Posts Tagged 'letters'

Brush it Off

Director, writer, and artist Jean Cocteau is famous for saying “An artist cannot speak about his art any more than a plant can discuss horticulture” (Newsweek, 1955). Though Cocteau suggests that artists are not the best verbal communicators, many artists include words, characters, and writing into their works. Here at the DMA, we have many examples of handwriting and calligraphy in our collection.

Last month I took an introductory calligraphy class with my friend and fellow intern Emily Wiskera at Wildflower Art Studio. I learned a lot from our teacher Emile, and have not been able to stop practicing since! I thought it would be fun to give you guys a quick and basic tutorial on brush pen calligraphy. You can add calligraphy to your art, you can address a letter, write your name, or make a fancy grocery list! For this tutorial you will need a brush pen in the color of your choosing (which can be bought at any craft store) and a piece of paper. I have used scraps of watercolor paper for this tutorial.

Tip #1
Pressure makes perfect. When writing, upward strokes require a light amount of pressure and downward strokes require firmer pressure. Practice using different amounts of pressure by drawing straight lines. Once you feel comfortable with straight lines, try drawing loops while applying the same pressure techniques.

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Tip #2
Practice your alphabet. Brush lettering should be fun! I like to practice writing the alphabet using variations in the thickness of the letters, with assorted flourishes, and in different styles. Develop a style of your own or find a template (like this one) of a calligraphy style you like. Now practice, practice, practice! Whether you use a found template or your own, you can use tracing paper and pencil to trace over the letters.

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Tip #3
Take your time! Calligraphy takes concentration, but it can also be very soothing. You want to write at a pace that is not too fast and not too slow so that your letters are nice and smooth.

Tip #4
Put it all together. Once you are comfortable with your loops and alphabet you can now combine the two! Try to write the alphabet with the brush pen calligraphy technique. Once you have gotten the hang of it, writing your name can be a fun way to practice your letters, too.

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Tip #5
Make it your own!
Keep it simple or add flourishes— it’s up to you. Your calligraphy style is as unique as you are! I went back and added a few little hooks at the top of my capital letters “R” and “M.”

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Show us your samples by using the hashtag #dmabrushtips on your social media sites. I’ll-pha-bet they look great! Make sure to check out our C3 gallery and Spirit and Matter exhibition to see more examples of writing and calligraphy on display at the DMA.

Whitney Sirois
McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teachin

Arturo’s Magical Mail: Redux

Santa’s mailbox may see a lot of action leading up to December, but our own celebrity here at the Museum gets mail all year long–our family mascot, Arturo!

Amelia Wood, last year’s McDermott Intern for Family and Access Teaching, wrote a post in February about how magical sending and receiving mail can be, especially in the form of letters to Arturo. As we start wrapping up 2014, I think it’s only fitting to share some of the highlights from the year since then–a “best of” Arturo Letters, if you will.

What strikes me most about these letters is always how open and loving the messages are. Sometimes it’s an assortment of pencil scribbles with the child’s name and age (these are usually parent-written: from Sophie, age three, or Mikey, two years old) included at the bottom. Sometimes the sender chooses to use art instead of words. Sometimes the message takes up the whole page; sometimes it is short and sweet. Often, the child simply wants to tell Arturo “Thank you” or “I love you.”

Many days I’m surprised by the insightful questions that these children ask. How does Arturo write his letters? (Feathers make it difficult to hold a pencil, so he has a human friend that helps him write and draw pictures!) Or how do you explain why Arturo, a male bird, has eggs in his nest? Why, he’s a great babysitter, of course!

Arturo also hopes the eggs will hatch soon, Kinner! It will be great to have some new bird friends to play with.

Arturo also hopes the eggs will hatch soon, Kinner! It will be great to have some new bird friends to play with.

The creativity that this simple act of exchanging messages draws out is absolutely magical. Amelia loved “imagining the excitement as children discovered a response from Arturo,” and I’m just as excited to receive their letters in the first place. I’m in for an adventure every time I go to collect the latest crop from that little red and yellow mailbox – there will be some new question, some sharing of an experience in the galleries, or some imaginative drawing that I haven’t encountered yet.

For now, I’ll leave you with one of Arturo’s and my favorite letters yet–a rare, purely parent-written one. Signed only as “Papa Bird,” this touching drawing reminds us of our own families.

"Being a Dad is a Real Adventure - Love, Papa Bird"

“Being a Dad is a Real Adventure – Love, Papa Bird”

So as we head into the holidays, whichever one you may celebrate, don’t forget to give your loved ones a great big bird hug…

…or if they’re too far away to hug in person, a piece of wonderful, magical mail should do nicely.

Jennifer Sheppard
McDermott Intern for Family and Access Teaching


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