An Overload of Orange

-LCdC 15

Tightly and very well packed!-LCdC 1


-LCdC 16

Gift wrapped

-LcdC 2 -LCdC 3 -LCdC 4 -LCdC 5

-LCdC 17

-LCdC 9

-LCdC 18

-LCdC 10

-LCdC 11

-LCdC 19

-LCdC 7 -LCdC 13-LCdC 20

All in all, a brilliant package to open, I wasn’t expecting each item to be gift wrapped with La Couronne du Comte ribbon or the surprise notebooks.












Posted in Pens | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Students’ gothic work at the end of the 8 week course

So last week, the students chose one scary piece of paper or card from my stash.  I’ve been warning them that there’s nothing scarier than a blank piece of good quality paper – especially when you only have one piece of it – how many times have I ruled it up, marked it out, done all the prep, started lettering and in the very first word or line something goes horribly wrong!

Anyway, they all did a great job and, more importantly, they all critiqued themselves and knew what they’d done wrong, or could do better or how they’d do it differently.  I’m not going to say anything here as we discussed it in the lesson.  I wish this course could run for another couple of weeks, I think we could really tidy up and improve these final creations but in I have 2 weeks off then my italic course starts.

First up, Marion’s piece



This is Josette’s and I have to say that I love, love, love her quote and I shall possibly be stealing it! Did you make it up Josette or do I have to ask permission from someone else?  



And Christine… she pencilled it first then was too scared to ink it… no I’ve never done that before 😉



This is Mark’s piece, he and his wife Marionne bought every colour foil they could find after the gilding lesson and used it!  The card is bluish but you can’t really tell from the pic.  You also can’t really see the high shine of the blue foil which is down to my rubbish picture taking skills. Sorry Mark!



This is Vicky’s, done in her sketchbook and not on the card. Finally, something that’s not just practice  eh Vicky?!



And the last 2 pieces are Marionne’s.  I think she’s got the lettering bug!  We looked back at her practice lettering and the ‘L’ in Lord did start off life as an ‘L’ but she got a bit carried away with the final piece!  One thing I will say now though, which I didn’t notice on Thursday is that all the flourishes of the L in Lord, p in shepherd and b in be, all just about follow the same diagonal line and balance the lettering.



And Marionne’s final piece.  I love the shading on the flowers and the way she’s laid out the lettering.  







Posted in Calligraphy, Lessons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Start of carnival!

Wow, it happened right outside the window during lesson 7! We heard the drumming getting closer then it stopped right outside our first floor window.




When the drumming stopped a guy starting talking. In Maltese of course so the Maltese speakers had to translate for me.  He was proclaiming the rules of carnival. Maybe that should have capitals… proclaiming The Rules of Carnival.  One I particularly liked was that carnival costumes must not be worn after 7pm.  How times change!   After all the dignitaries had gone into the Opera House, the first float came past.  Now I know they are massive but I didn’t exactly realise how massive!



Posted in Calligraphy, Carnival, Lessons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Coming to the end of the Gothic course

I’ve really enjoyed this bunch of students!  They’ve worked so hard and been so enthusiastic that they’ve been a pleasure to teach.  Here’s some pics of their work from weeks 6/7.

This is Marion, the lady who brought a felt calligraphy pen to the first few lessons then was convinced to get a fountain pen and improved instantly.  



Marion’s friend Josette, a real dark horse!


Now husband and wife team, Mark and Marionne.  Mark first:

Mark1 Mark2

And here’s Marionne’s:

Marionne-6 Marionne5


No, their pieces aren’t perfect and there’s plenty more practice to do but after only 12 hours of lessons and plenty of work at home, I’m really chuffed with what they’ve achieved.  And this considering the room is too small and there are 10 students packed round a tiny table meaning I can’t get behind them to peer over their shoulders and correct hand positions and generally nag!


Posted in Calligraphy, Lessons | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How (not) to clean watercolour pans

Let’s just say that this Whatsapp conversation happened between two friends….

Gouache Girl:  How do you get the nasty old pan watercolours out of a cute little travel set?

Watercolour Knowall:  Um, soak it with water and then grab the edge with pliers?

Gouache Girl:  Oh ok, no really clever way then!  Like…. add a drop of…. nail varnish remover and they come clean away?

Watercolour Knowall:  Could try that but I doubt it’s glue – just sticky ole paint.  At lease watercolour dissolves – eventually!

Gouache Girl:  Just in case anyone else wants to know:  Soak watercolour pans for at least one hour, not half.  Do not remove with a scalpel, rather a blunt knife.  Do not have dog (or cat) in area, running after the bits flying out and eating them.  Cover floor and kitchen area completely to save walking in bits which then stick to your shoes.  Put rubber bands on sleeves so that when a piece of Burnt Sienna shoots up your arm, it doesn’t look completely disgusting when you find it.  Last but not least, look at face in mirror. 


Before pic.  I’ll upload an ‘after’ pic when I’ve finished cleaning it  Gouache Girl sends me a pic.

20140803-121946 pm-44386925.jpg


It may have taken a week of soaking and scrubbing with a toothbrush but I’m pleased with it now…..


20140803-121837 pm-44317368.jpg


Posted in Supplies | Tagged | Leave a comment

And keeping with the Gothicky theme – students take note!

Here’s a Twitter post from the British Library.

I love the ‘diaper pattern’ of the tiles or cobbles in the first pic.

The second pic perfectly shows the ‘not square’ shape I was talking about in the last lesson.  And note the white line work in the blue border.

I love the third pic!  The beginnings of the white vine on the gold background surrounded by the pattern I was explaining last week.  This pattern doesn’t have any colour in it other than gold.  See?  Anything goes!

And the last pic?  Illumination gone wild!


Happy St Apollonia’s Day!

For more on this ongoing series about medieval saints, see our post Saints’ Lives…and Deaths.

Today is the feast day of St Apollonia, an early Christian martyr. While relatively unknown in the modern era, St Apollonia – and her gruesome torture – was frequently depicted in medieval art.

Detail of a miniature of the martyrdom of St Apollonia, from the Dunois Hours, France (Paris), c. 1440 – c. 1450, Yates Thompson MS 3, f. 284v

We know of Apollonia through a letter written by Dionysius, the Bishop of Alexandria from 247 to 265, which is preserved in extracts in Eusebius’s Church History. According to Dionysius, during the festival to commemorate the first millennium of the Roman Empire in about the year 249, a local poet prophesied a pending ‘calamity’. Spurred by fear, the pagan majority then carried out a series of attacks against the local Christians, many of whom were tortured and put to death. After describing these horrors, Dionysius continues: ‘At that time, Apollonia, the parthénos presbûtis [or virgo presbytera, which probably indicated that she was a deaconess in the Christian community] was held in high esteem. These men seized her also and by repeated blows broke all her teeth. They then erected outside the city gates a pile of faggots and threatened to burn her alive if she refused to repeat after them impious words (either a blasphemy against Christ or an invocation of the pagan gods). Given, at her own request, a little freedom, she sprang quickly into the fire and was burned to death’.

Yates Thompson MS 4 f. 190v C1305-09a
Detail of a miniature of St Apollonia holding a tooth, at the beginning of her suffrage, from the Hours of Jacques de Brégilles, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1460, Yates Thompson MS 4, f. 190v

As is the case with many of the early martyr saints, the actual moment of Apollonia’s death is rarely shown. Instead, many of the images that survive represent the torture she suffered prior to her death, but rather than the troubling tooth-breaking scene described in the letter of Dionysius, most images represent her teeth being removed by pincers, or show her holding an ominous pair of tongs. Unsurprisingly, Apollonia is the patron saint of dentistry and those suffering from toothache, and in the medieval era she was frequently included in Books of Hours and other suffrages. A few of our favourite British Library images are below; we wish you a painless St Apollonia’s Day!

Detail of a miniature of SS Anthony and Apollonia, at the beginning of their suffrages, from a Book of Hours, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1465, Harley MS 1211, f. 90v

Harley MS 1251 f. 50r K063033
Miniature of the martyrdom of St Apollonia, from the Hours of Eleanor Worcester, France (Rouen), c. 1430 – c. 1440, Harley MS 1251, f. 50v

Harley MS 2989 f. 124r K022771
Miniature of the martyrdom of St Apollonia, from a Book of Hours, France (Rouen), c. 1460 – c. 1470, Harley MS 2989, f. 124r


Here’s a link to the full post –


Posted in Calligraphy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Gothic course – week 4

I love watching students’ progress and hearing their moans and groans; just when they think they’ve cracked lowercase, here comes uppercase.  Just when they think they’ve cracked lower and uppercase, along comes a bit of illumination.  One of my students is really grafting away, practising away at home and, for this only being week 4, she’s doing rather well!


Marionne1 Marionne2 Marionne3 Marionne4


Posted in Calligraphy, Lessons | Tagged , , | Leave a comment