“Psalm 148” artwork process

Psalm 148 artwork

Psalm 148 artwork

This project began as a homework assignment in which we were to put text in a circle using Copperplate. I drew a couple of circles for the baseline and x-height that would fit neatly on 11 x 14″. I drew them on translucent grid paper of that size. I figured I would make the final piece on 11 x 14″ Bristol board, cut to 11″ square. The x-height circle was 5 1/2″ in diameter.

I wanted the circle motif to make design sense for the words. I chose a psalm from the Bible that included the sun, moon, and stars, all circular things. My first chosen verse was too long to fit on the circle, so I chose another verse that did, from Psalm 148. I drew the outer swashes in pencil, erasing and redrawing until I was pleased with their composition. In some cases, the letters linked; in other cases, I drew free-standing swashes that linked letter swashes on either side.

Then I was confronted with the center of the circle. What to put there? I drew a variety of swashes for the space, then rejected them all for a spiral treatment of more verses from the same psalm. (I’m playing to my strengths here. I’m not so great with swashes — they are still a bit squiggly.) I decided to use a modified Romans lettering style I remembered seeing in a calligraphy class handout. It had a relaxed, friendly style that I thought complimented the Copperplate. I hunted through my 3-ring binders of handouts until I found the example by Hans Joachim Burgert. Here is an example of this style I found online so you can see his version: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/f2/94/a2/f294a2b16bcf1066701db69ac45e6801.jpg

I had already drawn some spiral guidelines in Adobe Illustrator for earlier projects. You’ll find them here: http://www.stevehusting.com/calligraphy/2013/07/21/spiral-and-circular-spacing-guides/ In this case, I used the spiral guide that allowed only one space, so the lettering will be tight. In the download, I have another guide that will spiral in a way that leaves space around the letters.

I slipped the spiral guide under the translucent paper and copied over several verses from Psalm 148 to see how they looked and fit. I stopped at a convenient space where the lettering wouldn’t get too weird in a small circle. Then that left another design decision: what to put in the center? I tried a variety of swashes, then ring designs, and ended up adding the “sun” in the text.

With that out of the way, I grabbed the Bristol board, translucent paper draft, and light pad, and copied the whole thing over to the smooth Bristol board. I drew the first draft in black with a Zebra G nib with Moon Palace Sumi Ink, black. I saw how shaky my swashes were, so a lot of practice was in order. A filled a page or two of swashes on Bristol board (the final material), and learned a few lessons. For some reason, the nib would skip or slide in a straight line. After a few experiments, discovered a few things. I needed to merely turn my pen to a flatter angle for the nib; when I saw the improvement, I guess the nibs were not even on the surface to begin with.

Next, I notice the uneven transition from the thin line to the thick line. When I do swashes, I turn the page so the thick lines will be oriented vertically, so I pull down and press down to form them. The thin lines are formed when I go lightly up the surface. The trouble came when I went up with the thin line, then around, then started pressing down too soon for the thick line. I needed to go up, make the loop, then press after the line was out of the loop and headed down. So that helped me make smoother swashes.

In addition, I needed to get my arm off the table more for freer, looser lines, and I needed to let the nib barely touch the surface going up so it did not get stuck.

Officially, the project was done. The circle was there — with the addition of a spiral! But I challenged myself to get out of my comfort zone and do it in color. That added a whole new slew of design decisions to make.

Black-and-white version of artwork

Black-and-white version of artwork

My first attempts were of circular washes of pale color using a 1 1/2″ rough brush. I switched to a blue ink I hardly ever use for the lettering. I attempted this several times; but I smeared the ink at one point, and I felt the Zebra G wasn’t giving me the thin lines I wanted on the wash. So I abandoned the wash and the G. I chose the Leonardt Principal nib, which has always given me fine lines. It has a very different feel than the Zebra G; it requires a lighter touch and more control.

I thought I would use the marker-sprayed-with-compressed-air technique, but I did not have the colors on hand that I wanted to use. Letraset Air Marker airbrush wanna-be: https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Airbrush-Materials/Letraset-LAM1-Air-Marker-Airbrush-Attachment/B000UBYFTQ

My wife asked what I was trying to do. When I told her, she showed me the Spritzer tool, which does the same thing, but spatters the marker with a bulb. She had a wide variety of marker colors, so that was a plus. See the Spritzer: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dylusions-360109-Distress-Marker-Spritzer/dp/B00IRHZOPY/ref=sr_1_3?s=officeproduct&ie=UTF8&qid=1500663315&sr=1-3&keywords=Spritzer I inserted a brush marker in the holder, held it over an earlier rendering of the artwork, and squeezed repeatedly.

The Spritzer in action

The Spritzer in action

I tested whether the splatter would be too opaque and obscure the letters; it did not. I added Finetec gold watercolor and Winsor & Newton gold gouache over the splatter to see if it covered it up; it did. I saw how small and wide a distance I could cover, and tested forceful and lighter squeeze effects. I decided I would use this tool. From a design standpoint, the spatter could represent the “stars” in the text.

Testing Spritzer and gold over it

Testing Spritzer and gold over it

The project proceeded smoothly on Bristol board, though I was surprised that the blue ink took over an hour to dry. When it did dry, it dried with a shiny sheen. Nice touch! I used Sakura Micron markers, blue and green, for the center verses, with more blue text toward the outside and green toward the inside.

Two colors of 05 Micron pens were used

Two colors of 05 Micron pens were used

After that, I added gold touches throughout. I had deliberately made the Os of the center text large and round so I could add gold inside. I really like Schin Loong’s application of gold highlights to her Spencerian envelope addressing swashes, so I borrowed that design idea. See her work at http://openinkstand.com/ (see Services > Envelope Addressing).

Adding gold accents to swashes

Adding gold accents to swashes

I added the gold touches to the swashes, filled in the Os of the center text with a small Speedball B nib, and created the sun with a pointed pen. I used Winsor & Newton’s Gold gouache for all of it.

Stampin'UP! had a variety of brads

Stampin’UP! had a variety of brads

Finally, looking it over, I thought there was something missing in the center. I remembered the Stampin’UP! brads my wife had and looked them over. I chose one, made a tiny slit in the center of the page with my hobby knife, inserted the brad, bent the ends on the back side, then covered it with tape. It provided a nice accent for the piece.

I’m not sure the colors go well together because the tones in the middle text and outside text don’t match, but it still makes for a lively piece.

About Steve Husting

Steve Husting is a mild webmaster by day and fearless writer by night. He is deaf, loves making calligraphy, hiking, terrific movies, and making the Bible's message clear to his readers. His devotionals are regularly published in Daily Devotionals for the Deaf, and his latest apps are sold in the iTunes App Store. His self-published Christian and calligraphy books are on lulu.com/spotlight/stevehusting
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