Anniversary Poem in Calligraphy

I created this background and did the calligraphy for this special 38th anniversary poem. My client, Ron, wrote it as a surprise for his wife Julie, who figures out what he’s giving her each year. Ron started this project early, as he contacted me in March and their anniversary is June 4th! I hope Julie was surprised this time. Read on to see how I put this piece together!

The Poem

“Changing Leaves” is a reflective, hopeful poem about the turns Ron and Julie have made together in their continuing journey. For the background, I chose gray paper called Ingres, purchased locally at Arizona Art Supply. The leaves in the background would be printed in greens and blues with a little silver mixed in. I collected fresh leaves to use with a Gelli plate and acrylic paint to print 4 different backgrounds.

Printing the Background

Printing was kind of a frenzy since the paint dries so fast here in Arizona. I mixed a slow-drying medium into the paint to help with that, but apparently that wasn’t enough. It was just as well though — some things are better accomplished with less thinking. And I did end up with 2 backgrounds to choose from.

Sanding the Background

I almost forgot this step before I drew in the guidelines! The acrylic paint dried very smoothly. “Tooth” is the texture a paper has, and this paper had barely any left. So, I lightly sanded the printed paper to get a little texture back. This way, the metal nib would be able to get some traction over the prints as I wrote, rather than sliding over the paint: a potential disaster.

Marking the Layout

I have, for the most part, learned not to rely on the edges of a piece of paper to be perpendicular to each other. Instead, I mark the center of the page and measure out from there to define the edges of my design. I also carefully marked the margins so I wouldn’t get confused. You can see the word “margin” lightly written at the top right hand corner of this image.

Ruling the Guidelines

From there, I used a white fabric pencil to rule the guidelines. One benefit of having a little extra material — in this case, the extra backgrounds — is to be able to test the materials together before going in for the final calligraphy.

Practicing for the Final Calligraphy

I actually penned a short Mary Oliver poem to practice for the Anniversary Poem. And I get to trade the practice piece for a skull drawing from another artist. It’s something we agreed on a few years ago and we’re finally making good on it. All that to say, I made sure I could erase the fabric pencil from the surface of the poem.

This calligraphy script is called Italic. I chose it because it has lots of opportunity for embellishment, but also looks elegant when it’s understated. Most importantly, it’s so legible. This ink is Ph. Martin’s Bleedproof White. I’m proud that I finally learned how to dilute it properly, which contributed to me being happy with the calligraphy.

Finishing and Framing

After I finished penning the poem, I couldn’t wait to frame it. But first, I went into the background with silver watercolor to outline some of the printed leaves. I also painted some of the leaves I reserved from the initial printing process.

Since Ron and Julie love to be outdoors, I went into my stash of pressed leaves that I collected from Mount Lemmon. I cut this black mat board with a white interior. Then, I arranged all leaves around the poem, overlapping the mat board in places. Lastly, I glued the leaves down and framed it in a black frame.

Tip: to take photos of your framed work without getting the glare on the glass, just take the glass out of the frame. You can put it back in after you’re finished taking too many photos.

Delivering the Anniversary Poem

I met Ron at Caffe Luce in late May to deliver this poem to him. I was running a little late (meaning I wasn’t going to be early as I like to be), but I found time to wrap the framed poem in brown paper so Julie wouldn’t catch a glimpse of it!

Currently, custom work like this makes up the majority of our business. I think this speaks to what people are really looking for when they’re requesting calligraphy. This is a one-of-a-kind piece. It’s a thoughtful gesture from one love to another and meant to be enjoyed as a visual reminder of Ron and Julie’s journey.

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