Thursday, December 27, 2007

Alas for Bhutto

My first full year as a resident of Gainesville is winding down. It has been quite an adjustment. And I am still adjusting.

The lake dwindles, and I find myself morbidly half-hoping that the water will completely disappear just so I can see how Atlanta handles the crisis. My parents-in-law brought their own drinking water when they came for Christmas, just in case. My kids are helping with the water crisis by eliminating bathing, and we have been just busy enough not to notice.

And I finished my first semester as a grad student. It went better than I expected, after I got over the going-back-to-school jitters. Only 4 more semesters to go! And it is so interesting! And I am learning so much! However, my thoughts turn back to calligraphy in this "break." Can I crank out some things in the next week or so? Or will I just keep sewing? (I have been sewing Christmas presents.)

And now I am going to roust my youngest for a bath, even as I mourn for Benazir Bhutto. She was an amazing woman, and I will miss her presence on the world political scene. We need more such good women.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Sad little neglected blog! You got me through those awful first months right after we moved, and now I've temporarily abandoned you. But fear not! I'll be back! I'm learning all kinds of exciting things at my new school, and having a great time. But it will end. And I do have something to scan that I got excited is too dark now, so I'll have to wait until morning.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I have been working on this wall hanging some more, to see if I will like it. It looks kinda crooked. (18" x 23")

Thursday, April 12, 2007

the humor of bad art

I like reading medical blogs. I read a post here that got me thinking about humor. This particular line got me:

Midwife's comments (dang, I see she removed them but they deserved to remain) about being able to laugh at tragic circumstances provoked some anonymous comments about insensitivity, which is the other side of the coin to humor (all humor has this Janus quality... it is insensitive to laugh at that poor chicken's difficulty getting to the other side of the street).

Insensitivity the other side of the coin to humor! Something to ponder.

On Cyberscribes someone once posted a link to a website. Of the site he said, "and for a good example of what NOT to do." or something like that. An uproar ensued. Some CSers responded by writing that we should be supportive of everyone's efforts, and should never poke fun at anyone. I responded by thanking the sender for posting the link; I think I said for me it was like suddenly seeing a large group of clowns pass by. The website contained an element of surprise because of the sheer volume of 'artwork' the owner had generated. The only possible response was laughter, and it bubbled up in me like a geyser, providing me with a needed outlet for stress. It was wonderful! I would revisit the site except the effect could never be as marvelous as it was that first time. I prefer to cherish the memory of a good laugh. (I would post the address of the site but that would be cruel in the context of which I write. And I didn't save it.)

Personally I think some people go a little too far in offering verbal support for others' efforts. Support and encouragement are great when someone is pursuing a new hobby, but when that new hobby becomes a for-profit venture then some criticism should be expected. Hopefully the criticism is constructive, but we're not always perfect. Occasional involuntary laughter in the face of work posted on the web should be excused. As was the case with that website with the plethora of bad work--it was all for sale! (oops--did I just call it 'bad' work? wait wait I can say something positive: the colors were very cheerful.)

There's no kind way to contact that artist and tactfully offer advice. Advice is certainly not desired. (Just in case you're wondering, my advice would be: you should take a class with a good teacher and get these particular books for good examples etc.) All you can really say is, "hey, if there are suckers out there willing to shell out good money for that stuff, more power to you." But isn't that dishonest? (no no it's just Capitalism at its finest!) Does the artist of that site really not understand how much farther he has to go before he should qualify himself as an illuminator? Has he never looked at (good) work done by anyone else? I would never call myself the Calligraphy Police! But where are the Calligraphy Police when you need them?

Maybe this issue continues to eat at me because I wonder when I will be 'good enough'--I hope that attitude just shows honest self-appraisal instead of sheepish humility. (I did feel bad about publicly posting my enjoyment of that site, but I wanted to stick up for the vilified CSer who had originally posted the link. And I have to say that appreciation of humor has so much to do with your viewpoint.) So some people laughed, and some did not, and the ones who did not became angry at the ones who did. The lesson here is that the people who laughed did not become angry.

So I can happily announce that I love and support bad artwork! There is even a site devoted to it. Their tag line is: 'Art too bad to be ignored.' In this world anything to provoke laughter is good!

I myself have created much that is bad, and continually hope something good emerges. Each time I sit down to attempt to fulfill a vision I am aware that I will do something horrendous first. Don't we all? Is there anyone who makes only good art? (ok, maybe John Stevens)

Disclaimer: as Shrink Rap says:
(Mind you, I am not talking about "humor" where one laughs at another's misfortune in a way that is intentionally harmful/evil/superior to that person... that is not what I am talking about here.)

Ah, and now I suddenly realize that some people got upset at the poking-fun-at-the-bad-website thing because they thought we were being superior! Oh no...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

When googling Gainesville looking for movie theaters, I found a documentary made in 2006 called Lost in Gainesville. My first thought was that someone had made a movie about me, but a closer look reveals it is about the steady stream of illegals coming from Mexico to find work here because of the construction boom. The movie tracks three individuals as they make their arduous way past many hurdles to the paradise that is Gainesville, only to be disappointed that things are not as they expected. And by then it is too late; they are out of resources and must stay and try to work things out. I have to say that in many ways I can relate to these people, although in my case I had no particular desire to move here, and I think I knew what I would find. It is curious that the movie was made by a UK company. I hope they can get it distributed.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Spring has Sprung!

Suddenly I have a lot of work! Of course it coincides with the kids' spring break. Always good to have them leaping around like monkeys and throwing balls, little cars, shooting rubber bands at eachother, etc. when I'm trying to work! (My studio is in a corner of the basement.)

And the weather is beautiful--it finally rained enough so the ground is ripe for digging and planting seeds. Everything is green, and the 'grass' (weeds) needs to be mowed. And I am in the basement working away industriously. Although I have to take frequent breaks; thus I am able to update my blog.

Above is a bonus picture of the parakeet with his new friend, Grover the turtle, whom John rescued as it was attempting to cross the road.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Today I have been working on yet another fabric thing, using words from Cat Stevens' Moonshadow. I got really excited about it and thought it was working out wonderfully, but the overall picture is drab. This close-up is much better. Will I do it again? Everything is so is easy to forget in what order I did things...the pigment has to dry between applications, or in some cases if I am on a roll it doesn't have a chance to dry and then new interesting things happen.

Springtime in Georgia

It is good to live in Georgia in spring. I remembered this today; in fact, this is the only reason to live in Georgia. And the best thing about spring is wisteria.

This wisteria grows across the street on our neighbor's property. I have never met them; I have only seen them at a distance when they stop by in their pick-up to get stuff. They moved out a year ago or so when a tree fell on their house and they decided not to live there anymore. (Can you see the tarp on the roof?) More recently we've seen the fancier cars of realtors and developers stopping by. It is only a matter of time before the house is bulldozed and a small development of 'quaint european-style cluster homes' or some such thing goes in. That's the way of it in my eclectic neighborhood. (Our realtor also told us her brother caught lice from the girl who lived in this house when they were in high school. Uh, yes, go ahead and bulldoze away!) I hope they don't take out the wisteria-covered tree, though.

The other reason to live in Georgia is to be able to stop on the side of the road and get boiled peanuts. I loooove boiled peanuts, good and soft and salty! I am sorry if you do not live in Georgia and cannot enjoy these things right now. Let's say if you have to live in Ohio, for example. Do they even have wisteria in Ohio?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

...that all the glories of the universe may beautify it.
--Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I have to laugh: just found a write-up of Ella Wheeler Wilcox in the back of Garrison Keillor's Good Poems. It goes:
"Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919) produced nearly forty volumes of poetry, poems about temperance, spiritualism, sentimental poems, which critics loved to scorn and millions of readers took to their collective bosom. Except for "Solitude," her work has mostly disappeared in the gentle mists."

I would pick a verse by a poet whom critics (used-to-when-they-knew-her) loved to scorn!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Roman Capitals misbehaving

There is a quotation by Eric Gill floating in my mind, 'Letters are things, not pictures of things.' These letters are definitely Things. They were supposed to help me compose a piece, but instead they curled and suddenly seemed like playful little animals, so I took their picture to capture the nice shadows and consider the possibilities. (they are about an inch and a half high)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Completed wall hanging. Must send to aunt. Walnut ink, Rotring inks, Sennelier fabric dyes, Dr. Martin's Irridescent gold, etc. This is number 6 at least.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Adolf Bernd

Here is a picture of the cover and one of the pages of the Adolf Bernd book, entitled (or subtitled?) The Painted Letters of Adolf Bernd. He lived in Germany from 1909-1994. Peter Thornton was instrumental in getting the book produced.

In the introduction Peter writes, " me it is Bernd's superlative use of colour that is the most impressive and satisfying aspect of his work. The more we look at the paintings of this modest and highly talented man, the more we can be rewarded by their sense of inventiveness. They not only have an ability to refresh the eyes, but the sheer joyousness of their invention and colours can truly uplift our spirit."

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Ken Williams

When I do a Google search for 'Ken Williams' together with 'calligraphy,' I get a bunch of references to a british comedian who died a few years ago. My teacher Ken Williams is obscure. Despite the high level of calligraphic excellence he achieved and maintained he has remained reclusive to the larger calligraphic community.

Ken does the most beautiful spindly italic. He is also known for his excellent copperplate. I once filched a piece from a trashcan in a classroom, a poster-size rough for the magnificent centennial diploma for UGA. It lives in my flat files along with Doyal's poster. Ken was big on retouching work; he relied heavily on the stat camera before computers. He could make anything perfect.

Ken earned his MFA at the University of Georgia in graphic design and then taught at East Tennessee University for ten years, where he also did design work for the gallery. He said it was easier to draw letters than to order typesetting. Thus he came to calligraphy from necessity (he says laziness), and he is largely self-taught. I think he had one calligraphy class as an undergrad at UGA with Vince Biboll (I may have this name completely wrong!), who was 'Mr. Graphic Design' at UGA in the '50's and '60's. (When Ken returned to teach at UGA he discontinued the MFA program immediately. It was underutilized, and the few students enrolled simply took the same classes as undergrads, but they did a little more work.)

He did a lot of work for ad agencies in Atlanta while teaching, and continues to do work for Yale University Press. For many years he went to Cortona to teach on the studies abroad program. Soon he began hanging out at the marble quarry in Arezzo, and took up letter carving. In Athens (Georgia) he carved letters on the marble pavement in a plaza next to the courthouse. (I can't think what they commemorate--it may be a Vietnam memorial--find out!) It is amazing to think how many people walk over them every day without a thought as to the labor involved. He taught a stone carving workshop for the guild in Atlanta once (about 1988). We each carved one letter on a piece of slate. (whatever happened to mine? purged in a move, most likely. don't know where my chisel is either.)

He told me that in all the years he taught calligraphy, Joey Hannaford and I are the only students who kept with it. This is probably because it was such a tough class, and he did not focus on the 'fun' aspects of calligraphy, although he did bring books to class to inspire us. He also taught from the standpoint of 'learning calligraphy will make you a better typographer.' (Or perhaps that's what he said the prevailing attitude was before calligraphy 'took off' in the '70's.)

This must be his second year of retirement from the university. He spends his time riding his bicycle and parachuting, among other things. I talked to him for a long time on the phone in early December; he invited me to visit his attic studio and peruse his considerable library. I really need to take him up on that offer. I also want to take a picture of the lovely lettering he did for the State Botanical Garden of Georgia sign.

I write all this to preserve this bit of history for myself! I love tracing calligraphic roots, too. Must pick Ken's brain more when I see him...

Sunday, February 11, 2007


And now for something non-calligraphic: my kids, outside in the sleet on a 'snow' day a couple of weeks ago. They are 7 and 10, both boys. One has improbably curly hair and the other has improbably blue eyes (given both parents have brown eyes). They have little appreciation for calligraphy, but vast appreciation for Runescape. Luckily they get along well together, so sometimes I can work while they are home.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Oh no!

Blogger made me switch to the New Blogger! I hope everything isn't all messed up. I am always the last holdout; I dislike change. I think the word for me is 'Luddite.' My fantasy is to live on a small organic farm with solar power and do everything by hand. Except I'll never give up indoor plumbing! And I still think the greatest curse on humanity was the invention of automobiles. How much healthier everyone would be if there were trains instead and people had to walk to the nearest stop! (I am not always logical; there are a million modern conveniences I could never live without! And I don't really want to have to shear sheep and spin yarn etc.)

Thanks, New Blogger, for giving me the opportunity to grouse about human technological advancement.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Last night, as I was sleeping

I love this poem! It is not working out exactly right though. The gold letters get lost against the blue background. And I have to say the gold is real gold leaf, which I have attached with Jerry Tresser's size. I also used walnut ink--which I made myself--for the brown background. As well as the usual lineup of acrylic airbrush pigments and pearlescent inks.

I am planning to do this again on paper with the acrylagouache to see if I have more control. The paper is a beautiful purple handmade sheet with mica in it, made by Nancy Carter in Athens. Hope I don't blow it!

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.

Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.

Lat night, as I slept,
I dreamt–marvelous error!–
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.

Antonio Machado
translated by Robert Bly
from the book Risking Everything,
110 Poems of Love and Revelation

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Busy busy bee

This has been a really busy week for me, and it's not over yet! Tomorrow is the Bridal Show at the Gainesville Civic Center, at which I will have my own booth. I've been busy preparing for that: making more samples of envelopes and invitations, including an album. I found the album in Helen last weekend at the cross stitch store. It is a beautiful thing, covered with handmade paper full of pressed flowers and leaves. I will leave the clear protective cover on it, otherwise it will quickly turn brown. (People's hands are so much dirtier than they realize! And I am not a clean freak either.)

John made a sign for me to put on the table. He also printed out a bunch of information sheets for me to hand out, and took care of business cards. I am to have a real website, although the account is 'still pending changes' so I can't set it up yet. John had already spent a lot of time preparing the site pages, and loading them on his site, but I don't want prospective clients to have to key in 45 letters or so for my address, so we're changing it.

Also last week was National Handwriting day. Tuesday, January 23. I did a 50 minute lesson at my son's 5th grade class, and in the afternoon had a table at the local public library to write names on bookmarks to give to patrons. We set up the books the library had about calligraphy, and the librarian in charge of adult programming had made a great vertical poster about John Hancock and National Handwriting day. She included the bio I had provided her with, as well as the info on Atlanta Friends of the Alphabet. There was a decent turnout, including several people who came just because they are interested in calligraphy. I had a great time talking to them.

And of course, the biggie still hanging over my head is the quilted wall hanging for my aunt. It is hard to finish it for many reasons...I just want to keep experimenting! And then I end up overworking each piece until it becomes muddy, and then I think she won't like it if it is muddy... also I wonder what to do about the binding; whether it should be a traditional quilt binding, or do a wierd hand sewing job with the fake fur yarn, or maybe bind with a fat ribbon, or leave the edge raw (nope).

When I work on many things at one time I am so stimulated creatively! I am overwhelmed with possibilities!

Friday, January 19, 2007


I'm working on a piece for my aunt. She commissioned me to do this a loooong time ago. I've been remiss. It is to be a quilted wall hanging. This is one I thought could be for her, but it's not right yet. Not happy with the roman caps title, among other things. I'm doing more of them, on a finer muslin, which is creating other problems having to do with the ink bleeding into the fabric when I use a lot of ink (acrylic airbrush pigment) at once. This, even on freshly bought 100% cotton muslin, unwashed so the size is still in it. But the one here is on a heavier weight cotton fabric--I think it is 'duck.' And it is great to work on! Why didn't I buy more of this this morning? Because it isn't really what I want to use for quilting. Decisions, decisions. Something lost, something gained.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Calligraphic Folly

I figure the point of doing something like calligraphy is so that you can 'do whatever you want.' It doesn't have to be a poem by Shakespeare written in black ink in an appropriate hand.

In honor of the new year I have dredged up one of my favorite bits of nonsense. I think it appeals to no one except me, and even I sometimes ask myself, when I come across this in my big box of fabric things, "what were you thinking?" Most people look at this and say, "Is it a placemat?" For it is exactly the size of a placemat, just because it worked out that way. And now I'm thinking, what a good idea. Yes, it's a one-of-a-kind placemat.

I think I was thinking of my grandmother. Just because the bit of lace with which I adorned the edges is from a trunk of hers from about a million years ago. I have never yet met anyone else whose house has a 'trunk room.' It was above the old kitchen in her antebellum home and was accessed by going through a little hall and up about five stairs; then it was the room on the right. (The room on the left was the 'back bathroom.') There were marvelous things in those trunks: clothing and accessories from several generations of ancestors. Whenever we played hide-and-seek someone always ended up in the trunk room.

At any rate, I hope the new year contains some folly--in the best sense of the word--for all of us!

My 2006 Christmas card.