Wednesday, March 31, 2010

christy 1

wonderful stamp. this kind of layering starts with writing the name once in the lightest shade, then layering different patterns. if you think about it, as you are doing the first set of stokes, leave a few gaps. the colors can get a little muddy.

this is a good example of using all the different zig markers. base layer with calligraphy tip, the added layers with other types of markers. those little sets of 3 parallel lines were done by tapping the wide calligraphy tip three times.

and i noticed that john neal also has a very good price on the 48-marker sets. scroll down, two posts, for details.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


this shows how some papers are way more absorbent. the colors came out so much brighter. i added silver dots.

Monday, March 29, 2010

zig marker questions

i have had several questions about zig markers. i happen to have many of them but i think that the copic brand is also very good. it is hard to recommend one marker over another, but my zig sets of 48 have lasted me about 10 years and many are still going strong. there are four types.

i like the calligraphy markers for the broad edge. the wider tip is perfect for neuland. the smaller tip mushes down quickly, so it does not get used very much. these tie for favorite with the ones called writer, which have a *bullet* tip and a fine tip. both are good for monoline and you can get some variation in width with the bullet tip by varying the pressure. they are sturdy.

i love love love brush markers, but, they are not sturdy. i also think there is a steeper learning curve with brush markers. the scroll tip is also fun and i use it a lot, but i do not see beginners having much luck with it.

i do not recommend the chisel tip markers. they are very useful in certain circumstance and if you are a complete marker junkie, you will enjoy them, but, mine will last another 10 years.

John Neal has a great price on a starter set $26 + shipping
M60-S12. Zig Callig PIGMENTED Markers. Set of 12

Zig Calligraphy II Pigmented Markers. Set of 12, one of each color. Double ended. 2mm & 3.5 mm tips. Acid free. New pigmented ink. They are crisp and keep their edge well. Waterproof. Lightfast. Fade Proof. Pigment-based ink. Pure Black, Baby Blue, Baby Pink, Hunter Green, Pure Blue, Pure Orange, Pure Pink, Pure Violet, Rose, Spring Green, Steel Grey, Summer Sun.
click on /calligraphy and illumination/ and then search [markers]


this has always been a favorite. i remember doing it very quickly, with no planning. i used the scroll tip on a zig marker, holding it the wrong direction so that only one half of the nib touched the paper and the envelope was turned 90 degrees to the right. you can see the strokes were made horizontally from left to right. on the *l* you can see how i jerked back a little at the end of the stroke. i had to rotate the envelope to do the bowl o the a, b and e. this is from a series of envelopes that i intended to mail, but i liked them so much, i kept them.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

lesson 2

here is another way to do grass lettering. it is faster because you just make the long strokes really tall. you would have to be creative on the g, p, q, y, and j. how about someone sending me their solutions to those letters. i would make the t really tall, too, even though t is not traditionally a tall letter. the line around the address is because i put a fake address over the real address.

ellen no. 10

pink not showing up in this scan. i'll add another grassy design later today. notice the wavy line. sometimes i freehand them other times i use a ruler. either way, they are a good way to anchor the design.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Lesson 1

this morning there was an email from a friend who is new to envelopes. she remembered seeing one of my envelopes that was *grass growing* and she did not think she was going to be able to do that style. so here is a lesson (in just one of the many grassy growing styles that i do).

anyone who knows their alphabet can do this style.
step 1: draw a base line with a pale green or a colored pencil.
step 2: with a light pencil, draw the strokes you need to form letters. start them on the base line. add little lines to make each letter correct. do not worry about being too literal. for example, the cross bar on the T in toby is just a random stem.
step 3: go over the pencil lines with a thick bright green marker. flick the strokes quickly to give them some *stem-iness. don't try to stay on the pencil lines. i left mine in so you can see that i do not trace over them, just use them for guidelines.
step 4: add some dark green shades with a marker or colored pencil.
step 5: add dotty flowers. note how the ones on becky started out one way and evolved into something different on toby. i like the toby ones better. this was not going in the mail, so it was a practice envelope. if i was only doing one envelope, i would do a quick practice version to get the details down. then i would save the practice one in my file of ideas. if you are doing a complete mailing, start with the PWDMs. those are People Who Don't Matter. not that they don't matter as people, but they are people who will not scrutinize the dotty flowers or details. the non-artistic people on your list who just love everything.

so, this was fun. if anyone else wants to make a request, i will post lessons and ideas for anything you can think of. and some day i will find the coolest *challenge lettering* ever. a penpal called, wondering how to make letters look like film. it was a great style that was inspired by stamps.

ellen no. 9

brush marker, layering, another detail off the stamp used by the lettering.

Friday, March 26, 2010

ellen no. 8

cute little detail on the stamp tucked into the faux uncials done with brush markers. don't forget the layering.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

good morning jackie

taking a break from looking at my envelopes. here is one from jackie and it shows why i gave up on my italics. the cutwork is really cool, too. jackie says she checks my blog every morning. maybe she'll comment on this one. we went through a phase of sending a lot of mail. now we don't. so maybe we need to blog about our old mail. or maybe we can get a reality show to film us rereading our mail and blogging about old envelopes. sounds riveting to me. (that's a joke)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

john 11, 12, & 13

i was not going to put these in, because i really don't like them. but, i have so many people telling me that they are getting good ideas from these posts. so, here are three ideas to go with stamps that have stripes. i think it might be the shade of blue in the stamp that makes these so objectionable. and the scanner cut off one of them. even the scanner doesn't like this design.

ellen no. 7

this one is done with gel pens. it is scribbled quickly with dots and dashes. of the ten envelopes in the ellen series, i think this one draws the most comments. maybe it just jumps out because it is different from all the ones done with markers.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

ellen no. 6

i never had a complete exemplar for this style, so clearly the S needs help and that O went a little crazy, but after i put the star in the middle it doesn't show that much. silver gel pen for the shadows and dots. i should send some mail to *occupant* at that address and see what happens. do college kids even check their mail boxes any more?

Monday, March 22, 2010

this just in

dave delivered this today. all the way from canada. looks like walnut ink and a ruling pen or folded pen (both available from our dear friend john neal at
i need to scan a few more in the john neal series. and there is something gold sparkling in the letters. very pretty. thanks :-)

ellen no. 5

blue does not scan very well. the gray sparkles are done with a silver gel pen. beautiful stamp. they could sell tons of them if they'd put 20 on a sheet. instead, they had art from 20 (or 16?) different illustrators on one page. right now, they are selling a full page of stamps with 10 paintings by abstract expressionists. a must buy for anyone who does decorated envelopes.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ellen no. 4

not much to say about this. i like brush lettering, but i am unable to teach it or say much about it. layering is a go-to technique. soft colors on the stamp.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

ellen no. 3

only ital-ick envelope in this series. the ick is only a reference to my own italics. they look fine when done properly. and that's a clunky swash. however, it is IMHO a good example of taking the minor color in the stamp and using it for the main lettering color. and don't be a slave to the straight line. it's OK to just wing it once in a while.

graceful no. 7 - dance stamp

another example of double stroke lettering used when i am in a hurry and like the idea but don't have the time to work on my lettering skills. i was surprised when this entry was accepted in the exhibit. i really thought the lettering was pitiful. but, it shows that sometimes a fun idea will carry an envelopes. certainly, if it was going to a friend, just to brighten a day, the friend would not be kvetching about the sloppy lettering.

Friday, March 19, 2010

ellen no. 2

this stamp did not look like it was going to be a good inspiration. i use it as an example to take a minor color in a stamp and use it for the major color for the lettering. then use the major stamp color as the accent on the lettering. in this case, a stamp that looked pretty blah at first glance turned the envelope into one of my favorites. fun layering on the letters. cute little flourish mimics the smoke in the stamp.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

graceful envelope no. 6

this is a scan of a color copy, so the colors are way off. this one was accepted and i used markers on arches text wove. the colors were beautiful and i was surprised how by using a really good paper, it almost looked like watercolor or gouache. the theme was to feature something significant from the past millennium. this stamp was the first time the p.o. raised funds for a cause and the copy in the upper left corner explains that.

ellen no. 1

an all time favorite stamp. the next ten envelopes were all done at once to illustrate the concept of sending a lot of mail to a college kid. as i have mentioned before, it was mail for college students that got me started on envelopes. the E and the I are brighter pink than what the scan shows.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

stamp silliness

today i needed to mail one more envelope to a bride. i have a new stack of old stamps and thought she would enjoy a silly bridal party. that's not the real address in the scan.

44-cent gingerbread man

pulling design ideas from the stamp, i put dots on some funky lettering. it is not any particular style, it just mimics the shapes of the gingerbread man. when you are too busy to practice one style of lettering, just do all of them poorly and it ends up being a cute whimsical hodgepodge. no apologies, i know these people would rather get mail than have me obsessing about straight lines. the dots are done with a gold gel pen.

graceful envelope no. 4

apologies for the icky italics (again). as i recall, this one was accepted in the graceful envelope contest. this scan is from the practice envelope i did. it was back in the day before color copiers and scanners (at home) and i sometimes did duplicates to have a copy for my own reference. i remember taking this one to the p.o. and asking for a hand cancel. the grumpy guy at the counter shoved it back at me and said, "there is no address." i smirked and replied that there was an address if he looked closely. when he figured it out, he was a little flustered. probably embarrassed to be looking so closely at body parts. oh well. it wasn't my idea to come out with that stamp. believe me, i had a couple ideas for the breast cancer stamp that i left on the drawing board because i thought they were a little too *silly* or disrespectful.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

graceful birthday stamp

the straight envelope is the one i started and spelled a word wrong. the crooked envelope is a copy of the one i sent. again, these are good examples of why i stopped doing italics. these samples make my eyes hurt. however, i love the idea. the one with the error had better arrangement of the stamps. the little confetti is just enough extra fluff to say *birthday* which was the theme for the year of this entry. the smithsonian postal museum was celebrating its 5th birthday.

Monday, March 15, 2010

john no. 10 (of 10)

this is an all time favorite of mine. the scan does not show the colors very well. this particular stamp was easy to morph into letters.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

john no. 9 (of 10)

anything organic is easy to use for a design element. dry markers are great for writing names. they have just enough juice for one name. then put the cap on and later, they'll have enough juice for another name. i keep the dry markers together so i can use them up.

john no. 8 (of 10)

very inspiring stamp. should have done a whole series on this one.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

graceful love stamp

this is a scan of a color copy but if you click on the image, you will get a larger image and be able to read the tiny writing. this is one of my favorites. in case the 4th line doesn't make sense, by including those letters, there is a complete flower alphabet on the envelope. my one regret is that this was done in a hurry and i have always wanted to go back and make an alphabet that is detailed enough that it really does look exactly like the original four letters.

john no. 6 (of 10)

running a band of color in the spaces of the lettering is one of the first techniques i learned in decorating envelopes. for this one, i layered the marker to get the colors closer to the stamp.

john no. 7

any name with 4 letters is easy to stack. i'll call it the robert indiana layout and label it. i imagine as i go through my hundreds of envelopes, i will see that stacking letters comes up frequently. feel free to put the zip where it fits.

john no. 6 was missing the scan so the john series will be out of order. note to self: envelopes are easier than blogs. lots easier

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

john no. 5 (of 10)

using small details from the stamp. it is not necessary to be too literal when decorating the name. eyeballs to not need to be in pairs.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

graceful envelope no. 2

the year that the theme for the graceful envelope contest was *pushing the envelope* i entered the dog tag envelope (which is my previous blog entry) as well as this one which was made out of sandpaper. i think the next year they started limiting people to only one entry. this is a good example of why i do not do italics any more. even when i don't approve of the lettering, i'll keep a sample if i like the idea.

graceful envelope no. 1

my blog needs more variety. this was a winning entry in the graceful envelope contest. the top scan is a scan of a color copy of the actual winning envelope. the lower scan is the practice envelope to see if i could cut the words in the address out of card stock. i then adhered the words to the envelope, sprayed it with spray glue and then covered it with aluminum foil, dull side up. burnished it and dropped it in the mail. to see lots of fun envelopes go to
*the graceful envelope* is a contest for decorated envelopes. think about entering. they just announced the theme for this year.

Monday, March 8, 2010

john no. 4 (of 10)

no, the address does not have to go at the bottom. if you have all the information on horizontal lines in a landscape orientation, it will get to its destination. it might take a day or two longer. the idea to fill the envelope with horizontal lines of words came from the rows of names on the memorial.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

john no. 2 (of 10)

this illustrates *shape*. the flat shape of the olive branch is used as a design element. i often look for a tiny element in the stamp to repeat on the address. outlines and layering.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

john no. 1 (of10)

this is the first in a series of 10 i did for an article for Bound and Lettered, a wonderful resource for lettering people and hand made book people. it is available through John Neal Bookseller. at the top you can click on the Bound and Lettered Button. this envelope shows how to use the colors on the stamp. i like a lot of contrast. again, i touch the letters so i don't have to worry about space and i outline with a very fine pen to make them crisp. a square dot separates the two words. maybe john can add a comment here and tell us if there are any back issues available of the issue that has my article.

Friday, March 5, 2010

jackie 10 (of 10)

i don't know what to call this style. it probably grew out of the feeling that i was exhausting my go-to styles. it's been buried in stacks of stuff. i should keep it on top so i remember to try it again.

tomorrow i'll start a series of 10 envelopes that i addressed to john neal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

jackie no. 9 (of 10)

this was a misunderstanding. i thought she said that her nickname was sassypants, but it turns out sassypants is someone else. i really appreciated that the p.o. participated in the mood of this envelope by canceling it upside down and then putting those other bars at a jaunty angle. that would never have happened just by chance. mix of gel pens and gel markers

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

jackie no. 8 (of 10)

gel pen doodles. no rhyme or reason. just doodling. none of the strokes are straight.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

jackie no. 7 (of 10)

outlining. a heavier line right on the edge of the color and then a thinner line. i think i avoid the difficulty of spacing by letting the letters touch.

Monday, March 1, 2010

jackie no. 6 (of 10)

penciled the name, put in the dots, erased the pencil line. wonder why jackie did not connect the dots.

jackie no.5 (of 10)

one of my favorites. lightly penciled the name. used the cheap, kid's gel markers for the beads. added the little shadow lines. loved the result, but it was so boring picking up each marker, dot, put it down, pick up the next one... and no way to do it faster. beads really need to be done carefully or they don't look like they are strung on the cord.