I take calligraphy lessons in one three hour intensive session a month. Inevitably, I do my homework diligently for the first couple of weeks, then kind of taper into not remembering to do it at all by the time my next lesson rolls around. To combat that – and the drudgery of doing lettering drills for an hour or more a day, every day – my teacher has asked me to start keeping an art journal where I cut out the best letters from my practices, make small free-form pieces, and generally experiment. Even if it is one more thing to do, it is a GOOD thing and one I should have been doing all along. Seeing your progress really does bolster and inspire you in your art.
To kick off the journal, we did a watercolor monoprint, let it dry, and wrote on it using a pencil. Pencil is actually a grand practice tool for pointed pen calligraphy since it lets you focus on just forms and keeping a light hand without having to think about ink, pressing, releasing, pen angle, and all that. You can go back through and draw in the thickened areas when you’re done. The monoprint I did was just a couple of colors smeared onto wet glass, covered in a sheet of watercolor paper. No big deal. It looks something like this when it’s done, and then I can letter on it, add layers, whatever. If I had wet the paper well first, the paint would have flowed and absorbed better, making each section far less distinct.
Here’s another one I did in the same session with lettering on it. The paper was wet when I laid it down this time. The lines that are darker are because I ran them into the paper with a blunt object while everything was still really wet. I used the end of my paintbrush, but a reed pen works better. The surface is, in effect, bruised – the ink pools there, it’s darker. You can even scratch in words, almost like a watermark.
Today, I was thinking about monoprinting, never having explored it before, and realized that there’s a lot of potential for putting layer on layer. In googling techniques, I found this:
Pretty cool, huh? His treatment of layers, of additive work and gentle building of texture really spoke to something in me. There’s such possibility in layering printed or decorated tissue over the print or layers of cellulose etched and treated to build a final scene. I’ve resisted making modern art for a very long time, preferring to press into the warm bosom of historical techniques and tools. But this? This is finally inspiring me in a way I haven’t been in a long time.