Saturday, July 31, 2010

answering questions

the question has been asked: have i ever used guide lines for the vertical strokes. yes, if you practice on graph paper, you can use the vertical blue lines as guide lines. when i attempt copperplate, i am really bad at keeping a consistent slant, so, if it is an important piece, i will pencil in all the slant lines. if i wanted to do a *perfectly* straight up and and down grid piece, i would fur shur pencil in the guide lines.

but.....i also have spent hours (days) working towards the ability to make perfect strokes. so, when my dream comes true and i hold the calligraphic olympics, one of the events will be to see who can make the most perfect page of straight strokes. i'm sure i won't win, but, i will have fun competing.

most of the time beginners try to make straight up and down strokes with their paper at a slant. think about it, if you are right handed, you probably always tilt your paper at an angle when you write. so, it does not occur to people to place the paper square in front of them and be looking at the paper straight up and down as you pull the straight up and down vertical strokes.

often times, turning the paper to a straight up and down position will improve the straightness of the verticals about 90%

position of paper plays a big role. even tilting your head will make a difference if you are working on a slant. if you look back to the Megan envelope, i did that one with the envelope straight. sometimes i do scripts at a slant, but i need a base line penciled in if i want the name straight on the envelope.

and, do not hold the marker too close to the tip. and, your elbow will tuck in closer to your body as you position the nib on the top line to pull down with the straight vertical stroke

sweet 16

nina is turning 16. i'll add her address before i mail it. didn't want to post her actual address because then you'd probably all show up at her house, uninvited, to have some cake and ice cream. but maybe you would have brought lavish gifts. dang. not enough time to rescan.

Friday, July 30, 2010

oskar binge

bottom one is the rough where i worked out the fit
top one is the final. i like the dry brush effect with outlines to add crispness.

forgot to put the stamp on.
rethinking if i like the wonky outline
might have to work on this one a little more
stacking the lettering without the lines between each line of copy makes this more like oskar's and i think i prefer it w/o the lines.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

more flowers

one more pansy stamp. headed into more neuland and thought some of you might want some visual relief from the blackness.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

oscar inspired outlined

ok, here it is with some outlining. compare the two. if you click on them, you can see where i overlapped. i like the stamp placement better. this was never intended to be a finished piece, but, it's a good example of how almost anything can be improved with outlining. there are some places where i would go back and put in white. like the second L in BUSTELL. i'd like to see a little sliver of white at the end of the crossbar instead of having it run into the border. the wonkiness of the border does not bother me. i used a straight edge on the other envelope that has the winona address. so, i have jobs to get back to. lucky for the blog followers, wilma had a dr appt at 7:30 am and i had time to work on these. even luckier for blog followers, they are sending us on a wild goose chase of more appts, so i'll have lots of time in waiting rooms to work on envelopes.

and this is my last cowboy stamp. i like this design better than the other one i used with the cowboy stamps, so now i am tempted to go buy more cowboys.

quick layout

this is a quick layout inspired by the kokoschka poster. it would only work if wilma truly lived on a street with a very short name. as previously mentioned, you really do not need a city/state if the zip code is correct.
there are plenty of ways to squeeze it in. the kokoschka layout requires a love of fitting things in. maybe not such a good idea for beginners.

and speaking of layouts, i frequently do a quick layout before i do an envelope. it is a good idea to make sure things will fit and then, you can always keep a file of your layouts so that you can refer back to ideas that you like.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


I almost forgot to add the Neuland Lesson for today. If you are seeing this post first, scroll down to some other postings earlier today.

If you are working on Neuland, hop back to Monday, July 26 to see the ISJ samples. To make the S, start by putting in the least amount of curve to *ess* the line. I tell people to think of driving a car and the two front wheels are on the corners of the nib. You drive down the paper, curving back and forth.

The skull and cross bones is to imply *death-to-the-crescent..* The whole point of Neuland is to keep EVERY SINGLE STROKE FAT/WIDE. All thicks, no thins. In person, I get all fire and brimstone about all thicks/no thins. I suppose it is time to get out the video camera and start posting to YouTube.

If you do make a thin stroke, just go over it with the nib and fatten it up.

Now...the J. You drag the nib down and just before you hit the baseline, you drive your car to the left. NO THINS. You may let it dip a little below the base line or you may curve it so that it is entirely above the baseline.

It might not be very pretty all by itself, but most of the time it is in a word, so it does not have to be pretty by itself.

Another good way to practice Neuland is with a foam paint roller, about 3 inches wide. Choose a wall in your house for practice and do the letters about a foot high. The paint roller wants to drive like a car and it will not let you slide into those nasty crescent points. What? You are not willing to devote a wall to practice. Where are your priorities? If you are renting, you can get a roll of kraft paper and tape it to the wall. Then you will have a nice supply of wrapping paper.

kokoschka inspired

tomorrow there will be a rough layout. i did this one after the rough, thinking i had it figured out. then, i kept changing my mind. the bottom line is is not very forgiving. if i take a lot of time and go back and outline everything, i will probably be ok with this one. but, as i will mention tomorrow, fitting neuland into rectangles is a bit of a puzzle, and not for beginners, so as much as i like the kokoschka poster, we'll try a different direction on thursday. by the time i got to the zip, i was ready for some visual relief, hence the skinny numbers. and then the space between the the L and S on WILSON was pitiful, so we took a swirlydoodle off roy's shirt.

the second zip would have been better stacked like the first zip, but, i would have felt obligated to put on two stamps because they would have used way more than 44-cents of energy figuring out where to deliver this one. it breaks my rule about ease of reading the address.

if you are ever addressing a large 9x12-inch envelope, this would be a very nice way to go. it's all flush left, so you really do not have a fitting problem and you could make the final box last.


here is a poster by oskar kokashka. i'll have to research and find out if this was done before or after rudolf koch designed neuland in 1928. i found this image on a blog that is all in french, so i can't figure out the dates. for all i know, koch designed the poster because as we all know kokoschka was also wrote plays. well, we don't have time for research. instead, we will just use this image to inspire some cool envelopes and hope that it isn't against the law to repost images from some other blog. if some alert reader wants to tell me that i should not do this, i will remove it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

neuland practice

wow. it's really hard to go back and do neuland even halfway close to what it is supposed to be. i'll try to dig out samples of when i first learned it to see if it was better than this. i sure hope so. however, you can see all the tips and tricks to disguise the imperfections. drop shadows and flowers. also, start with the lightest color possible for the lettering. let the decorations work for you. sort of like taking the TV dinner out of the tray and putting it on china. the guests will never know. OK, that is not an original idea. i got it from phylis diller about 50 years ago. she also recommends serving dinner about two hours later than expected as *starving people will eat anything.* guess i should start a food blog, eh?

neuland lesson 5

1. a pretty good K, look at the shape of the white triangles formed by the legs. 2. is a sad K because the legs have curve to them. you can curve later on, but for now, keep every stroke as straight as possible. 3. ok, you can curve right now, but keep that curve really tight and just at the mid-point of the K's legs. if you start at the top, you can pull in towards the center. as you hit the first stroke, rather than stopping, making a point and then angling back out, you may curve it to just *kiss* the straight stroke.

4 and 5 show that the connection of the K may be high or low. it does not have to be exactly in the center. but the two limbs must be straight. that top limb must be an arm and the bottom one must be a leg.

6 and 7 show the two ways to make the N. on the first one, you keep the nib very flat. look at the graph paper. on 7, the nib was sitting at an angle when it started and it ended at an angle. 6 is a tidy version, 7 is for later on when you can relax the rules.

that is enough for today. i will discuss ISJ tomorrow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

colin's birthday

the scan does not show the true colors very well. the green is brighter. always fun to hear what the stamps have to say.

the p.o. cares

so this is the envelope that the po used to forward the ripped envelope and photo posted yesterday and a couple days before that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

cowboy stamps

in a perfect world, i would have about an hour to spend on this kind of lettering. in the real workd, i did it in 5 minutes, or less. i love-love-love the tiny little flourish on the stamp. that is the kind of detail that just makes an envelope. unless you are Robert E. Benes, then you probably look at your name. the address is sloppy because i covered up the actual address.

Friday, July 23, 2010

ripped envelope

here is the envelope that was ripped. the contents were posted a couple days ago. it's the photo of jackie and me, taken by chuck at a guild meeting. this was several envelopes after i should have retired my copic marker. it was so much fun to use. i think they are supposed to be refillable. i need to look into that. design lesson...contrast in size. lettering as big as possible combined with tiny lettering. it's a combo that pleases my eye. of all the things my students ignore most, tiny lettering is the main thing. i don't know why.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

neuland lesson 4

i know, the numbering system on the neuland lessons is all goofed up. here are the letters with slanted stokes.

keep the nib level on the top blue line and hold it level as you drag to the bottom blue line. 1. shows a tap at the top and then 2 dots at the bottom which are your targets when you pull the two strokes of the A. you will be surprised how hard it is to get the A perfectly symmetrical. instead of being annoyed at how hard it is, be happy that your eyes are actually very good at seeing the in-accuracies of the strokes. 2. is too wide 3. is still a little too wide 4 and 5 are wonky, finally by 6, i like the spacing and symmetry. except it is wonky at the top.

i am showing you real strokes, the way they go along a page. they will be all over the place and the only way you will get any consistency is to make a lot of strokes. of course, it is boring to make endless pages of one letter, so you do a few to warm up, then you make combinations of letters.

alternate AVAVAV they have similar angles. note that the W is a little narrower than two Vs. 9 is OK, 10 shows two Vs, which is too wide. 11 is my preference for width. M is NOT an upside down W. there is a V in the middle and the two end strokes are more straight up and down.

look at the white triangles created by the V,W & M. watch the corner of the nib as you are pulling a stroke. watch the white space you are creating as much as the solid stoke of the letter. then,watch the space between the letters. i prefer to put the letters as tight as possible. i like to touch them once in a while.

Y joins two-thirds of the way down. look at the graph paper.

the monoline letters are done fairly fast, just to give you the idea of using neuland as a style for your block lettering. it is so much nicer to see an address in a style that is neutral and not reverting to your *normal* penmanship. unless you are an architect or someone who learned how to letter beautifully.

if you are good students, and learn your neuland, i will bust out the frank lloyd wright lettering. or if you can't wait, google frank lloyd wright fonts and buy one. very cool lettering. :-)

your homework -- discover how many words you can write using the letters WETYIAFHLVM and N, even though i have not shown it yet.

neuland lesson 2.1

here is something to try with the letters you already know. put them between lines. try very straight lines, then try some that curve a bit. keep in mind it is easier to make a curved line when you swing your arm at the elbow. so you can make that bottom line easily, but you need to turn the paper to make the top line with an arc that approximates the bottom one. this was a quick demo done in a class, showing dry markers/ they were just kids markers. you can get a fat line if you hold the marker very flat. the tips are rather cone shaped and if you tilt them onto that edge, you can make thick lines. it is helpful to find a non-normal grip when you are learning to make chunky letters. your goal is to obliterate your *penmanship* and start drawing the building blocks of the letters. in general, i recommend holding the marker so that your hand is not too close to the tip. that will help you make broad strokes and not revert to your kindergarten printing

if this was a envelope, i would put the stamp to the left of the S and the address to the right of the N. or the otherway around would be fun, too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

neuland lesson 2.2

i know, i know, you don't have the whole alphabet yet. and this has an N, which technically, you do not have. but, you could be a daredevil and do an N on your own. the other thing you need to do is start a list of little doodads. in my class, i suggest people find 100. they think it is way too hard. but, it isn't. after they work on their list for a week, i show them mine.

wednesday - corrected

ok, i can do it. but it will take time to re-orient what i want to post. the words on the line say *when in doubt scribble."

90 degrees

i keep changing the orientation, but when they upload, they flip back. will have to work on this more. regular envelopes will resume on thursday after i schedule some posts. this one is scheduled for those people who get up at 1 am to see what the new post is.
this was inside an envelope that the po ripped. it came in a nice plastic bag with an apology.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

up side to glitch

here is the pansy envelope. you can see that it is warped by the humidity and it has been living in air conditioning. that's how soggy it is here. so, we had the storm that freaked out our internet connection and TJ just restored it. the nice people on the phone said that we are eligible for an upgrade which would allow me to upload faster. that would be good. i never would have thought of such a thing.

making the pansies is easy. they have five petals. the largest one points down then you make two smaller ones that head off to the side and slightly down and then you add two more on the top, like ears. then you take a darker color and make a small line radiating out of the center. finally, you do very fine outlines in black.the leaves are simple dashes and you give shape to them with the outline.

the secret is to leave little gaps here and there. some of the petals don't touch. the outlines are a little sketchy.


still waiting....

Monday, July 19, 2010

waiting for TJ

hopefully TJ will appear and fix my internet connection. i will also try to think of some way to get some scans up on the blog. it just dawned on me that i can post from this computer, so if i figure out how to burn some scans onto a cd, i could transfer them to this computer from the mac, which is the one waiting for internet connection.

thank you for your patience during this difficult time.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

mother nature

there was a storm last night and the electricity was off. now, i can't get the internet at the studio where i have the scanner. i can post just words from the house, but no scanner here. so....i guess mother nature wants me to take a day off. sorry, janet. usually when mother nature wants me to take a day off she sends the swine flu. that was really nice (last october) to just curl up under a blanket for about 6 days and have not a care in the world. and i can't wait to get the internet back because i did a new pansy design that i love.

late post

i'm not sure if janet is even watching any more to see if i miss a day. i am furshur missing the 1 am deadline. but i should have something up by about 8 am central daylight time. so, i don't think this is even close to missing a day.

while this is not an envelope and i am determined to keep this blog focused on mail art, i think this would make a lovely postcard. maybe you had to see it in person to really appreciate it. i spotted it on some back road in hawaii. i like the sentiment and the way it is worded. we should all take time to post more signs, ok.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


if i had this one to do over, i would do something a little better for the beads. i am happy with the style of the letters. i probably did a pencil line first to get the beads centered.

notice the address, it has a neuland flavor to it. that's why i have you doing the letters with a regular pen. serious scribes probably think it is a crime to start this way. i agree. romans would be a better style to learn for fine lettering. but this is not about being serious or *fine*... it's about dropping envelopes in the mail, taking a few minutes to do something fun before you get back to the jobs or chores. it's a sneaky back door way into lettering. i know it is wrong. but it's a guilty pleasure.

Friday, July 16, 2010

gel markers

another one that started with a marker only these were gel markers. i hope they still make them. they are so much fun. another item i can't let myself have or i would just sit and play all day. they leave a little blob at the end on some papers, so i drew a copper gel pen square around each blob. this *style* of writing is a cousin to neuland. i suppose if carrie wants to experiment with it, she may.

neuland lesson 2

if carrie is getting tired of those 6 letters, she might want to try some simple designs with the markers. this would be just step one. step two would be to add tiny little details.i'd start with little black details.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

blue jays

the flip side of this envelope has a pencil drawing of the two jays. i guess i could not decide what to do with it, so iturned it over and addressed the other side. when i do casual little letters, i like to keep the cap just slightly larger than the rest of the letters. i often see students who are making the caps big and i think they would look better smaller, but i never have a good reason. it's just my personal preference. maybe others feel the same way? compare this to yesterday, the J did not need a crossbar.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


this was done with a marker, then outlined with a black gel pen and then dotted with a silver gel pen. a lot of scribes scream at a cross-bar on a J. i don't know why. they don't bother me. i think i like them better when the whole letter is not too tall. we'll have to have some in depth discussion about crossing the J. i am a lot pickier about when it is OK to put the crossbars at the top and bottom of an I.

the outlining of marker letters is fun to do. squaring off the ends gives the letters so much personality. remember to turn the page as you do the outlining. your hand likes to go back and forth. your whole arm is better at moving up and down.

neuland lesson 1

you may use graph paper if it helps to make nice straight rectangles. make the space between the rectangles the same width as the width of the stroke. my graph paper is a little too bleedy. the first two show that the space between the two strokes is too wide.the AAA at the top shows that the space and stroke width is equal. then try to make some horizontal strokes that create letters. the length of the cross stroke on the Ls can be the same as the width. visually, that is a square that is added to make an L. pay attention to the spacing. i like it tight or extra tight. the LIT on the second line shows longer cross bars. on the E, make the top and then the bottom and then center the middle stroke in the space that is left. same with the F. make the top bar, then set the nib in the middle of the remaining space to pull a cross stroke.

visually, the center cross stroke of the H is a square. you can make your first *fun* letter, by turning that square on its corner. now make about twenty pages of perfectly straight angular stokes that are perfectly spaced. it will be really boring, but, you might be mesmerized. i never write neuland like this any more, but it did help to start with this very geometric recipe. after you get it imprinted on your brain, you can start tipping and tilting. see how many words you can make with just those 6 letters. see if you can control yourself from making any other letters. let me know when you are back from your trip.

the little letters done with a gel pen are to remind you to do the same little block letters with a plain pen or pencil to remember the geometry. make variations where they get taller and skinnier and also shorter and wider.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

new markers

carrie, do you have any new markers? before i start my virtual lessons, i need to know if you have any calligraphy markers. this shows how nice and crisp the letters are with a new ZIG marker. if you don't have zigs, tell me what you do have and we'll start the lessons.

Monday, July 12, 2010

p.o. participation

i think the p.o. participated in the design on this one. and jackie tells me that one time the p.o. sent one of my mailings by special courier. i will try to remember to reproduce the type of mail that receives a special courier.

and for my students who have heard me all cranked about how ugly fish hooks are, yes, i know i have some nasty fish hooks on this envelope. believe me, i yelled at myself. i can't believe i am even posting this one.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


i love the idea of using a lot of stamps. the worst part is licking them. i don't even know if they sell lick-um stamps any more. nothing special about that lettering. it was clearly done in a hurry. the note is no longer inside, so no clues as to what was gong on back in 02.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


nice stamp, post office people. we like the pretty ones, but we need some manly ones, too. this one is to honor my son who was born 26 years ago today. his stubble is blond, so you can hardly see it. he mentioned one time that his disposable razor had lasted about two years. i didn't have the heart to tell him that his razor wasn't exactly working, but that it was hard to see the blond beard. i don't think he knows about this blog. or maybe he does. i wonder if this will draw a comment out of him. lol. he's a man of few words.

Friday, July 9, 2010


carrie says she likes stories. jackie and i wish we would have done a better job of keeping track of the stories that went with the mail. i wrote this silly note to the po about the zip and then it looks like it arrived, the po thinks the mail is to them, just because there is a note on the outside. again, there is no note on the inside, so we don't have much of the story.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

skinny t

i don't know why i like that skinny t. it breaks all the rules. the y is so bad, i had a hard time posting this one. i'm thinking i need to start a blog of just the ones that meet with my approval. when i did the 60 for kathy, it was more of an exercise in amusing myself. i didn't imagine that they would ever be posted for the entire world to scrutinize. i wonder what i would call a blog of the ones that are *ok.* i get a little sad thinking about segregating the envelopes into the good ones and the bad ones. i anthropomorphize things, which is silly. but, i suppose it is better to be silly than some other things.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


not the best way to pack in the letters. i'm sure i drew the pale pink horizontal lines first. blocking off the envelope into a grid is a good way to start if you don't have any other idea.after tossing the letters out, look for a good place for the stamp.

Monday, July 5, 2010

very early spencerian

hard to post the very early stuff. but, hopefully it will inspire people to try lots of different styles. spencerian is so much fun and it really helped my everyday penmanship.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

popular theme

i have tons of these flowers on blue and green lettering. if i have time i will stick in a bonus envelope. but, janet keeps an eye on me and i must not miss a day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

is this a repeat?

i don't think so. but i am still swamped with work, so these posts are happening faster than usual. maybe it's ok to mix things up a bit. i do recommend looking at compositions from all different angles to see if they are pleasing. clearly from the scribble phase when i had some ink in that ??? can't remember the name of the brand of markers. the european ones. forgive the stuff still piled i am making the top of a wedding cake and some adorable postage stamp pennants to hang on the tiers of the cake plates. i'll try to get photos. and after the wedding, i can post the invitations, they were adorable. my dream wedding would be entirely mail related.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

not up to snuff?

i usually do about a weeks worth of blogging in one sitting and on monday i was uploading some photos. i intended to go back and write more about the bag, but, didn't get to it... dear friend janet keeps reminding me that she checks each day to make sure i don't ever miss a day. such pressure. and just so you appreciate how devoted i am to the the past 7 days i did over 800 envelopes. that is more than 100 a day which is double what i can do comfortably. if i ever have to do 100 in a day, i usually take the next day off. but this was 100+ a day for seven straight days.and that does not even include the side stories. so, if the blog seems a little boring, bear with me. tomorrow i will get back to digging out some good ones. and i might even look up the origin of the expression *up to snuff.* there is one more scheduled post that will pop up at 1 am. i never remember what is coming up, so it's fun for me to check the blog every morning to see if something did pop up at 1 am.
the photo is me in front of the oldest post office in montana. my mom took the photo.

flip side of yesterday