Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Used Calligraphy Book and How I Ended Up With It

I am currently working my way through the book The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron with a group of fellow artsy types.  I'm still not exactly sure how this experience will benefit my creative life but I'm enjoying the journey so far.  One of the regular exercises strongly encouraged by the book is the "artist date."  The only real rule is that the "artist date" must be done solo- just you and your "inner artist."  The purpose of these dates is to replenish your "creative well" and "unblock" your "inner artist," inspiring you to be more "free" with your "art"- whatever that may be.  I honestly haven't really felt the need to be "unblocked" as an artist and didn't really feel like my "creative well" was dry but the idea of going and doing "something creative" by myself was wildly attractive to me so I decided to "give it my best shot."  Okay, I'm done overusing the quotation marks, you can stop rolling your eyes now.

My first attempt got wildly frustrating when things didn't live up to my ridiculously romantic expectations.  My plan was to go to a dusty old used bookstore and unearth some priceless treasure of a book- hopefully containing old knitting patterns or instructions for ancient paper making.  Then I would carry my find to the chic but approachably charming coffee house located across the street.  There I would peruse the writings that would connect me to another generation of crafters.  All the while sipping my mocha latte, feeling very creative and artsy.  The biggest problem with this whole delightful scenario was that most of it only existed in my imagination.  I did have a used bookstore in mind but I wasn't entirely sure of its location and I was only assuming that there would be a coffee shop across the street- aren't chic but approachably charming coffee houses always located across the street from dusty old bookstores?

As it turned out, due to some logistical hang-ups, I ended up at a totally different used bookstore than the one I had wanted to find.  It was welcoming and the woman running it was very friendly (and her mother was there knitting, so at least I got to geek out for a minute with her) but it was a far cry from the place in my mind and they didn't end up having what I was looking for.  All of their yarn crafting books were of the late eighties/early nineties variety and I couldn't picture myself reading through any of them in public, much less a chic coffee house regardless of it's approachability or charm.  I was awkwardly the only person in the bookstore for most of the time I was there and I didn't want to just leave empty-handed so, compelled by guilt (and who knows what else) I paid too much for a calligraphy book (even after the owner gave me a "special deal"), left the store frustrated, and headed straight to the nearest RiteAid to drown my sorrows in a scoop of pistachio nut ice cream.  I made a mental note of this and decided next time I should be honest with myself and just plan to do what I obviously really want to do when given an hour and a half without any other responsibilities- eat ice cream and walk around RiteAid looking at stuff.

I realize the reasons for this experience turning out not quite great were really my own fault- I could have planned better,  I could have looked up exactly where I was going, I could have said no to the calligraphy book, I could have done a lot of things.  So, now that I've gone on and on about what a frustrating, negative experience this was, let me try to emphasize some positives.  The calligraphy book I got (pictured above) is a fairly comprehensive book and I think it will be helpful to me.  I have dabbled in the art of "beautiful writing" before but never thought I was that great at it- probably because I grew up watching my mom make it look way too easy.  Her calligraphy is amazing and I will always love her style.  

The more I thought about it though, the more I remembered enjoying the challenge of making normal letters look fabulous by using a fancy pen and actual ink.  I managed to dig up a few pages of doodling I did about seven or eight years ago and realized that I may have abandoned my efforts in calligraphy just when I was starting to get the hang of it.  I didn't intentionally quit trying or anything, I kind of just got busy doing other things and forgot about how fun it was to fill pages with beautiful writing.  So here are a few snippets of my past work that my husband so lovingly scanned for me.  Some of it looks terrible, some of it looks pretty good, and some of it is in "Elf Writing."  I honestly haven't the foggiest idea what any of the Tengwar says- I think at one point I downloaded a Tengwar font transcriber and printed out an alphabet key but I have no idea what happened to it and I don't really feel like decoding all those letters right now anyway.  So feel free to let me know what I wrote down if your nerd transcription skills are up to snuff but don't be disappointed if it ends up being a crummy commercial that says, "Be sure to drink your Ovaltine."

So there you have it.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some "calligraphying" to do...and ice cream to eat.


Matthew Green said...

And truly the meaning of the Artist's Date became clear to you when you wrote the line:

"I made a mental note of this and decided next time I should be honest with myself and just plan to do what I obviously really want to do when given an hour and a half without any other responsibilities- eat ice cream and walk around RiteAid looking at stuff."

Katie K said...

You are so right Matt. Sometimes the best laid plans end in ice cream when the plan itself should have just been ice cream.

Herch said...

If your plan includes ice cream, it can't be all bad.