Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Abecedary to color: V

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable to color in.
This page offers six different takes on the very simple letter V.  It is an old letter from the earliest Latin alphabet, where for centuries it stood for the numeral 5 and also was used for the sound of U. Then it doubled itself to create W for the Germanic and English languages.    

Backwards V.  
V from same address, down underfoot and right way around. 

You might assume that a letter V based on Roman models should have a wider stroke on the left than on the right [see lower right].  Calligraphers know this contrast comes from holding a broad nib at a right-handed pen angle.  But once in a while you will see a typeface that reverses this order [see upper right], for no reason I've ever discovered.  
I'm adding this letter U, to show how easy it is for people who are unfamiliar with the realities of the broad-edged pen to get the thicks and thins wrong with U and V.  

 You'll also enjoy coloring in the grapes, once you've decided what color grapes actually should be.  Check out your grocery store [or your back yard, if you live in Chile] and compare.  

Above: two of the many grape colors, from my upcoming book Song of Solomon, to be published in 2020 by Paraclete Press.  

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Abecedary to color: U

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable to color in.
U looks so simple, just half a circle and two uprights, but designers can't seem to resist filling it with all kinds of ornament and pattern.  

U is, in fact, a relatively recent addition to the alphabet, having been represented until well into the 16th century by the letter V.  As in carved inscriptions in Rome spelled Julius Caesar as IVLIVS CAESAR. You still won't find it in Polish, which seems to otherwise have an unlimited appetite for using consonants.   

Sometimes, when you're trying to understand letters from 12 centuries ago, you just have to wing it.  The fourth U of the page above is topped by a bird and some animal (a cat with its back fur up, maybe), but unless the man inside this letter is practicing yoga I cannot figure out what he is doing.  You are welcome to check out the original here, admire its blue and green color choices, make up your own story about this very flexible man, and color him in.   

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Abecedary to color: T

Click here for a high-res, 
full-page printable to color in.

 t  he letter T comes in three distinct forms: a rounded spiral coil with a flat top; a central upright with a bar across the top; and the lower-case curved upright with a bar just above the middle (shown as this paragraph's capital but not included in this page's selection).  

This Celtic T (which happens to have an angular U woven into it) is characteristic of the playful, elastic, and sometimes surreal letters to be found in the Book of Kells.  The fish looks more real once you've colored him in, but--what color is a fish? Try everything from golden orange to teal blue to silvery gray.  Whatever you choose, it's clear there is a fish on the page, in a kind of 3-D realism, if you can accept that he happens to be snared in the tail of a sea monster lurking below.     

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Abecedary to color: S

 S  can be simple or complex, though its shape is so distinctive that it has given its name to the "ess curve."  In classical Roman letter design, and many of today's type designs, the upper curve is slightly smaller than the lower, to keep it from looking top-heavy.   

In honor of tomorrow, the first day of the Kwanzaa holiday, this angular S is settled amid an angular background modeled on Kuba cloth from the Congo.  You can choose characteristic earth colors like brown, yellow ochre, and brick red; where you place them can either complicate or clarify the image.  Don't worry about irregularities in the pattern's "repeat." African textiles do not aim at such predictability.   

To evoke the texture of cloth, lay the paper over a rough surface, such as a cloth-bound book as in the example shown here, and use a soft colored pencil worn down to a blunt end.  

Click here for the high-res, S-page printable.

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.