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!


Following up on the photo in the previous post, I was playing around today with sketching hosta blooms in my sketchbook. Here’s my sketch, in pencil, ink, and colored pencil (title lettering done with the Pentel brush pen):

I have a ways to go before considering myself a botanical artist. This kind of sketching is a challenge for me, because it requires that you see things in such detail. You start to draw a leaf, thinking of it only as a green oval shape, and then you see that, no, the tip is turned up, and you’re seeing two surfaces at once on the same leaf. You start sketching the petals of the bloom, and you realize that they overlap each other in a very particular order. And when you’re sketching from a photo, as I was doing here, you have to mentally translate from a two-dimensional view of the plant to a three-dimensional model in your mind, and then pick which lines and contours you will draw in order to turn in back into a two-dimensional sketch.

A Cyberscribes (see link at right) acquaintance, Bonnie Noehr, recently posted that she was taking summer courses on botanical drawing. I thought this was intriguing, so I asked her for further information. She’s taking her class in Woodside, California (a little far for someone living in New Jersey), but she sent me this link listing classes in a variety of locations. With our first grandchild due any day now, I’m not sure I’ll get around to the classes this year, but it’s one more idea for the “someday” list.

Bonnie, by the way, is a past winner in the Graceful Envelope contest. You can see her winning envelope here.