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Fountain Pen Water Painting

27 Mar

Isn’t it great when you find a new use for something? For those of us who love (and purchase) nice pens, it’s especially great because it makes your already valuable tools even more valuable. 

The particular use I’m going to share with you today works with any fountain pen no matter how expensive (or inexpensive) it may be. And for those of you with a creative aptitude, you’ll really like this.

Fountain Pen Water Painting is a very simple technique. Draw a line with your fountain pen, inked with a favorite color of course, and then come along with a wet brush to make it bleed.

It creates a lovely effect and really highlights your inks.

In the images of the orange flower, I’m using a Lamy Safari Fountain Pen with a Fine nib and Diamine Ink in Pumpkin. I’m using a Kuretake Waterbrush, but you can use any water brush and for that matter, any paintbrush at all. What makes a waterbrush nice is that you can house the water in the barrel of the brush itself.

 

Do you see in the progression of the flower being colored in how much variation there is in the color of the ink? This technique really gives a lot of dimension to the piece and it looks lovely too.

I stumbled into this technique a few years ago. It was spring and I was sitting outside with some postcard-sized pieces of cardstock, a fountain pen and a waterbrush. I drew a simple outline of a manatee and then ran back over the lines with my water brush. The ink didn’t bleed, but rather I was able to spread the ink around to exactly the spot I wanted it. My simple line drawing of a manatee became a nicely shaded illustration in just a few seconds with very few tools.

Here’s the original manatee, it was done with a LAMY Safari as well and I used Diamine ink in Damson.

This method became my method of choice as time went on. All I needed was paper, a fountain pen (which I already carried in my purse) and a water brush. No need for paintbrushes, cups of water, mixing dishes, blotting towels … the simplicity of the technique and the portability of the items needed is what has kept me coming back.

This technique lends itself well to lettering. The effect created when you add a little water to ink is beautiful. I’ve used this on the front of notecards myself and I always surprise the recipient when I tell them it’s just a little ink and water and a few minutes of time.

Here is the front of a notecard. Just lines.

Now, with my waterbrush, I trace over the letters. And I go over the letters once more, making them even thicker.

This technique can include actual watercolors too. You follow the same procedure as above, except you fill in or highlight specific areas with watercolors, acrylics, inks, marker or otherwise. Don’t be afraid to add more than one additional color.

Aside from being fun, this technique is incredibly relaxing. Since you don’t have to fuss with many materials, your focus can entirely be on the illustration. And for those of you who enjoy scrapbooking, journaling or writing letters, you can probably see how the addition of a waterbrush might be a worthwhile one. The options are as endless as your inks!

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Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

~~~

 

Get Organized: Take Charge of Your To-Do Lists

15 Mar

Are you a chronic compiler of sticky notes? Is your wallet stuffed with small scraps of paper? Do scrawl-covered napkins flutter around in your car? If that sounds like you, you might just be a to-do list hoarder.

To-do lists are good. Usually. They help us remember the innumerable tasks we have to tackle for work, home, committees, kids, and more. But if managing – or finding – your to-do lists takes over actually completing the tasks, your lists aren’t helping. Unless you organize or consolidate your responsibilities into a more streamlined system, you’re not being as efficient as you could be.

Here, based on personality types, are a handful of the best ways to organize to-do lists from various aspects of your life – and the products to facilitate your newfound sense of organization.

Separatist

If you strive to keep your professional life separate from your personal life, institute a system that encourages that separation. To help you compartmentalize your various roles and responsibilities, pick up a set of Moleskine Volant notebooks. Dedicate one to work and one to life, and clearly label the two notebooks so that you’re not tempted to grab whichever is closer.

Rhodia Spiralbound Square Reverse Book (8.25 x 8.25)

Rhodia Spiralbound Square Reverse Book (8.25 x 8.25)

Minimalist

Not everyone can achieve it, but if your goal is simplicity, consolidate all your to-do lists into one single notebook. The trick is to create a habit of always carrying that one notebook with you since everything will be housed together. A side spiral Rhodia will help you keep all your lists in one place. With a sturdy cover and side binding, a Rhodia can be taken in and out of your bag, tossed in your car, and lugged on an airplane and still keep your to-dos together.

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook (5 x 8.25)

Moleskine Classic Large Ruled Notebook (5 x 8.25)

Traditionalist

Those who love the Moleskine tradition may balk at the idea of replacing their do-it-all notebook for a different system. With a simple hack, convert your Moleskine into a to-do list organizer. Use your favorite size notebook, and divide it into sections for each task area, like work, life, home, goals, and so on. Tabs can be made from almost anything. For example, fold a small sticky tab in half, write the title on the edge, and tape it into place, or cut up expired gift cards for durable tabulating.

Clairefontaine Classic Extra Large Side Spiralbound Notebook (8.5 x 11)

Clairefontaine X Large Side Spiral Notebook (8.5 x 11)

Goal-Getter

For those with many goals, many tasks, and many to-dos, a large notebook is a must. The Clairefontaine Classic Extra Large Spiralbound Notepad is 8.5- by 11-inches, which gives you enough space to outline all your tasks and related notes. Plus, since the pages are perforated, you can tear them out to file as needed.

Multi-Tasking Mom

For the busy mom on the go, the Exacompta Exafolio Executive will keep all your lists organized in one place. Six file compartments accompany a notebook, which allows you to keep like items – errands, grocery lists, kid-related to-dos, and so on – together.

Whichever product you choose to manage your to-do lists, the ACME Sing Sing 4-Function Pen is the perfect complement to keep your organization streamlined. Instead of cramming multiple implements in your bag or notebook, this one piece has a stylus for your PDA, a pencil, a pen, and a highlighter for convenient note-jotting.

Whatever your personality, there’s a product that can help you organize that never-ending flow of to-dos. Now, if only there was a product to complete those to-dos for you!

~~~

 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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Carnival of Pen, Pencil & Paper

6 Mar

Welcome to the March 6, 2012 edition of the Carnival of Pen, Pencil, and Paper! We’re thrilled to host this month’s Carnival and we hope you enjoy the selection!

Notebooks

Nifty Notebook presents Early 1980s “Comp” Pocket Memo Notebooks posted at Notebook Stories, saying, “Some gems from my collection: 1908s spiral notebooks that look like composition books!”

Alex Witte presents (Most of) My Notebook Collection posted at Economy Pens.

Sandra Strait presents Bleedthrumanade in Moleskine & Review of the Moleskine Squared Notebook posted at Life Imitates Doodles, saying, “A review of Moleskine’s Squared notebook showing how it holds up to the alcohol marker.”

Sandra Strait presents New Tangle Pattern Malacca & Review of the Moleskine Volant Journal posted at Life Imitates Doodles, saying, “This could be considered for the art genre as well as notebook because I always do artwork to use in my reviews.”

Sandra Strait presents New tangle pattern Twining & Review of the Rhodia Unlimited Pocket size Notebook posted at Life Imitates Doodles.

@EuroPaper presents The Birth of the Book Letter posted at European Paper Company.

Office Supplies

Charles Chua C K presents All About Living With Life: 10 Office Efficiency Tips posted at All About Living with Life.

Liz Shaw presents You Can’t Make This Stuff Up posted at Liz Andra Shaw, saying, “How the lust for office supplies led one woman into a funny situation.”

Pens

Cheryl from Writer’s Bloc presents STAEDTLER Mars Draft 924 Technical Ballpoint Pen Review posted at Writer’s Bloc Blog.

Okami0731 presents Featured Pen – Waterman 42 Safety posted at Whatever.

Heather presents Pentel EnerGel 0.7mm Black posted at A Penchant for Paper.

Miscellaneous

Tiger Pens presents The Fountain Pen Rest Stop posted at Tiger Pens’ Blog.

Charles Chua C K presents All About Living With Life: Office Feng Shui – 5 Great Tips posted at All About Living with Life.

Clement Dionglay presents Ink Review: J. Herbin Ambre de Birmanie posted at Rants of the Archer.

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Thanks so much for joining us! Use this shortlink to share this post: http://wp.me/p1PnL4-og

Submit your blog article to the next edition of Carnival of pen, pencil and paper using the carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on the blog carnival index page.

The Birth of the Book Letter

16 Feb

Two of my favorite things on the planet are books and letters. About two years ago, I created a way to combine them—a Book Letter. It sounds simple enough, and it can be as elaborate or straightforward as you’d like to make it, but I promise it will be something treasured forever by the recipient of your choice.

What is a Book Letter?

I love writing letters and far prefer the long missive that goes on for some pages, like a long, in-depth conversation with someone you enjoy spending time with. Short notes have their place, of course, but long letters are definitely more of a treasure to hold onto and re-read. However, long letters take time and thought, and in this busy age of quick text messages and emails, it is quite rare for people to write extremely long letters, especially in one sitting.

The Birth of the Book Letter by Tamra Orr on EuropeanPaper.com

Enter the Book Letter. Basically, you take a small notebook (2 by 4 inches, or pocket-sized, which is 3.5 by 5.5 inches), dedicate it to one person, and start writing letters in it whenever you get a chance. They can be long or short, and once the book is filled up, it’s time to send it off to the lucky person. This is the first iteration of the Book Letter—simple, efficient, and practical.

If you’d like to develop a more complex Book Letter, give it some depth. Keep an eye out during your daily routine for items the recipient would like. Perhaps such items like a newspaper clipping of a review for a play they like; snippets of a friendship poem you came across online; a quote that reminded you of the person, some funny cartoons and other small paper “tuck-ins.” These can be glued into the small notebook, taped onto a page, or just tucked in.

Once you get the hang of it, each Book Letter will be easier and quicker to create. Start deciding ahead of time what else will go in your Book Letter other than just your handwritten letters. Keep a small collection of items to tuck in the next Book Letter, as well as some small notebooks whenever the feeling grabs you to start a new one.

My Book Letter Process

Personally, when I start a new Book Letter to someone, the first thing I do is decorate the inside page with the name of the person I am sending the letter to. I typically use calligraphy pens and stickers to do this and often add the date.

Next, I choose a theme for the book letter—anything from Victorian elegance or going “green” to highlighting a specific season or holiday.  (I use scrapbooking supplies for much of this.) Once I’ve chosen the theme, I go through the notebook, page by page, and add stickers and borders. If I was remotely artistic, I would add sketches and drawings. So if you are artistic, this is a great place to show off your talent.

Now it’s time to decide what “tuck ins” will go with this letter. Maybe it’s pictures of my kids opening their Christmas presents or watering the plants in the garden. Maybe it’s a newspaper article or a magazine column of interest. It might be a funny cartoon that made you laugh or a copy of a quote from a book that had an impact on you. Truly, there are no limits. Just choose something that reflects who you are and who you are writing to.

Finally, I start writing the letter itself, skipping around the tuck-ins and filling up the pages.  I write a few pages and then put the letter away for a day or two before adding more words. Eventually the Book Letter is ready—a true gift for whomever it is sent to.

Ready to try your own book letter? Start by choosing a small notebook. Some great examples include Apica’s CD-10, 11 and 15 Series, Moleskine’s Volant Notebooks, and Rhodia’s Pocket Unlimited Notebooks. These notebooks come in all sizes, with as few as 10-12 pages or as many as 150. They can be lined or unlined. What kind you choose is up to you, but remember that filling up much more than 30 pages or so can be challenging. I recommend starting small.

Book Letter Tips

Next, add stickers, pictures, drawings/illustrations, whatever you would like to decorate your pages. Finally, start writing. You might write two pages today, put it away for a week and then add a few more. I’ve been known to complete a book letter in one sitting—and take almost a month.

Remember that a book letter is like an art project – there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is simply YOUR way of doing it. It will reflect your thoughts and your time and there are few gifts as worthwhile as that.

~~~

 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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Happy Valentine’s Day! Love, EPC

14 Feb

Top:
Meadowbrook Farm Blog’s ”Manual is a Must
Dottie Angel’s “Have a Heart” How-To

Middle:
MyPipSqueak’s “I’m so in love with you journal”
EPC’s Moleskine Love Stack

Bottom:
Design Sponge’s “DIY Heart-Shaped Paper Clips”

10 Letter Writing Tips

31 Jan

Writing a letter might seem like an art that no one follows anymore, like speaking Latin or doing the jitterbug (and where else can you find a comparison between those activities but here at EPC?), but there are many enthusiasts still out there. You’ll recognize us if you look closely. We sit in coffee shops with pens and paper in front of us instead of laptops. We walk into office supply stores and head over to the fountain pen ink refills instead of the printer ink refills.  We know how much an extra ounce costs, the price of an international stamp, and how much we can squeeze into a first class priority box before it explodes.

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets on EuropeanPaper.com

G. Lalo Verge de France Correspondence Sets

Yes, I am one of them (and proud of it!), and I write hundreds of letters every year. My free time is spent with pen in hand talking with friends near and far. When I walk out to the mailbox every day, I know more than bills and advertisements are waiting for me.

Of course, to GET letters, you have to SEND letters. So, here are the 10 best letter writing tips I know, based on hundreds of letters written (and received) every year. These tips refer to both personal and professional correspondence.  The first six tips are must-do’s; the second four are options to consider.

  1. When you are going to write a letter, make sure you have enough time to do so. A rushed letter feels like a rushed letter, and typically, handwriting takes longer than you remember. If you aren’t sure you can find a free half hour or hour, combine your writing with other activities like watching a movie, waiting for the dryer to finish or sipping that morning cup of java.
  2. As you begin writing, refer to your last visit, conversation or letter with that person. Mention where you were, something that was said, or another statement that reconnects the two of you.
  3. Date the letter. I know that might not seem very important, but when the person reads the letter, re-reads it, and keeps it for ages, that date is very important. I recently dug through some old boxes and found all of the letters my mother wrote me while I was in college. She is no longer living, so these letters are truly precious to me. I organized them in the order she wrote them and put them in folders. The dates were essential.
  4. Write legibly. I know, I know. Duh, right? But you wouldn’t believe how many people have almost illegible handwriting. They either try to be fancy or they simply haven’t dusted off their penmanship skills in a long time.  If you have trouble with cursive, print. If that doesn’t work well, type. Make it easy on your reader.
  5. Ask the person questions.  A letter that just tells a person all about you-you-you and then says goodbye at the end is not much fun to read and often very difficult to respond to. Ask the person questions, such as: How is work? How are the children? Where have you traveled? What are you reading lately? They can be as simple or complex as you want to make them, but obviously keep your reader in mind regarding the type of personal questions you may ask. This will inspire the person to want to sit down and write back to you.
  6. Follow the simple rules of good writing. Always double-check that you spelled their name correctly and make sure you have the right address for the envelope. You aren’t being graded here, so you don’t need topic sentences and appropriate transitional phrases between paragraphs (yes, I used to be an English teacher!), but make sure you aren’t writing in such a manner that others can’t understand what you’re saying.

Those were the “must-do’s” of letter writing. Here are four more tips to consider implementing as you write more.

  1. Click the image to buy this product on EuropeanPaper.com

    Mudlark Eco Hayden Leigh Memento Boxed Note Cards

    Use attractive paper and cards for your letter. The European Paper Company carries many lovely options, including boxed notecards, a wide selection of eco stationery, and much more. Sure, lined notebook paper is nice, but it can be dull. A letter on fine stationery is often much appreciated, but if all you have is lined notebook paper dress it up a bit to make it special.

  2. Include fun little tuck-ins. Getting a letter is fun – getting a letter with surprises tucked inside it is even better. It can be photos, newspaper clippings, comics, bookmarks – whatever you want. These little extras can make letter writing even more enjoyable.
  3. Respond to letters quickly, but not TOO quickly. If your letter is in response to one sent to you, don’t let it sit around for more than two to four weeks before answering it. If too much time goes by, the person may forget what he wrote or think you have decided not to respond at all.  If I haven’t heard from someone in more than a month, I also send a quick postcard making sure all is well with them. On the flip side, it might sound crazy, but I wouldn’t recommend responding to someone the day or day after you get a letter. That might be so quick that it makes the receiver feel pressured.
  4. Finally, if all of this sounds wonderful but you’re stumped on who to write to, do some homework and check out organizations. If you don’t have family and friends that would be interested in writing letters, go to the The Letter Writer’s Alliance and The Letter Exchange online. They both offer wonderful connections to other crazy letter writers like me. EPC also lists web sites for letter writers to connect (check out the blogroll in the right column of this blog). Believe me—we are out there and waiting by our mailboxes. Write!

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 Meet the Writer: Tamra Orr is a full time writer and has written more than 300 books for readers of all ages. She is also mom to four and writes an average of 50 letters or more a month.

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Penmanship & Calligraphy: Reader Spotlight! + Swashes & Flourishes

12 Jan

Hopefully, Library Hand was a bit of a challenge for you. (Read the 4th post in the series all about Library Hand here.) Sure, it looks simple, but it can be difficult to actually put the components of Library Hand into practice.

In this final installment, I’m going to share two reader submissions, make a few suggestions and introduce you to the wonderful world of swashes and flourishes.

The first sample comes to us from reader Stephanie and she did an excellent job. I only have one suggestion here and this is actually the most common tweak practitioners may need to make in their own writing: angle!

Click to enlarge.

Hopefully you can see my red lines; do you see the variation? We have straight up and down, leaning to the right and a few characters that lean to the left. Take note of the angle you are writing at and make sure it is consistent throughout.

This next submission comes from Sandra of Life Imitates Doodles. An excellent submission – see her original post here. The suggestion I have here is to slow down in the print form. Printing will likely take this user a little longer than cursive as I’m guessing that might come more natural to her.

If you still have something for me to look at, please just leave a comment with a link to your sample and I’ll take a look!

Now, on to the fun stuff. Swashes and flourishes!  (Click on any image to enlarge it; then you can use it for practice.)

Most use the terms interchangeably, but the main difference is that a swash is an embellishment on a letter (like an exaggerated serif) while a flourish can be totally separate from a letter or word.

Let’s take the letter N to start with. You’ll see I take it through the basic letterform, add a swash and then add a flourish. You can do the same!

The J got a flourish up top:

We are not limited to just letters. You can embellish shapes too and use them in your letter writing or journaling.

One of my most-used flourishes is extremely simple to learn. This is a great place to start.

You can tweak the ‘bubbles’ in the simple flourish to get this effect:

And then you can take this flourish and use it! I almost always turn it on its side and shimmy it up against my addresses on outgoing mail.

Another easy flourish comes from the curlique:

There are no rules in swashes or flourishes. There are more traditional designs, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be more modern ones! Take a look at my ‘flourish girl’ and my ‘flourish fish.’

One quick note to help you get the most out of swashes and flourishes: use the right tools! A flex nib or calligraphy tip works wonders. In the samples above, I used a Kaweco Sport with a Medium nib (purple ink) and I used a Kaweco Calligraphy Sport with a 1.1 nib (blue ink). You can see subtle differences in the line work.

Finally, stay aware of the angle you hold your writing utensil at. Try changing it to create different effects.

Thanks to everyone for reading (and participating) in this 6 part series. I’ve really enjoyed writing it and I hope it’s been useful!

~~~

Meet the Writer: Cole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is Article #6 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others here:
Article #1 “Where to Start
Article  #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles
Article #4 “
Library Hand + Call for Submissions
Article #5 “Tips & Resources

 

 

10 Fun and Quirky Upcycling Ideas for Last Year’s Planner

3 Jan

Most people stick their old planner on a shelf, wait a couple of years, and then toss it out. If that works for you, go for it! But if you want to try something different with last year’s planner, consider one of these 10 suggestions – all with minimal DIY know-how required.

  1. File it. Okay, so some people do need to file their old planners. Before you do, though, make it useful. Label the spine with the year. Mark pages that had important events or critical phone numbers. Make it navigable before you stick it on that shelf, and it’s more likely you’ll actually reference it in 2012.
  2. Make a secret box.Love the pretty cover of your 2011 planner? Use it! Flip open the front cover. With a straightedge and a pen, measure out a square on the first page of your 2011 planner leaving at least a half-inch margin the whole way around. Use a razor or X-Acto knife to cut out the square (through all the pages).
    Planner party decor.

    #3: Planner party decor.

    You now have a secret trinket box that will look pretty on your desk or nightstand.

  3. Planner party decor. Coat the pages with colorful or glittery paint. Once dry, shred and use as confetti.
  4. Gaze at your year as a decorative paper wreath. Follow this simple Book Page Wreath Tutorial with your planner pages to create chic decor out of 2011.
  5. Day planner to art journal conversion.Without having to rip, cut, or shred the pages, your planner can be the base for a fabulous art journal. Create works of art on each page using images from magazines, stamps, paint, decoupage, or whatever your preferred medium.

    The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book.

    The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book.

  6. The easiest DIY project ever: Turn your 2011 planner into a coloring book. Hand it to a young child along with a box of markers, chalk, or Crayons. They’ll know what to do.
  7. Hardcover hack. Convert a hardcover into a PDA/eReader cover. You’ll need a knife, scrap fabric, a few inches of elastic, and glue. Remove the pages with a knife, but don’t damage the spine. Cut an old t-shirt or scrap of fabric to the fit the inside cover. Set your device on top of one piece of fabric. Stretch a piece of elastic over the device’s corner to the back of the fabric. Secure the elastic in place with hot glue, a couple of stitches, or even a staple. Repeat for all four corners. Adhere the fabric to the planner cover, and you’re done! Just make sure everything is totally dry before you insert your device.
  8. Shred the pages of your 2011 planner and use them as package stuffing.
  9. Great year? Turn your planner into a “Yay, me!” file. Mark all the highlights from your year with colorful sticky tabs. Landed a huge account? Tab the day you scored the client. Received a promotion? Flag that day. When you hit a rough spot in 2012, flip through your tabbed planner and remember all your wins from the previous year.
  10. Bad year? Build an effigy to a horrible 2011. Tear out the pages and toss them into a bonfire or fireplace. Say goodbye to each bad day so you can face 2012 with a clean slate!

I maintain an organized shelf of past planners, all labeled and flagged. Yet, as I compiled this list, I realized that I rarely (never?) reference them. In January, I’m going to create a paper wreath with my 2011 planner, and I converted my 2010 into an art journal. Now that I have this list, I will start finding fun uses for all my past planners that have been collecting dust.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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Penmanship & Calligraphy: Tips & Resources

29 Dec

Spend all the time in the world you want tracing letterforms and copying words from calligraphy books; ultimately that is not where your ability to write well will come from. Certain principles will aid you in writing well if you follow them; I’m going to share my five core penmanship principles. If you put these into play, your penmanship will improve and your natural style will shine.

Write Often

An occasional birthday card and thank you note is just not going to cut it. If you really want to improve your penmanship and/or be able to write in a calligraphic style of some sort, you need to be writing regularly. And by regularly I mean basically all the time.

That grocery list is a chance to practice, as is the ‘honey do’ list. In fact, those are wonderful practice spaces because you are not only writing something useful, but if you make a mistake it is not a big deal. Whereas making a mistake on your last sheet of fine cotton paper is definitely a problem.

I can also tell you that practicing your penmanship on things that have no use (like just writing out poems or tracing letterforms) tends to discourage practitioners rather than encourage them. We all want to write well and we all want to see our work in use. A notebook full of alphabets written 20 times is not much motivation.

Tip: Great penmanship goes anywhere.

Slow Down

If everyone just slowed down when they wrote, we’d all see improvement. Letters would become more defined and our natural style would become more visible. When we write fast, letters tend to blend into one another and legibility is reduced.

Let’s not forget the very basic purpose of writing: to communicate. When we write fast and hurried, lots of the message is lost.

For example, receiving a birthday card with a scrawled message inside looks, well, scrawled. It looks hurried, it looks rushed. It looks like my friend wrote on the inside of the card literally as it was being put into the envelope.

Tip: Slow down!

Notice Symmetry

If you write often and slow down, you might notice some things about the way you write. Maybe you dot your i’s funny or your h’s have a neat hook at the top. These are not bad things. Notice what you do naturally and carry it through your writing like you are creating a personal alphabet. Your own style of calligraphy.

Strip everything away and then slowly add in. Do not start out by working on swashes and curlicues, zigs and zags. Build your foundation first, and then add on the decorations.

When you write a ‘w’, is the bottom rounded? Or pointed? Does it look like two ‘u’s stuck together or two ‘v’s? If you round your ‘w’ maybe you should see if you can round the bottoms of some other letters. Like the lowercase ‘t’ for example. Can you put a little hook in the bottom of your ‘t’ to mimic the ‘w’?

Tip: Look for what you do naturally and then repeat it.

Use the Right Tools

This one is a little tricky. How do you know you are using the right tools? Trial and error. If you write often, slow down, and notice symmetry, you can then determine what type of paper or writing utensil might be best for you. If you write small, you’ll probably want to go with a fine-tipped pen so your writing becomes more legible. If you write in a very simple, minimalistic way without much embellishment, you might want to try writing with a stub-nibbed fountain pen or a chisel-tipped pen just to see how that might change your writing.

Aside from the visual effect a certain pen or paper would have on your writing, the ‘right’ tool for you is also determined by the natural way you hold your pen.

Most Americans tend to grip their pens and pencils really tight. I was one of those people! I used to have calluses on my fingers from where I held the pen. When I switched to a fountain pen and loosened my grip, I saw immediate improvement and felt immediate improvement. I am partial to fountain pens because they do all the work; your hand is merely a guide.

Tip: Consider how you grip the writing utensil and try loosening your grip or holding the pen at a different angle.

Don’t Compare

The way I write is not the way you write. Someone else will always have better handwriting than you if you are looking for it.

These are five of my most important tips for writing well and I hope you’ll give a few of them a try. If you want a little more fuel to add to your penmanship fire, I’m including some of my favorite haunts on the web for you to peruse.

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Meet the WriterCole Imperi is a business owner and a proponent of the handwritten word. When not at Doth Brands, a Branding & Identity firm catering to the health, wellness & deathcare professions where Cole works as Owner and Creative Director, you might find her on her yoga mat teaching yoga or behind a laptop writing for Simplicity Embellished, a letter-writing and lifestyle blog.

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Editor’s Note: This is Article #5 in a series of 6 on the topic of penmanship & calligraphy by Cole Imperi. Read the others so far here:
Article #1 “Where to Start
Article  #2″Where it all Started & Where it is Today
Article #3 “A Look at Several Calligraphic Styles
Article #4 “
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Foolproof Tips for Organizing Large Projects in Your Planner

25 Oct

My planner is my lifeline. I bet you feel the same about yours, too. Without diligence, though, it can become a mess: over-stuffed with sticky notes, lists and meeting notes jotted on random pages; receipts stuffed in the front cover; phone numbers scrawled across the margins.

Get Organized with EuropeanPaper.comPlanners should keep us on track, but our planners can derail our best intentions simply because we’re not using them effectively. You use your planner to set goals, budget your time, and schedule to-dos. For bigger projects, a planner allows you to map the tasks associated with the successful completion of those projects. Yet, when it comes to those bigger projects, many of us make one mistake with our planners that can cause last-minute scrambles or even missed deadlines.

Whether you use a daily, weekly, or monthly format, there is a simple fix to this common error: Schedule backwards. With this process, you can focus on a strategic action plan rather than a seemingly endless list of to-dos.

You receive an assignment, so you mark the due date in your planner. It seems logical, right? But if you continue to plan for projects to run smoothly and on time, you are setting yourself up for failure by only putting in the deadline date.

Let’s say your boss gives you two weeks to put together a sales presentation. On the day it was assigned or on a separate sheet of paper:

  • Break the project down into all the individual tasks associated with completing that project (gather numbers from team, create slide deck, meet with accounting, write talking points, etc.).
  • Batch similar tasks together to conserve time where possible.
  • Number the tasks (or batches) in the order in which they need to be completed.
  • Next to each task, write down the amount of time you estimate that the project will take.

Flip to the day before the due date. Write on that early date that the project is due. That way, if snags or problems occur, you’ll have some padding built in, and if all goes well, you’ve given yourself an extra day to run through your talk. And if you’re working on a project with other people, it’s smart to plan for an additional padded day just in case you have to pick up slack for team members.

With the list of tasks, schedule backwards. Place the last of the numbered items on your calendar, moving backwards in time. Pad each task by a few hours or even a day, if your schedule allows. This also helps define priorities in your planner, so when you come across scheduling a task on a day you have another project or event, you can move the task ahead or star it as a high priority.

Bonus: Because you pad the deadlines for each project or task that comes in, when things do run smoothly, you’ll find yourself with pockets of empty, unscheduled time. Use those moments to clean out and organize your planner so that you start your next project with a clean slate.

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 Meet the Writer:Maggie Marton is a freelance writer who lives in Bloomington, Indiana, with her husband and their three darling dogs. View more of Maggie’s work at MaggieMarton.com

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