The honey bees were very busy today. The weather is still unseasonably cool, but no longer cold in the mountains. Perfect weather for a walk in the garden and for bees. I saw them on these flowers and wondered how hard it would be to identify the plant. I touched a leaf and instantly recognized it as a scented geranium, probably Pelargonium graveolens. They are used fairly common in gardens here and used in some puddings. If very sparingly used, I do not mind, but touching a leaf is too much.


Finished project, intermediate stages, and a trial. A3, smooth, cold-press watercolor, 2.4 mm Pilot parallel (and 6 mm), Noodler’s black ink (and red), Winsor & Newton gold-metallic bronze ink, someone else’s watercolors. I really wanted a Z, so I used small versals and compressed the spacing since the mock-up to fit the last sentence. Still no J, but I believe J is the most recent, unimportant paleographically, and obvious. The trial used gouache, as is traditional, but upon advice, I used watercolors. It would benefit from another attempt with more care at every step. Starting the last sentence at the end of the line seems wrong. The long S use was not regular. Many letters and words are spaced poorly. Verticality is violated. Unfortunately, my stores of deluded self-appreciation are not sufficient for another attempt.

Now I have to decide what to with it. Mr. Butcher might not like it, and I do not have his address. My office walls are crowded already. If repeated on A4, it would be more convenient and have more value to society. But it was never about that, so I will donate it to the alumni magazine.

I was inspired to get my great-grandmother’s 1920 Singer 127 “Memphis” treadle up and running, and part of that was cleaning the cabinet drawers. I brought the machine, cabinet, and contents from San Francisco to Berlin to Beirut, but I have not used it for a real project since 1996 (?). I am not certain when wooden spools went extinct, but the contents included a campaign button from 1952 and a Golden Glow Beer bottle opener from circa 1955. It has “5% LagerBrew” stamped on the reverse. A nice selection of thread colors. The bottle opener is now on my key chain and the button safely back in the drawer.


I only needed “alligraphy” for my current project (see “Mocking Calligraphy”), but this scrunched Gothic alphabet was intriguing enough to complete. It is strictly 45° and limited to vertical, horizontal, and 45° strokes, almost. S and P have unusual angles, but could conform with small compromises. Common forms of K do not work well, so I propose either a known form with the crossbar or a new form that I like. If the vertical ends its descent earlier, it might pass for normal. I kept the known form’s crossbar thin to fit. The X is a bit non-standard. I am particularly happy with the alignment of spaces and edges in the F, P, S, and Z. The DE ligature is nice, but I have not figured out other classes of ligatures. I think a very dense text would be interesting. I will look for some pithy statement about the “island of stability” predicted beyond known heavy nucleii, melanization, neutronium, Led Zeppelin copyright infringement lawsuits, the Eocene-Oligocene extinction event, or interstellar dark matter.

ToonCamera rendered it interestingly. The ink, Noodler’s Red, shaded nicely, though it does not show clearly here. This is with a 6 mm Pilot parallel and Winsor & Newton A4 “Cartridge” 110 gsm.

I found a nice text in my alumni magazine. A reader praises the editor for the previous issue having not a single reference to calligraphy. He continues with some rude, possibly sarcastic, assertions that use every letter of the alphabet save J. The sentence after what is shown above provides the Z by comparing calligraphy to teaching a pig to waltz. Speaking of pigs, a friend from Latin American told me a proverb that is worthy of calligraphy and very good leadership advice, “Do not wrestle with pigs: you will get dirty, and the pigs will enjoy themselves.” I may be repeating myself, but as true as the proverb is, the real leadership secret is to be the pig.

The text is almost a panagram, and thus an atttactive text for the aspiring student (me). I am very fond of the Gothic Z, but that sentence is difficult to fit and uses the first person in an abrupt fashion. It even starts to sound as if it is not sarcasm. J is the easiest letter to omit because its form is very predictable, so it is not missed much.

This mock-up took me some time, what with the knotted, illuminated C (it will have a gold background), a 45° Gothic that I scrunched, a 60° Gothic that I stretched, ligatures, long Ss, variant Rs, an archaic K, the minimalist minuscule A, rubrication, and some Celtic braids. All very exciting new twists for me. I will use Winsor and Newton’s gold-metallic bronze ink and their gouache for the illuminated letter and Noodler’s inks for the text. I used a Rotring 2.3 mm for the main text in anticipation of using J. Herbin’s beautifully shading purple Poussière de Lune, but the ink flow was uneven, and I think traditional black is better, so I will probably use a Pilot parallel 2.4 mm with Noodler’s black. It will be A3. I may try to send it to the author to show my appreciation.

Easter, spring, beautiful weather (and some rain), and flowers are contempories. The weather has been unusually cool and wet. I was told a proverb that apparently is very accurate. It translates something along the lines of “It rains while the Christians fast,” or “As long as the Christains fast, cool weather persists.” It was thought to be Jordanian and would thus more likely refer to Eastern rite Easter as being the end of the rainy season. Today, the Easters coincided, and it rained yesterday. We will see how well the forecast works.

This calligraphy hobby is great for cards. Winsor and Newton’s gold-metallic bronze ink catches sunlight very well. This is a Batarde script with brush (the gold) and Pilot parallel pen (Noodler’s black ink) on A5 smooth watercolor paper.

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.