1)What is your occupation? Tell us about your art background.

I went to the University of Iowa studying under the “hey this course looks interesting” method. I never really got around to picking a major or concentrating on any particular goal, I just took the courses that I thought looked like fun. Most of them turned out to be literature, history or art courses. One of the art courses I picked up at college was a calligraphy class, which probably turned out to be the most practical thing I learned the whole time I was at school. I found that I really enjoyed the discipline of practicing my calligraphy strokes….penning became a sort of meditation for me. As I’ve always had a fascination for Medieval & Renaissance art, it seemed like a perfect fit. Over the years I started making illuminated books for friends & relatives, & recently I decided to combine my career of Pastry Chef with my obsession with calligraphy by offering wedding cakes & invitation design. Most of my clients are people who want a themed wedding, like Renaissance, Victorian, or LOTR weddings. I have so much fun designing for people who aren’t afraid to try something different!

2) Where did you get the idea for this composition?

This piece is a page from an illuminated book I made of Tom Bombadil’s verses. I’ve always loved his character in LOTR. Even though there are many people who find Tom to be too simple, he has always reminded me of some of Shakespeare’s characters, who can be very funny, & can even seem foolish, but if you look more closely at them you see that they are more than they appear. This is a theme that runs throughout the LOTR trilogy. I’ve also always been fascinated by Goldberry. She’s such a mystery! Where did she come from? Is she immortal? Both Tom & Goldberry are wonderful enigmas! Anyway, this particular verse is actually uttered by Frodo in the book, & he was singing about Goldberry. It’s such a cute scene, cuz even Frodo is surprised that this verse comes out of his mouth! But, Goldberry’s beauty & grace inspire him. As far as inspiration for the composition: I’ve always felt that Tolkien was born in the wrong century. I feel that he would have fit in very well with the Pre-Raphaelites, and I’ve tried to incorporate their style into the illuminations.

3) Tell us exactly what mediums, colours, paper and materials you used for “Bombadil’s Song”.

I used ivory “Strathmore Calligraphy” paper, which is good for ink flow, but also has enough “tooth” to hold paint as well. I’m fond of using my Sheaffer fountain pen on these pieces, even though the ink is not waterproof, because they flow so smoothly, & also because Sheaffer offers so many wonderful ink colors. And I absolutely swear by gouache paint for the illuminations. But I’ve found out the hard way that you have to buy a good quality brand, like Windsor Newton or some other well-documented brand. Those cheaper gouaches are tempting, but save your money for the good stuff! Since neither gouache nor Sheaffer ink is waterproof, I have to use a good final fixative spray: Blair makes one that is compatible with both ink & paint. I use good sable brushes, from fine to XXXfine, and, now that I’m getting older, I use a magnifying glass for the detailed work. Plus, I’d be lost without the scanner & printer on my computer!

4) Why did you choose this specific colour combination for your Illumination and lettering? What mood were you trying to create?

I tried to include some symbols that represent Goldberry into my picture: the water lilies, the graceful reeds, the flowing water. The colors are bright & pure. I used a clear aqua for the water. I wanted to get that intense spring green into the composition, and, of course, gold, for the obvious reason!

5) How long did you take to complete this piece?

This is just one page from an illuminated book of 7 pages. The book took me about two and a half months to complete. I have a large reference library of Dover books for artists & craftsmen, as well as many Medieval & Renaissance Art books, most of them about manuscript paintings & calligraphy & illumination. When I’m working on a project, it’s very intense: I usually stop to eat & sleep only when I absolutely must!

6) How do you display individuality in your drawings?

My strong suit is composition. I have a good eye for what “works” together, & I have a good eye for color. I try to match my illustrations to a particular calligraphy style. Perhaps these things combine to create my individual style, but I don’t really do anything consciously. My work is more instinctive.

7) Do you find calligraphy expressive?

I love everything about calligraphy. I love letters! I love forming them! (Don’t worry; it’s an obsession only calligraphers can understand.) I was so pleased when I saw the Uncial style of calligraphy that Peter Jackson used for Bilbo’s birthday party. I was thrilled when I saw the scenes (in the uncut DVD version) of Bilbo sitting at his scriptorium, quill in hand, scribing his book! I was tickled when I heard that Elijah Wood had become interested in calligraphy & even started taking courses in penmanship!! So I guess the short answer is, yes, I think this method of drawing is expressive. And therapeutic (obviously I need all the help I can get!)

8) So do you need a ‘creative fit’ in order to produce satisfying results with your artwork?

Basically, I do my artwork because I have to. In other words, something inspires me & I feel compelled to put it down in ink & paint. I get these urges, & I’m really driven to finish the project, to the detriment of my other responsibilities! I can’t really imagine doing an art project that wasn’t, at least in my mind, a “creative fit”. I’ve actually turned down jobs when I felt uncomfortable with a client’s proposal, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to commit to it wholeheartedly. Most of my work is done, really, for my own pleasure. I think most artists feel the same way!

9) Give us a few tips that might be useful to aspiring artists.

Most important: don’t worry about it not being perfect! To repeat an overused cliché: just do it! My first attempts at calligraphy were hopeless. I’ve still got lots to learn. I’m not a particularly good “draw-er”, but every project I do helps me improve. Practice does make perfect, especially in calligraphy. If you are doing something you enjoy, you will get better at it. Do it because you love it!

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