Please pardon this break in our regularly scheduled programming to bring you this important piece of ass journalism.
It’s a little NSFW, because it’s all about celebrating butts.

Listen to this while you look through it and celebrate your own backside today.


Anonymous asked:

I would like to do what you do. I used to try calligraphy when I was young but gave it up to work and raise a family. I'm old now, lol, and a late bloomer. Is it necessary to go to art school to do what you do or are you mostly self taught. Any advice for beginners? I'm not steady of hand like a younger person might be so something easy to start and not too discouraging. I enjoy your blog very much. You are blessed with an amazing gift. Thanks for sharing it.


I am sorry if this has been sitting here for a while. I didn’t know to check it! And then this weekend I had a thoughtful, detailed reply typed up and then it disappeared because I sneezed or something, and I got frustrated, so I didn’t try again until now.

First, thanks for your kind words! That’s just about the nicest, most validating thing to hear so I appreciate you taking the time to say it.

Second, I am actually a self-taught beginner, myself. I went through a pretty intense 2-year arts program at my public high school, and did a few terms at university as an Art major, but as far as lettering and calligraphy goes - I bought my friend Ray Thai take-out for like, 6 tutoring sessions before I moved away from NYC so that he could reteach me the alphabet, and since then, I’ve just been kind of winging it. I knew I wanted to pursue a new career in lettering and illustration and felt woefully unequipped to do so (especially having some very talented graphic design and artist friends to whom I compared myself) but I had to start somewhere. Granted, with no kids or looming debts or real responsibilities, it was a bit easier for me - plus I would not be able to support myself without the generosity and patience from my very loving and encouraging partner. I know that, and am grateful every day.

But, I intentionally made some decisions to get to this place of freedom and took some risks and so here we are.

So that’s my confession. My caveat is that I have too much respect for the art and craft of calligraphy to call myself a calligrapher yet. I practice a form of calligraphy called “modern calligraphy” or “pointed pen” that is more freestyle, but I couldn’t write a thing in formal Spencerian or Copperplate to save my life! 

Advice, as unqualified as I am to give it:

1. Start with lettering. I mentioned that my very talented friend and mentor (despite being like, 6 years younger than I am), Ray, tutored me in actually relearning the alphabet from scratch. I’d initially contacted him with some questions about calligraphy tools and he whoa-Nellied me and asked what I really knew about lettering. I said I had been told I had nice handwriting, and wanted to learn how to use that professionally, at which point he probably rolled his eyes and suggested the tutoring arrangement. We started with the basics. I mean Kindergarten BASICS. He re-taught me the Roman alphabet starting with majescules (“upper case” letters) and then miniscules (or, “lower case”). My homework was just to write the alphabet over and over again. I’d listen to music and write bits of lyrics, I’d sit in coffee shops and transcribe snippets of overheard conversation. I practiced a lot. I still do. 

2. Practice. A lot.

The purpose of relearning the alphabet was to get a fundamental understanding of how letterforms are built, what pieces of them are essential and make them recognizable, and the proper strokes to put them together. This becomes imperative in learning calligraphy - understanding upstrokes and downstrokes, which is how you can achieve those beautiful thicks and thins. Buy a book! Watch tutorials online! Follow great calligraphers and lettering artists on social media and absorb their work. And then practice until you start to develop Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. (Hopefully not, but, probably).

3. Know your tools.

Lettering artists argue that you can use just about anything to letter, so no excuses if you don’t have the “right tools”! But I would argue that calligraphy is a bit different and does require some specific tools. You will need:
- a clean, flat or slightly inclined, smooth work surface

- a comfortable chair or stool at the proper height

- smooth paper. I like Rhodia notebooks, but artists like Molly Jacques recommend something with guides, which makes sense. 

- a pen/nib holder (best to start with something oblique and inexpensive like this Speedball 

- nibs (totally depends what style you are going for. Do some research online and read product reviews or visit calligraphy forums to explore). My recommendation for beginning nibs are the Nikko G, Nikko Zebra, and Brause Rose. You can buy all of these at John Neal Bookseller.

- a flat, inexpensive paintbrush (to load the ink onto your nib. I guess some people dip into the ink, but, I haven’t gotten that to work for me). 

- ink.  Lots of options here. Walnut ink seems to be popular, but I haven’t tried it. I have tried Bombay Ink, but it’s pretty runny and finicky in my experience. I prefer to use designer’s gouache. It’s cheap, but you have to work with it and play around with adding water to get the right consistency.  The “right” consistency can vary according to nib and paper type, but, it should stay put in your nib for a few lines of text, and run off the nib smoothly without catching or blobbing on the paper.

And then just play and experiment!
Be fearless in making ugly stuff for a while - it will shake out into something prettier, eventually, I promise.

Other than that, I would recommend just taking a workshop or class if you can. Something that allows you to dive in, focus on just the task of creating lovely letters, and boosts your confidence in the process.


I love when one project spirals into several for one client. No, not just because it puts tacos on the table, but because it allows me to learn more about her and her occasion, I can build a little bit of visual similarity into the multiple pieces if called for, and cultivate an actual relationship with her.

That was the case with this rustic Montana ranch wedding. The bride’s sister got in touch with me and coordinated a few different details of the day to be calligraphied by me, and soon, the bride and their mother were also on the email chains as we collaborated on ideas for the pieces.

They were trusting enough to let me do their 200 escort cards, the menus for the reception and a separate lil’ bebe menu for the cake table (uh. How good does that cake look?). My favorite part about doing the escort cards, aside from getting to know my new Hunt 101 nib, was seeing a bunch of mutual friends’ names on the guest list! I give every card my full attention, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t spend an extra minute on those names I know. Plus, then they text me pretty things from the reception so I can spy on my work.

Concepting and developing brand identity with a new client + compatriot.
I am kind of obsessed with the little Dia de los Muertos bat.
If I were the tattooing kind…I’d consider it.


Best of Crosswords by Darren Booth

I am not crazy about the lettering work on these, but there was a period of time where I was very crazy about the NYT Crosswords and could consistently complete Monday-Wednesday, Thursdays if the trick wasn’t too tricky, some Fridays, never Saturdays, mostly Sundays (maybe with a few clues from Mom). So I would like the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday books only please.

These wise words were part of this couple’s wedding ceremony, written specifically for them by their friend and officiant.
They’re now immortalized as a first anniversary gift from wife to husband!

She requested a more streamlined, modern style of lettering in gray tones and now I want to do everything like this.

Happy anniversaries are all over the place!
This wifey wrote her hubs a (super sweet, Seussian) poem and had me calligraphize (not a word? Not a word) and illustrate it with a wee whale.



Photographer Tim Lampe’s ode to the ice cream sandwich: “a world where summer is infinite, ice cream sandwiches never melt and you can find them everywhere and anywhere.”

Completely geeked out and bought a bunch of new nibs last week. They arrived in the mail with a pair of birthday shortalls, gifted to me by my bestie, and a birthday card from my grandmother, so yeah, it was pretty much the best day of mail ever.

It can be pretty overwhelming to buy these new tools and I always appreciate any recommendations I can find, especially these kind of product testing posts, so I figured I would do my part and contribute one.

As you can see from the top photo the nibs are:
- Brause “Rose” *
- Zebra G*
- Hunt 101
- Brause Steno
- Hiro #40 “Blue Pumpkin” *
- Nikko G
- Nikko Saji
- Leon Principal

*= used before/am fairly comfortable with

I also ordered a new holder, because I thought I’d need a different one than my trusty plastic Speedball Deluxe Oblique to work with a few of these new nibs, but none of the new nibs seemed to take any more easily to the new holder, so I just used the Speedball for all of these.
Typically I prefer to work with gouache, but I was feeling a little lazy today so did all of the above with black Bombay Ink.

The biggest surprise was the Hunt 101. Never having working with a shorter nib like this, I didn’t know what to expect, but got really beautiful thick downstrokes and lovely delicate hairlines. Really impressed and excited to use that one on new projects.

Being comfortable with the Brause Rose I was a little irritated to see how little control it appears I had with it - first strokes of the morning, maybe, or a little ink heavy? Either way, it was surprising to see it next to all of the other nibs and how thick and uniform its lines look.

Really loved the ease of the clean, simple line from the gorgeous Nikko Saji (the close-up on the left hand side) and look forward to doing tiny work with it.

The Brause Steno (other extreme close-up, in silhouette) is striking in person - it has a slightly darker blue sheen to it than the Hiro #40, but is quite similar in appearance. Wrote like a dream until I had an ink blob halfway through my “d” and “l” - I think I just need a little practice with it, though.

Definitely understand why the Nikko nibs are most popular among us newer calligraphers - you can get a really lovely line out of them fairly effortlessly. They’re stiffer, which can translate to more forgiving, even if you don’t get the dramatic thicks and thins.

Looking forward to getting more practice with the other shorter nib, the Leon Principal. I think this one was supposed work in my new penholder but didn’t want to squeeze in there - let me know if you have any advice on adjusting those things!