A couple of weeks back I slapped up a few pictures of a poem into a blog post without much of an explanation… this was gratuitous calligraphy exposure… akin to unnecessary nudity in films. I apologise. I am referring to my rendering of Sweet Neglect by Ben Jonson. It is time to right that wrong… put some clothes on it so to speak.
Whenever I write a poem out in calligraphy I probably write it out in rough about four or five times to get a sense of what the poem is about. Sometimes I write it out more than this depending on how stupid I am feeling.
I realised what Sweet Neglect was about half way through my third rough draft… Ben is a bloke waiting to go out somewhere special with his partner. She is late home from work and hasn’t got time to get ready properly. She is flustered… Ben looks at her, and instead of simply saying you look fine as you are, he instead puts pen to paper and writes her the poem Sweet Neglect… which more or less says the same thing, but with more words…
Anyhow… with this in my mind I decided on a fun approach when I came to writing it out… I used a modern calligraphy style, which I actually drew rather than wrote, which took far longer than just writing it… but it gave me more options when it came to colour/shading etc. I used gouache and gold powder.
Here are some pics of the poem in progress….
Still to be coloured in….
Should I have left it like this?!
Colouring the lettering….
The finished version of this is in my gallery… HERE
This was an interesting experiment, I am sort of pleased with it. There is more about Ben Jonson HERE…. blimey… he used to write satirical comedies… I have only just looked this up. I am amused! Hopefully he would be happy with my interpretation!
Meanwhile… I have a few more experiments on the go… so better get on….
*UPDATE 16/06/2019: I still get a lot of hits on this old post, so I just want to say that I was before my time!! The calligraphy trend did eventually hit the UK. Today there is even an article in The Mail on Sunday about calligraphy. Maybe if I’d persevered and worked through my angst I’d be a millionaire by now 🙂 I think my calligraphy has improved since I wrote this [look in the galleries], so at least this post confirms that practice makes better.
Obviously being a wedding calligrapher in the UK is the easiest and quickest way of making money EVER…. hence I only did it for two years before retiring to the South of France to spend the rest of my days languishing in luxury on the proceeds of my inky deeds. Unfortunately my opening sentence is a big fat fib; being a calligrapher of any sort is not a get rich quick scheme. AND, to be honest, calligraphy just isn’t as popular here in the UK as it is in the USA. We sit here with our nibs a quiver waiting for the inevitable calligraphy boom, waiting for when the UK follows yet another American trend… and we wait… and we wait some more… we have a few enquiries, we write wiggly words, we prepare our cursives, we flash with a flourish, but sadly this trend seems to passing us by. Actually, this is not the only American trend to fly over our heads… Martha Stewart also went down like a lead balloon; we have Mary Berry… and..er… Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen… The UK seems to like style gurus to be authentic… and possibly slightly bonkers… gurus who have passion, but don’t necessarily take themselves too seriously.
In my 2 years of offering my services as a wedding calligrapher I didn’t do too badly considering that my marketing was minimal and my blog posts were on the flippant side of sensible… plus, my photographs were not as professional as they could have been… they were snap and go whatever the weather. BUT, that’s how I wanted to work. I didn’t ever want to be too involved in the wedding industry. I just wanted to offer a service for those who appreciated calligraphy. After 2 years of doing this I realised that although I had the skills something was very wrong… I was unhappy. The truth is that I am not cut out to be wedding calligrapher. I do not have the mettle.
I do have a general anxiety disorder, and over time I developed a dread of writing calligraphy on wedding stationery… especially if it looked expensive… and this simply developed further into a terror of being asked to write commissions! Hopeless. I always feared cocking it all up…. or spilling ink over someone’s invites… there’s a lot than can go wrong in calligraphy and I am a natural born worrier. Plus, my ultra carefulness slowed me down – it was extreme… to the point of locking things away in boxes and not letting people, pets, food, drink, wet washing, scented candles, fluffy jumpers, Robert Downey jr. etc, within 100 yards of my working space. My cautiousness ate into my profits… I was probably earning less than £3.00 an hour because my quality control was second to none meaning I’d rewrite commissions that were perfectly fine the first time I’d written them. This is no way to behave. Experience did not improve the situation. I had to stop. I’d turned what was once a pleasant pastime into a miserable experience for myself in an effort to make money. I decided that just because I was relatively good a something, it didn’t necessarily follow that I had to make a career from it.
So now I work for myself, and if people want to buy anything I’ve already produced, then that’s nice… and I’m fine with digitally scanned work – I have no idea why this is because I don’t change anything after my work is scanned… and I have been making some bits and pieces for a friend who wants to sell them at a craft fair… maybe I need to be removed from the final customer! Who knows?
Meanwhile, here is something I did last week… in a relaxed orderly fashion…
Sweet Neglect by Ben Jonson
On my mantelpiece.