collecting these letters, I have noticed a lot of variation in the weight of the outlines.  I have given you two different versions of the letter O, here made of leaves; one with thin gray lines that will almost disappear when you fill them, and one with heavy lines that look like the lead in stained glass.  You can decide what colors work with these.  At left, O in soft shades of green, from my upcoming series Song of Songs, Which is Solomon's.  At right, for contrast, I used the brightest markers in the set.        

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An Abecedary to Color: M

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable.
The English language gives you many, many chances to put M to use in your calligraphic life: the first letter for eight of the 50 states in America; Mr., Mrs., and Ms; and all those girls' names like Mary, Megan, Martha, Mariana, Malia, Maureen, and of course Margaret.  

AND, as a bonus, if you rotate them 180° many of your M designs can do double duty to serve as W s.  Or rotate them 90° to turn them into E s . 

Historical note: the last M on the page above seems to show you a scribe at work.  Don't believe it!  In the middle ages, pages were lettered on single sheets of calf vellum and illuminated, and only then were the finished pages bound into a book.  BUT it's just possible that he is a scholar making annotations in the margins.  

The drawing does include one an authentic detail, however. While he writes with his right hand, this scribe holds the page steady with a flat stylus, probably of bone or ivory, that keeps his left fingers from touching the surface of the page.  Oils from human skin would darken parchment or paper and make the ink bond less tightly.  

Mary holds her book in a linen
cloth to keep it clean (detail,
Annunciation Triptych)

Devout readers, also, were careful not to touch their most precious holy books.   In The Nun's Story, Sister Luke describes being told to keep a small square of paper under her fingertip that touches the page as she reads, to keep the pages from being soiled. 
Like many calligraphers, I avoid letting the heel of my hand rest on the writing surface, to ensure that the ink will adhere evenly to the paper.   

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

An Abecedary to color: L

Click here for a high-res,
full-page, printable. 
Two weeks ago I showed you the way that printing your letter onto  parchment paper can add a Celtic feel to your color choice.  There are lots of other background textures that will help your letters create a different visual story. 

Here I printed a cross-stitch capital L onto denim motif paper and colored it in with colored pencils in two shades of lavender.  The slight variation in tone imitates the texture of yarn.  Voila: personalized bluejeans!  

I have left the grid lines showing in this example. If you want the cross-stitch L without the grid, I've pinned that version onto my Pinterest board, "An Abecedary to Color." 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Abecedary to color: K

Click here to go to a full page,
high res printable.
K is a peculiar letter; while it was common in ancient Latin, it died out around the beginning of the Common Era,* only to be re-discovered a few centuries later.  It joined the alphabet in the early Middle Ages in northern languages,** although even today it is absent in French, Spanish, and Italian, where it is used only to spell foreign loan-words.    

*Used only occasionally, and then always followed by a letter A.  
**But there is no K in the Book of Kells.  Go figure.  
This K appeared in Learn World Calligraphy,
Margaret Shepherd, Watson-Guptill, 2011

A letter's national identity can be strengthened through color choices. Russian graphic art blossomed in the early 20th century. This letter K can be colored in with its original garish hues (shown at right), or with the softer tones of nostalgia for a folk past popularized by master graphic artist Ivan Bilibin (shown below)

Check out some examples of Bilibin designs on my Pinterest board An Abecedary to Color.