Tag Archives: calligraphy

Sheila Waters prints

Layout 1PLEASE NOTE: I am no longer selling these prints but have left up this post for interest.

When Sheila Waters, the ‘Queen of Calligraphy’, according to the great Hermann Zapf, visited last summer, she left me with some glorious prints of her works. Colour sings out from all but those in black and white, and the quality is so fine that you can really see Sheila’s supreme skill and artistry in each one. Here are some of them, but I am no longer selling them. Right – Grandeur of God




Layout 1Right – Love and Peace



Layout 1Right – I wandered lonely




Layout 1Right – The Lord bless you 





Layout 1Right – People are in bondage 




Layout 1Right – Ponder 


Layout 1Right – Timelime Triptych

Graily Hewitt – some little seen works

CIMG2526Graily Hewitt was one of the first students to be taught calligraphy by Edward Johnston at the beginning of the last century and did a great deal to advance the knowledge and practice of gilding using gesso and leaf gold. In fact he wrote the ‘Illumination’ section in Johnston’s book – Writing, Illuminating and Lettering, as well as writing his own book Lettering for Students and Craftsmen, published in 1930. Graily Hewitt taught at both Camberwell School of Art as well as the Central School, continuing at the latter until the 1920s and 1930s.



CIMG2528Graily Hewitt did a great deal, indeed it could be said was crucial, in the revival of gilding on gesso. He wrote out the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam using a different gesso recipe for each page. This was bound into a small volume, and with it he gave details of the recipes and the results in another volume. Both are now in the British Library.


CIMG2529The examples of his work here are the ‘Christmas cards’ he sent to one of his pupils, ‘the Doctor’. Each is written on parchment, sheepskin, and are in black and red only. However most, as with this one on the right, are striking! It is surprising how often something simple is the best solution and black and red work so well together.





CIMG2530These pieces were written by Graily Hewitt in his twilight years – he died aged 88 on 22nd December 1952 – and was writing up until his death. Although the lettering is strong, not all of it, in my view, is totally successful – the ‘h’ and ‘e’ overlap on the right being a case in point. I would suggest that it brings a density to the design which is not balanced elsewhere, although it does avoid a too long line, which may have been the intention.




CIMG2531However, other designs and letter combination are just delightful. The balance of this lightweight cross on the right and the text, resulting in a shield-shape is particularly pleasing.




CIMG2532And the placing of the red dots making a tastefully decorated cross with the tail of the ‘g’, in this piece that I used in my free online newsletter, neatly balances the red letter ‘w’ on the first line. You can also see Graily Hewitt’s neat and legible handwriting at the bottom.


I intend to write more on Graily Hewitt in a future blog and newsletter.





Gappy – a celebration of a great Indian poet

CIMG2267It must be really difficult to write about someone you have never met but who is remembered with great affection in the family. This was the challenge for the daughter of a close friend of mine. Her grandfather was Edward Mendonça, a celebrated Indian poet, and his centenary was last year. A book of a collection of his poems was planned to mark this. Would Neisha, a gifted poet in her own right, contribute a poem?

Many families have pet names for grandparents, and ‘Gappy’ was that for Edward Mendonça. So Neisha wrote:


And so it was

That you should live and I should live

At separate times, in separate worlds.

So that I’ll never know your touch; the small expressions of your face;

The paper-soft feel of your grandfather skin, or the comfort of your laugh from afar.

I have no memory of you that’s only for me.

But I have endless tales: of love, of joy, of kindness …

And I know that you are wonderful,

And still here – in words, in memories and in enduring love.

IMG_0840As with so many of Neisha’s poems, I loved this as soon as I heard it. It had elements of reaching back through half-remembered, or half-told memories to try to form the feeling of a person long since gone. I played around with the words until I was happy with them, wanting a free and unstructured piece. Then to the paper – what to write it on? I found a single sheet of hand-made Indian tissue-like paper, slightly crumpled. This was exactly the feeling that I wanted. I tested the paper for writing, and although it was a bit of a challenge, it seemed to work with a bit of care.

IMG_0837The effect I was aiming for was that of reaching back into the past for memories, some clearer than others, some about to disappear. I had the idea of tearing the paper into strips and writing each line at the base of a single strip, one overlapping the other. BUT I had just that single sheet of paper and there was little room for wastage, so it was very tense! I placed the written lines of my rough on the torn strips of tissue paper to see how it would work and made a few adjustments.

IMG_0842Then I started, using a very narrow nib and Indian red, which I thought appropriate in the circumstances, I placed each line of ‘rough’ above where I was to write. I worked my way along each line, taking into account the position of the words on the line above, and also the shape of the torn paper. As I worked down the piece, I laid each line on top of the other as I did so to check that it was working as a whole.

CIMG2268When I had finished writing I pasted the upper part of the torn paper strips on to the back of the one above, and left the bottom part loose – not attached. Sticking everything down securely and perfectly wasn’t the effect I was aiming for! The piece needed to be free and slightly ethereal, and yes, a bit torn round the edges! Of course, there are always things that I would have changed, and had I a second piece of paper, I could have planned it much better, but the overall effect was the one that I had in mind at the start – going back in time through layers of memory, some better remembered than others.

Sheila Waters’ wonderful interpretation of ‘Under Milk Wood’

Under milk wood

Please note: I am not now selling this book but have left this post up for interest.

Once in a generation you come across a real tour-de-force, a masterpiece, and this is the case with Sheila Waters’ illustrated and calligraphic interpretation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. It is simply stunning! In the accompanying notes to the book Sheila writes: I realised that the manuscript I was making would be a legacy that I would leave behind, that should long outlast me ….


Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 14.08.11To have a sneaky peek inside the book, here is a short clip.







 *****PLEASE NOTE: I am not now selling this book so please contact Sheila directly.

(Special Offer! Sheila’s book is available full size in a strictly limited edition, together with her notes and explanation of the thought processes behind creating the book and how she did it. This article has details of Sheila’s ideas for the design, and page-by-page notes on the illustrations. Each copy of the book will not only be signed by Sheila, but she will also write your name inside. This is a terrific, once-in-a-lifetime offer. So the book (signed by Sheila and with your name in it), and the accompanying 27-page article (in a special folder) of the background to the manuscript, which has been set in typefaces designed by Julian Waters, Sheila’s son, costs £100. This includes postage to UK addresses. This is a wonderful opportunity not only to enjoy and own the book itself, but to use it for your own studies of a contemporary Caroline minuscule written by the supreme master who developed this hand from mediæval manuscripts. Again please note: I am not now selling this book so please contact Sheila directly.)


Sheila Waters 1The cover of the book is stunning, with an impressive blind embossed panel on ivory paper (above). This panel is repeated inside the book, with Sheila’s typical majestical Roman Capitals in black with intricate drawings and vibrant colours as shown on the right. This panel alone took Sheila a month to design and execute.





SW2She took a long while to decide on the most appropriate writing style, and the accompanying notes about the book have examples of some of the lettering that Sheila considered and then rejected. Her final choice was a neat, very slightly sloping formal hand based on that in the 9th-century great bibles mainly from Tours in France – Caroline Minuscule. Being Sheila, though, it has been given a modern twist and her own distinctive style. This contrasts, on some pages, with a delicate light Italic for selected parts of the text.



SW1aSheila chose black and a specific limited colour scheme for the opening spreads, which was echoed in the layout of the pages. The one on the right is one of the green pages where the text columns are towards the centre of the book. This page also shows one of the extraordinarily detailed illustrations – Captain Cat and his dreams.





In the text Lord Cut-Glass owned 66 clocks ‘all set at different hours’, imagine trying to illustrate all of them! Sheila chose 22 clocks, all different and all authentic – and created an amazing design. Note Lord Cut-Glass’s face peering out of the grandfather clock at the top, his hand just above half-way holding a pocket watch, and his boots supporting the base of another clock. Ingenious!




SW 4This book is so much more than a sum of its parts. Dylan Thomas’ words are simply wonderful, but to have them written here in such a way, and illustrated so inventively and skilfully too, means that the result is a real joy and such a treat for the eyes. This is not a cheap offer, but it is a chance to treat yourself in a big way, and own what just has to be one of the true manuscript masterpieces of the twentieth century.

Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache

CIMG2401It is often very confusing when starting out in calligraphy to be faced with bottles of different inks, some specifically for calligraphy, some for drawing and some for fountain pens. What’s best to use? To avoid any confusion I would strongly recommend paint rather than ink, and, in some cases, paint is actually far better than ink on challenging papers or when writing in books. So if using paint, then the only paint I would recommend is Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache. I know I’m a bit biased because I did work with Schmincke to develop the paints, but my payment ended there, and I now recommend them because they are really good!



******Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache special offer! L Cornelissen, main suppliers of Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache, have very kindly arranged a fantastic offer! If you subscribe to my newsletter (subscribe here) then the price of the set of 12 x 20 ml tubes in a wooden box with an explanatory leaflet is £60 instead of £90 +p+p. (The cost of p+p from Cornelissen is very reasonable for non-UK). If you would like to have this set, which will last most people a lifetime if they are calligraphers and/or painters of mediæval miniatures (ie don’t use a whole tube at one go!), then send me an email through my website and I’ll send you back your own personal code which you then use when you contact Cornelissen!

Layout 1The colours chosen for the set are based on Michael Wilcox’s book, Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, which is well worth reading if you’re not familiar with it. This means there are two reds, two blues and two yellows. In addition there is a green – oxide of chromium (which works particularly well with a pen), burnt Siena as the brown (mix it with ultramarine for a great grey), Jet black (a great black ink), permanent white, goldpearl and silver – both metallic pigments. All are particularly finely ground so pass well through a pen and also almost all have great coverage so pencil guidelines don’t show through (important for we calligraphers!)


IMG_1898For more information about the selection of colours and how to mix them, there is a special Calligraphy Clip here.





CIMG2423The tubes are a good size, and in calligraphy and painting miniatures, you don’t need much paint, so they will last a long time. Palettes for most paints are usually wide to allow for big brushes, this means the paint evaporates quite quickly, this is not what we want for calligraphy. I use small science crucibles for mixing paint as they have less surface area for evaporation. Squeeze about 1 cm (just under half-an-inch) of paint into the palette and then add water to the paint drip by drip. This is easiest done with an ink dropper (available at Cornelissen); if you add water from your brush, you don’t know how much liquid it is holding and so may add too much and then have to add more paint – and so it goes on!

CIMG2403The consistency of paint you want is that of thin, runny cream, so add sufficient water and mix up all the paint until that is achieved. If the paint is too thick then it won’t flow through the pen, and if too thin then it won’t cover pencil guidelines. The consistency is the same for painting mediæval miniatures.




CIMG2404Always add dark colours to light as you will need less pigment. It takes a lot of a light colour to make a difference to a dark colour, but only a touch of a dark colour to change a light colour. See my Calligraphy Clip about this paint to find out an easy way to reproduce mixed colours. It is important to mix up all the paint before using it. On the right there is clearly some red still unmixed and this could change the colour in the pen when usin



CIMG2402I never wash up palettes or throw paint away. Using crucibles, I simply pop on the lid and leave them. When I want to use that colour again, I add water drop by drop until the paint has softened and then use a brush and add more drops of water to mix to the consistency of thin, runny cream.





CIMG2424The same applies with paint palettes; I don’t wash them either, and, as they’re used by students on my courses, they often have quite a mix of paints on them. I love these porcelain palettes with many tiny wells which are ideal for the small amounts of pigment used for miniature painting. They also come with a lid which provides another surface for mixing, but you do have to let the paint on the lid dry before putting it over the welled part of the palette. I forgot this once – oops!.

Layout 1So to mix good colours using the Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache set, use those which have a tendency towards one another. So for a good orange choose a red which has a bit of yellow in it – vermilion – with a yellow that has a bit of red in it – cadmium yellow. To get a less pure orange, here I mixed cadmium with madder. Madder has a bit of blue in it, so works well with ultramarine, which has a bit of red in it to make a good purple (better than the colour shown on the right!). A less pure purple is made by mixing madder with Paris blue. Paris blue has a bit of yellow in it so makes a great green if mixed with lemon yellow which has a bit of blue in it. A less good green is made by mixing Paris blue and cadmium yellow. Oxide of chromium is a bit of a dull green so add other colours to liven it up. And burnt Siena and ultramarine make a grey with great depth – you’ll never use just black and white again once you’ve mixed this!

The metallic gouaches do need a bit of practice, and I show how to use them both on my DVD – Illumination – and also in my book Illumination – Gold and Colour. Order here.

IMG_2466The Schmincke Calligraphy Gouache set comes with a useful two-sided leaflet which explains more about mixing paints and also has some ideas for using the paints too.

Calligraphy and Ashes

CIMG2373Occasionally, it is so pleasing to abandon guidelines, formal letter construction, working out differences in size and script for design, incorporating illustration with lettering, and simply take a pen ‘for a walk’. I do this now and again after I’ve had a period of formal writing, as in the last few months. I had a golden opportunity as I was given a copy of a poem about the Test Matches between England and the Australians. It wasn’t the best poetry I’ve ever seen, but it did encapsulate the spirit of winning and the rivalry between these two teams. I haven’t been able to find the name of the poet, so if anyone does know, please contact me and I can acknowledge them and ensure they are happy with me posting this.


CIMG2362I knew that I didn’t want the piece to be huge, and the poem had a number of lines, so I chose a size 5 nib. I prefer to write on good quality paper even for roughs, and I have a stack of old certificates I had printed for a defunct award so I am using up the backs of those, a lovely Saunders Waterford 350 gsm HP paper. With the typed poem in front of me, I then simply wrote in free Italic Capitals. Here and there words that had some meaning were written in San Vito/Renaissance Capitals for emphasis, such as the first word, ‘Honours’ in the third line, a ‘dot ball’ (apparently a ball that results in no runs, as it is recorded in the score book), and so on. It always takes some time for your hand to become comfortable with any script and to ease yourself in at the start of a writing session, and this happened on the top line here. You can see that I made a horizontal pen fine dash at the end of that line to remind me to allow a bit more space when writing it out properly. The sixth line seemed to be getting rather long, so I decided I was going to split it (scribe’s licence!), hence the crossing out of ‘atmosphere’. I wrote the last four lines in the same pen nib, but realised as I looked at it that it was too large and blocky, so then used a size 6 nib which gives a better contrast.

CIMG2363The next stage in the way I work is to cut up the lines into strips, as on the right, and I just placed them on another piece of paper. At this point, I can adjust the spacing, cut out any mistakes, stick in any re-written words or phrases etc. In pencil I wrote the number of each line in sequence so as not to get them confused, and also the size of nib I used. (5 on the top line, and 6 on the bottom section). It was beginning to come together. I also needed to turn the section in small writing at the bottom the right way up!




CIMG2366I didn’t want a centred piece as with that, often the eye is taken more with the shape of the outline of the lines of text than the words themselves. So I adjusted the lines here and there, and made sure as much as I could (and it’s not always easy with short lines!) that there weren’t any diagonals of three or more beginnings or ends of lines. If there are, the eye is often ‘led’ off the paper and not on to the next line. As well as this, of course, the lines had to have a spine, all the lines had to overlap in the centre – the piece falls apart with lines flying off the edges of the main text. To ensure that the piece was balanced, I used a plastic ruler placed vertically, stood back, closed one eye and slightly blurred the other to see if there was about the same amount of text on the left-hand side of the ruler as there was on the right. Lines were then adjusted accordingly.

CIMG2370I marked the position of the ruler and then drew a vertical line down through all the lines – this would be the centre as I had worked out. I also used two L-shaped pieces of card to create a central rectangle, and slid them one way and another to determine the margins of the piece, The lines were then gathered up in order and placed on the sliding rule on my drawing board, line 1 on the top.





CIMG2371I chose a piece of hand-made Khadi paper which I’d had for many years. It has a good, smooth HP surface with strands of green water algae which I thought would tie in well with the green of a cricket pitch. I mixed up some oxide of chromium Schmincke Calligraphy gouache – it is a wonderfully smooth paint to use with a pen, and one of my favourites. I drew a faint pencil central line on the Khadi paper and was almost ready to write. To avoid mistakes, which are so very easy in calligraphy, I attach each line just above where I’m to write. This helps with spacing, spelling, letter formation and so on. So, taking some of the stickiness off a couple of small pieces of magic tape to avoid lifting the soft paper surface, I lined up the vertical pencil line on the Khadi paper with that on the strip of paper and pressed the sticky tape down gently. I used the horizontal edge of the guard sheet on my board as a guideline as there were no ruled horizontal pencil lines, and started to write. The paper absorbed the ink well and I didn’t have to wait long for each line to dry, but I have, with some papers, had a hair dryer in my lap to dry the paint as I go. As each line is written, I checked it, and then dried the ink with the hairdryer!

CIMG2373Finally the piece was written, the lines reasonably straight within the ‘free’ feeling of the piece and the words of the poem, and I then needed to remove all traces of the vertical pencil line. I left the piece for half a day to ensure the paint was completely dry, and then, rather than just scrub at the vertical pencil line with an eraser, I very gently ‘rolled’ it on the pencil line, being very careful near the paint.

The piece of paper wasn’t hand-made exactly to the exact size and shape of the final piece, as on the right. The only ‘real’ deckle edge was on the left. So with clean water and a brush, I ran a line of water along the final dimensions of the piece, each edge at a time, allowed the water to soak in for a minute or two, and then gently pulled the two sides of the paper apart, which left a ragged edge of paper fibres. While it was damp, I pushed my thumb against the paper edge to make it ‘clump’ a bit, similar to the left-hand deckle edge. And then the piece was finished, ready to wrap in tissue paper and be given to the recipient.



Teach Yourself Calligraphy

FullSizeRenderTeach Yourself Calligraphy was described by one reviewer as doing ‘exactly what it says’. It is, of course, always best to learn calligraphy from a good tutor, but for many people this isn’t possible. This book, then, could be the next best thing! It consists of the main four alphabets – Uncial, and minuscules and majuscules (capital letters) of the Foundational Hand or English Caroline Minuscule, Gothic Black Letter, and Italic. It starts by considering tools and materials, what to look for, and how to look after them.


IMG_2194But it isn’t just writing individual calligraphic letters, it is also putting those letters into words and the words into phrases. So there are clear explanations of how to space letters in words, the best spacing between words, and then between lines to get the most pleasing effects.





IMG_2195And then, most people don’t want simply to write out words, but to use their calligraphy in different ways. So there are ideas, and clear and precise instructions, on how to make bookmarks, cute little boxes, bags for gifts, wraps, folds and envelopes.






IMG_2198Some people like to use their calligraphy to make books. So there are also instructions on how to create simple single section books of various types, with lots of different ideas. And for those who want to produce a hard-backed book with covered card covers, Teach Yourself Calligraphy shows you how to set out the book’s text (page design), how to sew the pages together, and how to put those pages into a hard cover with a spine.




IMG_2196There are also lots of ideas for using calligraphy for invitations, menus, wrapping paper and matching gift tags, mementoes and cards.






IMG_2197And for those who want to write out poetry and prose as broadsheets, there are clear guidelines on how to start with the text, the best layouts, how to transfer a rough to a best piece of paper, how to use colour (with a clear colour chart for reference), how to lay a wash, use pastels and gouache, and so much more.

With 124 pages and a pleasing square format, chapter headings are: tools and materials; writing calligraphic letters; greetings cards and bookmarks; wraps, folds and boxes; celebrations; writing little books; poetry and prose; and a glossary.

To get your own signed copy for £10 + p+p with your name written calligraphically, please contact me via my website.