In an unexpected coincidence of interests, Nun figured prominently at the current (and highly recommended) Arabic calligraphy exhibition at AUB. My interest in calligraphy brought me to the door, but it was the beautiful piece on Nun, of a professional interest unrelated to Arabic, that drew me into the room. The lozenges that you might suspect are ornamentation are explanations of proportion. Their meaning is so clear that I felt I understood every word of a calligraphy video on YouTube despite it being in what I suspect is Urdu.

The quality of the works on display is very high and demonstrate highest levels of mastery. Many of the pieces are illuminated with gold leaf. There is a master demonstrating calligraphy in the afternoons. He will write your name (or your spouse’s) beautifully on the spot.

The piece is “Nun, By the Pen and by the (Record) which (men) write.”  [Sourah Al-Qalam, Nun (The Pen, the Letter N), verse 1. [Osman Özçay]

Yesterday, I walked through AUB and thought winter, cold, and rain were gone for the year. It was green, warm, and even humid. A few hours later, winter returned with a vengence. Gray clouds, cold rain, and whitecaps in the sea. Today, electrical storms. I believe these prolific cyclamens are C. libanoticum, but that is not certain.

Perhaps oddly, I had not encountered the phrase (adage? aphorism? maxim? proverb?) until a few days ago. In an article in the New York Times about the car rental industry, “Renting a Car? Know the Rules of the Road,” a Ms. Fix was quoted almost so. Such sayings should be terse, even laconic, so I elided her “print” in the second half. If some construe “the small” as referring to other than print, then it is more likely an aphorism. It struck me as an appropriate text for calligraphy. I do know if the “Book of Proverbs” or some early Akkadian text communicates some saying of similar wisdom, but I suspect it is an old saying (hence the “-ths” are more humorous than inane).

This my first attempt at a versal, and unsurprisingly, I learned all sorts errors of commision, including ignoring the instructions given by Jacqueline Svaren to not outline with a different color. I made a black outline, rubricated poorly, had to mess with it too much, and ToonCamera shows a new one. Filling with gouache is difficult, but my inks would shade too much, and it will be a long time before I have the confidence to try illuminating with gold leaf.

A4, Pilot Parallel pens, Noodler’s inks, and Windsor & Newton gouache and water color paper.

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Another Isaiah 9:2 study with an attempt to make the eye theme more obvious. It seemed to be missing something at first. Because it is a study (not India ink and not waterproof), I tried illumination (fits the theme) with gold acrylic. Some day, I might be brave enough to try gold leaf; it does look nicer. It was surprisingly hard to control with a small pointed brush. The last image is with a different setting on ToonCamera that works well, even though it does not outline the red letters. I might be ready for the real thing, but I do not have the right size dip nibs, and I am undecided on the illumination and even this version compared to the last. I like the larger “light” more than the pupil, and I prefer the eye theme as suggested more than made obvious.

A4, Noodler’s inks, Pilot Parallel pens and watercoler paper.

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I see so many cat prints in concrete that I found this human print refreshing. Cats are supposed to be careful. They pussyfoot, they freak if the furniture is rearranged, and they are generally very wary unless living with humans. Why then are they walking on every patch of freshly poured concrete? Is it on purpose?

This calls for a haiku:

Will this amaze them

In a hundred million years

When cats rule the world?

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Isaiah 9:2, King James. Having attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah some weeks ago, this verse was stuck in my head. I hope it is now released. I find it particularly interesting to consider that it, in isolation, allows a secular interpretation as a metaphor describing the acquisition of a moral sense.

A4 watercolor paper, Noodler’s inks, Pilot Parrallel (2.4 mm) and Rotring pens. Note the last image is not rotoscoped in violation of this blog’s convention.

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This is at the Bon Marché in central Paris. I was very impressed and would have liked to skip work to watch some of the installation. I keep imaging it takes five people at once, all trained in advanced physics, or maybe she has some clever cardboard shuttles and temporary stays. The next day when I came to look, there was a manifestation and rain and I detoured. The riot police had paddywagons to arrest hundreds, so I thought I had better not risk my liberty with an unintended legal entanglement in a foreign country.

The artist is well known and resides in Berlin.

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Visiting Paul on Bliss, we saw galettes des rois on sale for epiphany. They looked quite good, and we decided to buy one to honor the tradition. The galette came in a pretty bag. I then noticed they also were selling small galettes and enquired. They said they did not have a king inside. We bought one anyway. Walking home, pondering our deficit of kings, I had an epiphany: the bakers are small-scale anarchists.

They were the best commercial galettes I have had, and the big one had two kings with lettering on their backs, a USA and a CHL (Chilean?).

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New Year’s morning, basking by the rubbish bin just outside the Medical Gate, this cat seems to be recovering from a rough night.

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Along with some diverse coins, I made a set of 25 California State quarter rings (daughter is going on a school road trip). US quarters are the easiest coin I have tried, probably because of the copper interior (I have not tried gold). The most difficult have been steel and nickel-brass: they are hard. Normal brass is fine. I used only hand tools and a Bunsen burner, and my fingers still hurt. The nylon mallet and the mandrel are essential. The mini-sledge and the big punch were most satisfying. I am saving the punched centers in case I can think of something interesting. The Leyte Gulf landing is my favorite: MacArthur’s quote, “I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God our forces stand again on Philippine soil—soil consecrated in the blood of our two peoples,” is still visible on the now interior reverse.

For information, search YouTube for “coin ring” or “coin ring making.” Apparently, there is an entire industry. With specialized equipment, a few minutes will produce very fine rings. I tried some US quarters without annealing to avoid losing the polish, and it was fine, though they were a bit stiffer. Numista.com has comprehensive coin information including composition. Amazon sells all sorts of useful tools and materials (including rolls of specific, uncirculated quarters). And it is not illegal in the US!