Monday, December 6, 2010

Casual Caps

Finally!  Here are a few pages of the alphabet that we studied with Peter Thornton the other weekend.  The workshop was entitled, “Casual and Inventive Caps”, and they are delicious!  I don’t want to go back to using anything else!  J

Now these photos are of my own samples, written during the workshop, so please take them with a grain of salt.  I hadn’t been doing this but for only a few minutes or hours at the time, so please be kind and realize that I am just a beginner at this.  Still, though, I hope you enjoy them!

(You can click on any photo to see it bigger, and even then use Ctrl + repeatedly for even greater detail.)

Peter started us off with straight Roman capitals done with a pencil, learning their proportions by family.  We used a pressure and release technique, so the letters weren’t monolinear, but waisted.

Next we changed the straights of the alphabet to subtle curves, the key word being subtle.  (Should the word “subtle” ever be bolded??  LOL)  Anyway, the curves should be gentle.  A capital H shouldn’t look like a barrel!  J

Then the 3rd variation had us playing around a bit with deviating from the norm.  Try crossing the E extra low…  Instead of the stem stroke of a T being in the middle, try placing it toward the front of the crossbar...  That kind of thing.  Peter’s inventiveness in this regard was just amazing.

This next photo shows the progression of "straight" pressurized Romans, then more relaxed, and then more inventive:

And Peter was such a good teacher!  He was so funny but also very informative.  On several occasions he would use such great descriptive imagery that it helped you “see” and remember, instead of just trying to teach us an abstract form.  For example, for the leg of a K, Peter said to imagine the graceful hem of a gown, draping across the floor.  (!)

Jo Miller has some fantastic photos of his work on her blog:

The pressure and release technique took such concentration, though!!  Whew, my eyes were stinging by that evening, for sure!  But I really loved working with a pencil.  I could erase my mistakes, for one thing!  LOL  But there was something freeing about using such a humble tool.  No ink to spill… No gouache to mix… Just a pencil to keep nice and sharp.  J

(BTW, I love love love the sharpeners I found at Staples.  Peter gets out a knife and does it the “right” way, but I use my Staedtler Wedge Pencil Sharpener.  You get 4 for a little over $4, and it boasts a 3-point fixed blade and all metal construction.  Dime store pencil sharpeners may be cute and colorful,  but I love a *sharp* and serious tool!)

Oh, and I need to mention that at first we worked on layout paper, even tracing the alphabets, but then switched to a nice toothy paper, like Arches Text Wove.  And we ran outa time, but you can also make these casual caps with a broad-edged nib and also pointed nibs, so there’s a lot of material to explore for quite awhile.

(And do I need to mention how much FuN these caps are with colored pencils and gel pens?!)  J

But, ya know, in a workshop there’s so much new stuff to take in that you just can’t absorb it all right then.  It’s like sensory and information overload or something.  And now that the dust has settled, I wish I could go back and take the workshop all over again.  I might actually know what questions to ask now.  Oh well -- isn’t that always the way it goes??  J  J

It was a most excellent workshop and I’d take another one with Peter in a heartbeat!

Lucky Dog  ♥


  1. I love your casual caps! Taking a class with Peter Thornton is on my bucket list. I understand about that pressure release thing. That takes practice for sure. Yours look great!

  2. Thanks, Martha! I *love* your girls!!

  3. Your letters are great! And I love Peter too! I think he will be coming to New Orleans in February of next year. I'm excited! Not sure what he will be teaching, but anything will be great. He is a very insightful teacher and you gotta love the sense of humor:)

    Thanks for the blog link, btw.

  4. oooooh, i LOVED reading about your workshop!! i would love to take a workshop with peter......i have a thing about wanting to learn from the absolute best!! your caps are exquisite......they don't look "beginner" at all!!! i've tried these before.....very difficult to do! but, like you, i LOVE using a pencil......something so comforting about hearing that sound of it scraping across the texture of the arches paper.....!

    thanks for sharing your workshop memories with us!!! xoxo, :))

  5. Peter was great and so hilarious!
    I still need to type up my workshop notes.
    I'll post any tidbits that I come across!

    Oh, here's one: "You don't learn skill, you EARN skill. You don't need more skill, but more understanding." (!)