September 2016 Program Review: Show & Share (“How we learn calligraphy and related arts in our ‘off-season!’”)

At the September meeting, members often share our work and admire that of others who have made artful discoveries during the summer. We were enriched, once again, by a broad (pen) stroke of workshop summaries and revelations from classes and workshop that fall outside our regular monthly meetings.

Jill Gebhardt and Kris MacDonald took Diane Culhane’s class “Paint Your Story” at the Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat, held at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Jill enjoyed her first-ever painting class. She explained that students had several pieces of work in process using several different media. Students applied gesso to 12”x12” Masonite boards that were used later for painting or collage. Oil paint was smeared on Gelli plates that were then covered by paper on which students did lettering. Some of the paint that was applied to a hard surface was later removed with steel wool. 

Jill Gebhardt

Jill Gebhardt

Jill described the instructor as “spontaneous” and as a person to whom three artistic elements are important in her work: layer, balance, and risk. Diane was quoted as saying, “We’re in the youth of our wisdom years.” Diane also recommended that artists take black and white photos throughout the creative process to identify the contrast in the piece.

Although Kris was disappointed that she didn’t learn many new techniques, she noted that Diane uses a sign-painter’s brush to create swirls. Diane also uses a cookie sheet as a paint palette on which she places two wet, blue paper towels (available at hardware stores) and a sheet of tracing paper. The palette is covered with “Press ‘n Seal” (by Glad) clear food wrap to keep paint moist.

Peter Seitz and Gloria Cooper took Amity Parks’ one-day workshop titled “A Sharp Pencil and a Keen Eye” at the Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat. The instructor began using pencils because they were easy to carry and use when she traveled. Amity developed a series of “interesting exercises” that explore what graphite can do. (Graphite is defined as a crystalline form of carbon, considered the highest grade of coal, that is combined with clay to form drawing and writing implements.) Students discovered they could make black lines, gray lines, pale images, and “rigorous” images. They also scratched the graphite from its casing, combined the shavings with water, and created watercolor-like effects.

Students used a whole range of pencils in the workshop including carpenter pencils, pencils with leads that ranged from very hard to very soft, and pencils made by Staedtler Mars and Lyra, to name just a few. Both Peter and Gloria remarked on the versatility and rewarding results from working with pencils. Calligraphy students don't typically learn calligraphy in this medium, but Amity's students now have a new "old-school" tool at their disposal!

Lynn Ohlhorst took Amity Parks’ workshop titled “Be Fearless” at the Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat. Lynn edited the workshop title to suit her own sentiments by referring to the workshop as “How to Work Without Worrying.” 

Lynn Ohlhorst

Lynn Ohlhorst

Lynn told us that Amity purchases old books and tears out pages for students to use as the substrate for their lettering and creative work. One of Lynn’s backgrounds was a map of Tokyo. Lynn painted the map with acrylic paints, placed paper on top of the wet paint, pressed on it, did some lettering, then pulled the paper away from the painted map. Other techniques such as applying Gesso, making penciled letters, using masks and photo transfers, doing rubbings, adhering Oriental papers, and more processes were introduced in many of the projects. The results were colorful, collage-like artworks. 

Lynn said that Amity advised students to “put your work up on a wall to really see it.”

Ruth McCarthy so thoroughly enjoyed Bob Schmitt’s class “Experience the Power of the Brush” at the Midwest Art and Lettering Conference that she enrolled in an 11-week series to continue her studies.

Ruth McCarthy

Ruth McCarthy

Bob has been using ink and brushes for Asian painting and calligraphy for more than 50 years, as well as studying with master painters. He provided all of the students’ supplies, although students did grind their own inks. Each day’s activities were organized by the hour. During hour one, Bob demonstrated Chinese characters that were then replicated by the students. Hour two was spent painting landscapes. While fulfilling one exercise, students used huge brushes loaded with paint to express the four seasons on paper that measured three feet by four feet. Students also worked outdoors with a brush that was about the size of a floor mop.

Dawn Darner and her husband travelled to southwestern France to study painting and collage with Ohio-based artist and teacher Rosie Huart. As Dawn and David painted with pastels, they were intrigued to learn that only two sources from nature create the blues in our palette: woad and indigo. Dawn explained that the woad appears yellow when mixed with water but ultimately appears light blue. They also learned to use a squishable, travel-related dog water bowl as their water container.

Erin Dung took a two-day Spencerian Script master class from master penman Michael Sull that was held at Wet Paint Artists’ Materials and Framing in St. Paul. Erin explained that one of the differences between Spencerian and Copperplate lettering is that Copperplate has noticeable contrast between the thick and thin strokes in the lower-case letters. Spencerian lettering is done one stroke at a time with a “lot of intersections” within the letters. A very light touch using very little pressure on the nib—other than on the lower-case p, k, and t—also exemplifies the Spencerian style of lettering. Erin recommended Clairefontaine paper as being good for practicing while Arches Text Wove is the paper she prefers for final work. Erin purchases her papers and the pen holders, made by Michael Sull, at Wet Paint.

Jean Heidenreich took Carla Sonheim’s “Imaginary Animals” class at the 2015 Midwest Art and Lettering Retreat and was encouraged by Carla to “try this at home”—which Jean did! Using hot-press paper, Jean applied two contrasting watery watercolors to the paper’s surface, then tilted the paper in both directions to discover possible animal shapes. While the shapes revealed themselves to be potential candidates to join an imaginary animal kingdom, students added details to create the creatures. Jean’s interest in Zentangle supplemented her endeavors in this portion of the class as she added embellishments and character to her animals with ink, colored pencils, and markers.