Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Priming the Pump

The territory's new and at the same time oh-so-familiar. What-to-work-on-next. I've weeded gardens and planted annuals and washed all the windows and rested and now it's time to return to work and start a new piece. I've tried out two ideas already that seemed pretty exciting UNTIL I actually created samples. Neither idea worked.

To prime the pump, I've been reading and visiting web sites. A book on the alphabet that I recently purchased-- Letter by Letter by Laurent Pflughaupt -- had an exciting calligraphic illustration that I oohed and aahed over as soon as I saw it. The caption read, "Gestural calligraphy, David Lozach."
The words "gestural calligraphy" appeal to me. So does another term I found, "expressionist calligraphy." I hadn't thought to string these words together, but realized how fitting they both are to the language imagery that most appeals to me.

Here's an image I found showing Stefan Arteni, a French gestural calligrapher, beginning a new work with a huge sumi brush. Note the design references at the bottom right of the image. I love the possibilities of working with a large brush. A year ago in Dorothy Caldwell's class at QSDS, we tied brushes to sticks or dowels and then stood over a paper just like this and made marks and lines on it with black India ink.

After my Internet research and inspirations, I decided to buy large pads of white sketch paper, 18" x 24," and experiment with different sized brushes and types of inks and paints. I want to spend time just exploring variations of calligraphic marks. Yesterday I barely stuck my toe into the water but felt good about taking some first steps. On this piece, I used a very wide, flat bristle brush and a very thick paint.

The next paint I tried was undiluted Setacolor, using a narrower but still flat brush. These inexpensive brushes have long handles and are made from goat hair.

The last variation I tried was a sumi ink monoprint scratched with a straw. I like the flow of this ink the best of the three that I tried. Of course I also can used thin or thickened dyes and work on fabric, but for now I'm working with paper, feeling the movement of the brushes and working with pressing or lifting the brush from the surface, noting the difference between the heavier marks and the finer, more suggested ones. Each one has its own pronounced feeling and energy.


  1. I too want to experiment with gesticular calligraphy, or at least making large marks. Do you know Chihuly's drawings?

  2. Do you know Chihuly's drawings?