I bought a pen and ink set in Canterbury in 2007 and you won’t be surprised to learn that it’s my favorite. If I had not been half-asleep one morning, I’d still have the nib that came with the set. But that was destroyed when I tried straightening it out by pressing it on my desk. Instead of straightening it, I snapped it and made it unusable. But the pen can still be used and there’s no mistaking how much I love it. It’s stained and peeling and not as pretty as it was when I plunked down however many pounds it cost there at the ancient cathedral where Thomas Beckett was murdered in 1170. But it is my favorite, ugly or not.
I went to an art studio last week with a good friend of mine to redeem art class vouchers she purchased through Amazon a few months back and it looks like we’ll both be getting back into calligraphy or lettering of some sort. But not until late spring/early summer, because of our schedules. She’s got shows keeping her busy and me, well…that damn accounting class (which, in case you were curious to know, I actually find myself enjoying. WTF IS THIS INSANITY?)
That pen from Canterbury was the impetus behind signing up for an introduction to calligraphy class offered by my city’s park district in the autumn. Knowing my friend would enjoy it, too, I told her about it and she enrolled, too. It was awesome. I favored the calligraphy and she leaned more towards the Chinese brush writing, which was the topic of a class towards the end. Spring came around and we signed up again, with the instructor’s blessing and willingness to let us do our own thing during the second session. What I mean is we would work independently from the other students in the spring course and branch out into other lettering hands. The instructor taught us Uncial, which we both were anxious to learn.
I really enjoyed it and found myself more apt to spend time with pen and ink than in front of a computer during that time. I carried pens, nibs, inks, and paper back and forth with me to work, so I could practice during my lunch hour. Eventually, I simply brought lettering books I’d pick up at the secondhand bookstore, my pad of paper, and pencils so I could try my hand at recreating the examples in the books using the two-pencil method. That Christmas, I made my nieces’ big presents on fancy paper. I didn’t just make them: I labored over them on the weekends for weeks. It was a labor of love: love for my nieces and love for the process and love for the history. For Star, I did the alphabet. For Bar, color words. I drew, I painted, I lost myself in the project for hours at a time.
As time went on, other things began taking up my time and then came the day when I put my inks and pens away. I wondered at the time if I’d ever get back to it. It looks like I have a good chance to now, if I can scrape together the monthly charge for the classes. At least for the summer, anyhow.