I originally created this piece about a year ago, but the quotation was set in type rather than hand calligraphy, and that never made me quite happy. Today I re-worked it with a calligraphic treatment, and I think I’m much happier with it now. This is one of those quotes that I saw somewhere, wrote down in my notebook, and never really questioned the attribution. I hope Mark Twain really said it; some Internet sources seem to cast doubt on that. I like it, anyway.

The photo was taken several years back when we were on a cruise around the British Isles  - I believe we were pulling out of Southampton harbor at the time. As usual, you can click on the image above to see a larger version.

Note for those sharp-eyed readers who may have seen the original version of this post: Yes, I did make a couple of changes. I decided that my two “D’s” in “Dream” and “Discover” were too different in shape, so I replaced one of them by a copy of the other. And after looking at the image awhile longer, I decided the word “Explore” was a little too compressed compared to the other two title words, so I did a small amount of manual kerning by sliding the letters around in Photoshop. Ah…all better now. (If you’d like to compare the two, the original can still be seen in the comments log at http://www.rritchie.com/wordpress/?attachment_id=788#comments)


I do a lot of calligraphic doodling while sitting in the den in front of the TV, with a lapboard and whatever tool is within arm’s reach. That tool often turns out to be my Pentel brush pen, as I really like the spring and point of that brush. These zebras popped onto my sketch pad recently, for no reason I can think of. Maybe there were some zebras on the TV screen at the time:

The technical name for this kind of design is “calligram” – a word or words written in the form of a picture, usually a picture related to the words themselves. Yet another item with no immediate application, in my case. Maybe someone out there has a cute Zebra poem?

Pseudo Kanji

I have been interested in many aspects of Asian culture, and in particular, Japanese culture, for a long time. During my career in engineering, I had a lot of business dealings with Japanese companies, and had the opportunity to travel to Japan several times. Over the years, I picked up an interest in the board game of Go, and tried to teach myself some of the language. To me, the hardest aspect of the language was the writing system. Japanese uses several different alphabets, including Kanji (a set of pictograms for words derived from Chinese), Hiragana (a phonetic alphabet used for words of purely Japanese origin), Katakana (a phonetic alphabet for words of foreign origin), and occasionally, Romaji (Western Roman characters). Writing and reading Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana are difficult because western eyes are not tuned to recognizing differences between characters, and because brush writing is a skill in itself. I do a lot of western brush calligraphy, and I do sometimes try writing certain common words in Kanji, but recently I was playing around with my brush, and decided just to create some marks that resembled Kanji, without concern for meaning. Here’s an example:

Here’s a second example, which I really did more as an exercise in creating a background texture than for the writing itself:

As far as I know, the above marks don’t actually say anything – they’re just interesting doodles. But when I do this kind of doodling, I feel like the Pogo character of Barnstable Bear, who could write, but couldn’t read, and had to have others to read it back to him before he knew what he had written. So if I have written something that offends you here, please let me know!