items-of-necessity.jpgRight now, I work full-time in an antique gallery, so my time for calligraphy is carefully carved out of a work//friends//family schedule.  When I have a day off, I try to carve out multi-hour blocks where it’s just me, a pot of espresso, and vast stretches of paper.  Some days, I work on practicing one particular hand – either learning a new one or refining an old standby.  Last week, I gathered a couple of favorite books of poetry, a box of oil pastels, and a big, blank sketchpad.  I gave myself a deadline by which to produce a project.  Didn’t have to be completely refined, but it had to be a complete, start-to-finish 2D expression… sort of an extension of the gesture drawing concept that my professors used in college to train our eyes for quick drawing. 


1) picked poem.  Rainer Maria Rilke is a favorite of mine, and his Book of Hours was my favorite Christmas gift last year (thanks, Ann!).  I dearly love the German language, so I decided to play with the un-translated version of I,17 of “The Book of a Monastic Life.” 

3) read through a few times to get a feel for the natural divisions of the text… read in English and German, playing with the differences to get a fuller sense of Rilke’s meaning. 

2) pick a hand (any hand!)… i’ve been playing around with an upright italic for a little while now, so I decided to continue for today.

3) choose a simple layout (this is where I most often get bogged down, so for the purpose of this exercise, I exaggerated the simplicity).  The goal was to begin and end in one afternoon, so this was streamlined.

4) Letter!!  This is the fun part.

5) Play with conceptual/aesthetic embellishment.  The English translation of this poem talks about ill-matched threads woven into a single cloth… so, feeling experimental, I started to lay down stripes of color according to the order of the oil pastels in the box. 

 Because I wasn’t working on a particular project (for a particular client), I got to play with ideas and techniques that, in the end, I’m not sure I completely loved… but I got to play!  and now I know.  I’m not displeased with the “finished” product, but I keep spotting ways to tweak it.  I suppose that’s part of the exercise, too!  so here it is…