Don’t be Afraid to Dream

This week is another New-Pen-Week! Last time, I got some Rotring Rapidographs, which I use pretty much the same as the old fine liners I started out with. Not much changed in the style of work I produced, but for me, the process was changed a little. This time, however, I got some Pilot Parallels, which are a kind of fountain pen for broad nibbed calligraphy. I’ve been wanting to start practising some broad nibbed calligraphy for a while now, so that I can further my understanding of Gothic/Blackletter styles, and this week allowed me the chance to give it a go!

Don't be Afraid to Dream

I found a wonderful image that displays a style of Blackletter that I haven’t seen reproduced quite the same anywhere else. The title of the image is “Williams Style of German Text”, which doesn’t seem to bring up much other than the original image, so I don’t have much more information than what you see there. I’m sure there is much to learn in exploring the style, and I’m going to spend the next few weeks trying to understand the intricacies of what makes the letters function in the way they do, but in the mean time, I took some inspiration from the style, as well as several other styles I’ve seen around the web, and came up with the piece above.

The pens came with two inks, which was unexpected, but it provided me with the opportunity to experiment with a bit of colour, which is something I’ve been purposefully avoiding in other works in an effort to focus on form. After all, restrictions are what give us guidance, and having too many directions to explore often leads to little progress. That being said, it’s sometimes refreshing to allow yourself a little deviation. These inks are black and red, though refills are available for all manner of colours, so I’m interested in getting some more in the future. In the mean time, I found neat feature on my camera that replaces individual colours in a photo for others, no photoshopping required. Here, I’ve replaced the red ink with a green, blue, and brighter red. Look how each colour creates a different feel for each piece. Colour matters!

Don't be Afraid to Dream Colours

The speckles that surround the letters were made by pulling on the tip of the nib, and letting it go, which flicks the ink on to the paper. Unfortunately, it also flicks it everywhere else, so I ended up with some red fingers, pens and surfaces. Before I did the speckles, I first drew out some guidelines for the word “Dream”, then wrote in the red parts. Once they were dry, I went over in black to complete the bottom part of each letter, then added in the Copperplate above with a brush pen. The speckles came in last because I didn’t want to get my hands so messy if I ended up making a mistake and discarding the paper!


So last week, I uploaded Monday as the first part of my Days of the Week project, which, as you can guess, will be a seven part project. The goal with this project is to explore diversity in lettering and make each piece of the project as different from the last as possible. This week, not to be too predictable, I’ve decided to go chronologically from my starting point. So, here’s Tuesday!


The style is inspired by Blackletter/Gothic calligraphy, but the main defining feature of the piece is that it is an ambigram. Like several of my other pieces, such as Out of my Mind and the word Longer in this piece, this means that it reads the same both ways up! The biggest challenge of the piece was definitely the T/Y combination. The curl of the top of the T certainly lends itself to the loop of the lowercase Y but the rest of it needed quite a bit of work to come up with something that would read well. Fortunately, Blackletter capital T’s often incorporate a half moon shape that curls around the left and underside of the letter. Here, the shape is very understated so as to make the shape of the y neat and stay within the x height of the piece, but it was nice to find a solution that created stronger stylistic consistency.

The lowercase U and A practically solved themselves once I started with the Blackletter style, and the S, of course, falling as it does in the middle of the word was the perfect centre point for an ambigram, it being a rotationally symmetrical letter in the first place. The last puzzle was the E/D combination. With this, again, I felt like I had stumbled across something that seemed almost too convenient due to the Blackletter style. A quick google of Gothic script will show plenty of examples of the lowercase D with a very low, curled form, which simply requires the bottom of the E to cut through the baseline a little way to achieve the right effect.

When creating an ambigram, it is such a restrictive form that it’s almost more like solving a puzzle than creating something. It’s as though you’re looking for something that you’re not sure is there. Trying to see if a rock contains a fossil, and until you spend the time and care chiselling away the outer layers, you can’t say for sure. Sometimes you find nothing, sometimes just some fragments, and sometimes you find a whole dinosaur. A similar comparison is with very restrictive poetic forms. To craft words to a restrictive form and still say what you want to say is a very challenging thing, and as I’m sure proponents of the “Poetry doesn’t translate” movement would hasten to tell you, it’s not only down to the skill of the poet, but also the intricacies of the language that allow the poem to work. In the same way, just as not everything can be expressed through sestinas or haiku, not everything can become an ambigram, as much as you might want it to.

I did go on to make a vector of this piece, mainly because I wanted to make a rotating .gif of the image. Take a look!Tuesday