Unlike many calligraphers, I work on an assortment of surfaces. This allows me huge variety in my work, something I really enjoy. I am always happy to try lettering on something new.
In the Studio
When possible, I do my calligraphic and painting work in my home studio. When my oldest child left for college, I took a small upstairs bedroom with a north facing window. I added lots of light, mirrored cabinets, laminate flooring and a flat file. I have many supplies tucked in various spots around the room, right at my fingertips. I often use a slanted light board. This allows me to create a pattern, place it behind the nice art paper, and see my pattern well enough to put the calligraphy and artwork right on that paper without having to rule lines or sketch and erase.
Engraving often takes me out of the studio and on site, primarily in the fragrance and cosmetics department at Saks Fifth Avenue or Nordstrom. I have a rolling case that holds my machine and all my supplies. Set up only takes a few minutes and I am ready to personalize any glass or metal with freehand engraving. I can adjust the size of my lettering to fit the space required and I often add flourishes or little illustrative touches to make each piece look unique.
Sharing calligraphic knowledge and skills is great to do just about anywhere. I teach regularly at my local library and have taught at other libraries, at church, in my guild, in community education, in children’s programming through Purdue University, in the studio, and at the dining room table. Often I teach these classes with minimal supplies and at minimal expense to the students. One calligraphy marker and some paper can keep us occupied for hours!
Wall Painting – The Process
In a nutshell: I freehand it all. I don’t use stencils. Each design is unique!
I begin a wall project by making sketches on paper and taking some measurements of the space the words and images will occupy. Once I have the general idea figured out in my mind, I rule lines on the wall with a chalk pencil and a level if needed. I then work on getting all the letters to fit inside the appropriate spaces, which can be tricky if a line must be centered over a wide expanse. If I am working high on the wall, I set up two ladders and put a plank between them so I can walk back and forth without going up and down the ladder so many times.
Once the chalk is on and all is proofread, I verify colors and squeeze out the acrylic paint onto a Styrofoam plate. I determine which brush I want to use by doing a few practice letters on paper. I use flats, angles, or round brushes depending on the look desired. I like a synthetic brush with a lot of snap. I really want to have the client here at this point in the process to stand back and tell me if the first letter that goes on the wall is what he or she wants. If not, I can quickly wipe it off with a damp rag and try again.
Once the paint sets for 30 seconds or more, it is much harder to get off. I appreciate input during this painting process so I can be sure that the person who will be looking at the design is happy with what is happening. I have had people request things at this point like changing a letter to an alternate form or making a flourish bigger or smaller. They can’t always tell what it will look like from seeing just chalk lines. When the paint is on and initially dry, I will gently wipe the chalk lines off. If any are stubborn, I leave them so I don’t inadvertently scrub the paint off. Once the paint is cured, which takes a week or so, the lines can easily be removed with water and a magic eraser (white cleaning sponge).
Words and images painted directly on the wall have a wonderful, unique quality. My client satisfaction rate with wall painting is very high because each piece is personal and tailored to the family or individual.
What about exact replication?
To reproduce something exactly, such as a logo or lettering I have already done to my satisfaction on paper, I use my very handy Artograph, a projector that does not require transparencies. It can even project small objects. It is helpful when doing murals and extra huge things as well. I will not violate copyrights.