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Winsor & Newton Inks and Studio Gill

The brand Winsor & Newton written in calligraphyWe recently introduced you to Stephanie Gill in the World Calligraphy Day issue of Penorama, and we promised we'd elaborate. Well, this is us, elaborating!

Stephanie is a calligrapher and botanical illustrator who runs Studio Gill in London. She was introduced to us via one of the gods of the art world, Winsor & Newton, and very kindly reviewed their drawing and calligraphy inks for us. Before we get onto that, though, we wanted to find out a bit more about the Gill in Studio Gill.

All photos are by fellow calligrapher and photographer Anika De Souza - see her photos and calligraphy on her Instagram page.

How would you describe your work?

I try to create elegant and timeless writing, with attention to detail and focus on past scripts.

Gill doing calligraphyWhat got you into calligraphy?

I first came across calligraphy through my work in events and PR. Seeing beautifully written envelopes and invitations was the first step to signing up to my first calligraphy course. I then started to notice that calligraphy was used in so many places, for example on printed media, shop windows, packaging in supermarkets, in advertising.

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?

Inspiration can be found in so many places on a daily basis and sometimes it is all about experimenting and trying out an idea. I also have a selection of very useful books on historic and contemporary scripts and often find inspiration through work by exceptional, well known calligraphers, past and present.

What are you currently working on?

Current commissions include the design of an event invitation, a poem to be given as a gift as well as a gilded letter with painted decor.

How long does it normally take to complete a project?

Every project enquiry is individual and different to the next. I have worked on projects that had to be turned around within a very short time (hours!) but also on projects that have taken days if not weeks to complete.

What are your top 5 pens/inks?

For inks I use a high quality black Japanese inkstick which I use to make my own ink; reliable dippings are Kyoto ink, Pelikan Blue-Black ink, Winsor & Newton Calligraphy ink and Higgins ink. For metallic inks I use Finetec which needs applying to the nib by brush but has a silky and rich consistency.

My favourite calligraphy pens are a handmade, bespoke short oblique pen, the lightweight Speedball pen holder and a straight wooden Brause holder.

Calligraphy toolsWhat pen/ink couldn’t you live without?

A simple, bespoke wooden oblique pen holder which can hold any size and kind of nib, as well as my Japanese ink stick which is also fantastic for travelling.

Do you know when a work is finished or are you constantly tweaking?

Typically I know when it is finished. I prepare a draft before writing the final version and rarely add. Whenever I add more flourishes, for example, the whole piece can fall out of balance.

What work are you most proud of?

I have recently completed work on a very large family tree which is being restored with a renowned specialist. My job was to add all those parts of writing missing from the original. It took hours of content research and practice, focus and patience, to match the style of writing already in place.

I also hold classes to introduce others to calligraphy. When someone walks away at the end of a session being excited about trying out this new skill it is a very rewarding feeling.

Gill doing calligraphyWhat tips do you have for aspiring artists/designers?

Always keep the first pages you have written to compare your progress against! And, be patient with yourself. There can be many frustrating times. If something does not work, perhaps the ink does not flow off the nib or keeps getting stuck in the paper, do seek advice from calligraphers on communities such as Instagram or Facebook. Also, it has taken me 150 practice pages of italic script to realise that slow progress can be incredibly rewarding but equally very hard work.

The word purple in calligraphyValuable advice indeed! You can see Stephanie's passion for calligraphy and art just by browsing through her website. So let's hear what she has to say about Winsor & Newton's inks.

Winsor & Newton offers a wide range of inks, drawing inks as well as calligraphy inks. Both come in a choice of brilliant colours. Both ranges behave very differently on paper and are suitable for different tools.

The drawing ink is fast-drying, water resistant and transparent, and best chosen when using brush, folded pen or broad edge nibs, for example. The consistency is thinner than that of Winsor & Newton calligraphy ink and while it is tricky to use with pointed pen - where it runs out very quickly and requires continuous re-dipping - it holds well on brushes, folded pens and broad edge nibs with reservoirs. It is water-based and washes off easily. These inks are ideal for layering and can be intermixed to create new colours. Before layering, the previous layer should be left to dry fully. I found these inks very easy to work with, though need to point out that it is challenging to create an even colourway. While this might be a wanted and very attractive characteristic for some projects, it might not be suitable for others. The drawing inks can have darker as well as very light, pale tones which invites you to experiment and play with writing forms.

Gill doing calligraphyWhen looking for a more even colour depth, Winsor & Newton Calligraphy inks would be my preferred choice. The ink sits very well on metal nibs, including pointed nibs, and has a slightly thicker consistency and therefore deeper colour. Because of this consistency it is important to give the nib a quick shake to let excess ink flow off the tip before writing. Most colours from this range are opaque and when writing, a very fine stroke can be achieved. The ink flows well onto the paper while writing and allows for dynamic strokes as well. After use it is important to wipe clean the nib and any tools with some water or soapy water as it is a very quick drying ink. I used Winsor & Newton extra smooth and smooth surface drawing paper as well as some rougher surface papers and on all occasions the ink did not bleed into the paper which is a great quality. It is a reliable dipping ink and especially the deep black calligraphy ink would be a go-to ink for those who are wishing to try calligraphy.

11 September 2019


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