Sunday, December 16, 2007

Blank Page Syndrome--For a Calligraphist

Writing as both a writer and a calligraphist, I've got to say that a writer ain't got nothing on a calligraphist when it comes to blank page syndrome. I just finished lettering a two-page piece for a friend. I tackled the first page on Saturday and the second page just now. Here's the thought process of a calligraphist when starting a new work:

Ok, I've got the rough draft done and propped before me, the fresh page all neatly ruled and I'm ready to go. I'll be using a number 1 pen followed immediately by a number 2 pen, so I may as well get them both filled with ink. There. I'm ready.

The blank page stares at me, pristine. As a writer, I can use the backspace key or even 20 years ago, I could have used correction tape to erase any mistake. I have no such luxury here. Any false stroke will doom me to starting over.

The first marks on the page are ellipsis marks, because I'm continuing the quote from a previous page. Those are easy, but I still manage to mess up one due to not enough ink. However, "not enough ink" can be touched up, so I continue. I write the first capital L and all goes well.

For the second line, I switch to a number 0 pen--the largest that I have--for the word Diamond. I dip for every letter with a size 0 pen. All goes brilliantly. Then, in a moment of inattention, I make the downstroke of the last d before making the curve stroke--and I didn't leave myself enough room. I try to finish the letter, but I already know that I have to start over.

I set it aside, close the ink, clean my pens, take out a fresh piece of paper, rule it, open the ink, ink my pens and try again. . . .

The finished result actually turned out quite well. I was considering redoing the first page because two of the lines are a tad too close together. However, I don't have a lot of room on that page and I managed to blend a clashing descender and ascender together rather artfully. (Descenders/ascenders are the part of the text that sticks up or down, like the top of a d or the bottom of a g.) So I think I'll just go with it.

My friend does not follow this blog (as far as I know) so I'll post it when I finished painting it.


  1. You're so dang artistic =). We had my mom's friend do calligraphy for our wedding invites and place cards, and it was so elegant. I could never do it, though--I shake too much. That whole "high-strung" thing, yanno. =)

  2. Thank you! It's just one of those things that takes practice. I actually ended up doing the first page over after all, and I was thrilled with the results.

  3. I could never do anything that requires me to get it right the first time. Just knowing I had to get it right or start over would make me so nervous I'd get it wrong for sure.

  4. I've come to expect at least four or five drafts. The first three are just figuring out the spacing, so I just use a cheap marker pen and don't worry about perfection. I also play with versals (illuminated capitals).

    But once I know how I want it laid out, out come the inks, dip pens and rulers.


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