A Weekend with Pat Blair
Inside information into the White House…valuable information on the tools and paper best for Copper plate…examination of the 9 basic strokes of Copperplate letters…expert and concise instruction on every letter, upper and lower case…considerations for double letters…and so much more was covered in the 16 hours that 17 guild members and guests spent with this former White House Chief Calligrapher and director of the Graphics and Calligraphy Office at the White House.
The program began with Kathleen Rollick passing out prizes for a variety of reasons:
The Soon to be Pro Award (awarded to the person who had put the most effort into studying for the workshop): A Canson Pro Marker Layout Pad
The Lifetime Excellence Award (awarded to the most experienced student): A Lindt Excellence Chocolate Bar
The Frequent Flyer Award (awarded to the person who had traveled the farthest for the workshop): Ziploc baggies and tape for traveling with ink, and a brush marker that could go through security and be used for practicing on a plane
Two random drawings to have the workshop supply fee covered
Kathleen said, “Given that we had people traveling a significant distance to attend (California, Illinois, and even Germany) and others practicing for a year in preparation, I wanted to do a little something special to recognize them.” The envelopes containing information about the prize were prizes themselves, with the words “Thank you for joining us” done in elegant Copperplate.
Pat gave to each participant a dark blue folder with their full name done in white Copperplate and embellished with a gouache flower executed using a wedge-shaped (triangular) 10 Royal brush.
The class started with a review of the lower case letters, using a liner sheet with 52 to 55 degree slant lines. ALL of the counters (openings in the letters) are based on the oval. Pat Blair takes the time to square off the top of letters like on the “i”, “a”, “g”, “t”, and “u”. The second day was spent on the upper case letters. The importance of using the least amount of metal touching the paper was stressed. And at the end of the second day Pat taught everyone how to make an elegant mandala which started with an outside circle and an inner circle. Then the circle was divided into 8ths. “S” curves were drawn from the outer circle to the inner circle and then embellished.
Pat strives for a light and graceful quality in her calligraphy. The choice of pen and ink is determined by how or if the piece will be reproduced. She feels that Moon Palace ink is great for fine lines, but to keep it from getting sludgy and thick it needs to have a few drops of water added to it with a pipette every hour, if it is kept in an open container. Iron gall blends, such as McCaffery ink, often develops a mold, which can be warded off by dropping a clove into the ink bottle. Pat Rock learned from Michael Sull that mixing Vermillion and black Higgins Eternal produces a rich, rusty, and cinnamon color which he used on his heart design. Acrylics are good when one needs a waterproof ink.
Pat Blair believes in going for professional grade materials. She said not to skimp on supplies. Canson paper is good for reproduction. It holds up well when scanned. Ink doesn’t bleed on it. Stonehenge paper is good for framed work. She prefers Winsor Newton watercolors and uses gouache also with ink. She prefers Dr. Ph Martin’s Bleed Proof White to be used on dark paper. Her “go-to” pen nib is a fine point Gillott 303, which has a sharp, fine, flexible point. She also likes Hunt 22 and 56, Nikko G and Zebra. Penholders should be selected on the basis of how it feels in your hand. She warned against buying an all plastic penholder, as you need to be able to adjust the metal flange on the oblique penholder.
She had an interesting story about the china she designed for George and Laura Bush in 2008. It has a gold rim with a green basket-weave pattern and a historically-inspired gold eagle throughout the 14-piece place setting. There were many iterations of the design that she went through to make it look more hand-drawn, rather than looking as if the design were computer-generated. Pat shared many fascinating stories, was very patient, and good-humored.
Thanks to Jacquie and Randy Banks for hosting Pat over the weekend. Thanks to Julia Fish Thompson for obtaining the excellent location for this workshop…a room in the Zionsville Town Hall with lots of space, great tables, and comfortable chairs. Thanks to Kathleen Rollick for the many aforementioned deeds. And thanks to Pat Blair for providing us with an informative, entertaining, and most worthwhile weekend.