Artwork and Design During the Pandemic, Part One

PLEASE NOTE: I am sad to report that the artist's book and box I show here was stolen from the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center in April of 2022 while on display with the Science Stories collaborative exhibit. The assumption was that vandals destroyed my work and that of 3 other participating artists. There has been no follow-up other than an email expressing sadness over the loss.


In the early months of 2020, I accepted two dissimilar book design projects. Here is an overview of the first one.

Science Stories: A Collaboration of Book Artists and Scientists

In November of 2019 (it seems so long ago!) I was contacted by Tacoma's University of Puget Sound (UPS) and invited to participate in an unusual scientist/artist collaboration. I was paired with Dr. Rachel Pepper, a professor of physics currently teaching at UPS.

First: a note on what artists' books are. They are not necessarily pages bound into a cover. Book forms, as artists see them, can be series of images or structures whose parts are presented either separately or joined. They may or may not have words, even, but are typically sequenced as "pages."

Here are the six "pages" of my book presented as a folding screen with an historic side, and a contemporary side. The contemporary side features the research work of Dr. Rachel Pepper. The historic side features the work of the microscopist Antonie Van Leeuwenhoek of Holland.

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Above are pages 1, 2 & 3 mounted in a screen format. These represent the work and words of Van Leeuwenhoek of 17th c. Holland. He discovered the protozoa Vorticella convallaria. The title page calligraphy is by me, but done in the style of his own writing. I imitated his drawings on page 2. On page 3 are my own pattern designs based on his drawings.


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Pages 4, 5, & 6 represent aspects of Dr. Pepper's work on the same organism that Van Leeuwenhoek discovered under a primitive but powerful microscope of his own making. Dr. Pepper's work is significant now due to the remarkable filtration of water done by these tiny organisms.

Click HERE for the photos and video I provided for my artist's book depicting past and present research on the protozoa Vorticella convallaria. (My apologies for speaking so slowly during the video!) A video featuring Dr. Rachel Pepper is also included in this comprehensive website.

All of the artists' books in this collection are currently on display at Collins Library on the UPS campus until January 14, 2022. In March 2022 the exhibition will travel to the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center and in the fall of 2022, it will travel to Whitman College in Walla Walla. If you are interested in hosting the Science Stories exhibition, please contact Lucia Harrison ([email protected]) or Jane Carlin ([email protected]). Click HERE to go to the home page for Science Stories.



My yard is attracting robins. Slim, paler ones that are busily collecting nesting materials - rotund, chesty ones that are on worm-plucking duty, and one extraordinary one that was meditating in the fig tree yesterday. Against the clarity of the blue sky, this robin was beyond plump. I looked at it from below, in awe, taking time out from my weeding. Once back in the studio, I made a small sketch. Today, using the sketch, I created the cartoon below. Welcome, robins!


Psalm 98:4-6 & How I Avoided Straight Lines of Calligraphy

From time to time I'll still do a calligraphy commission when the assignment beckons. Earlier this month I accepted one that was to be given to a retiring church choir director (I've removed the dedication line from beneath the piece for the sake of privacy). The exuberant scripture and the request that the calligraphy not be on straight lines (how often does this happen?!) piqued my interest. Here's the finished work, with a few notes beneath it (click for a close-up view):
Psalm4blogA The recipient's favorite color is green, she loves her garden, and she also loves instrumental as well as choral music. Plus, she is relatively young so I decided that a youthful, lively rendering of this Psalm might suit her well. I first made a pencil sketch which was presented to the client, and after a couple of minor adjustments were made, I proceeded to the final artwork. While not having to adhere to straight lines is fun, it does require careful plotting out of the spacing and the curvature of the lines. The central passage in Italic lettering could use improvement, but after weighing the pro's and con's of starting over, I decided to carry on. One of my favorite things about this work is the turquoise watercolor I used for the first time: cobalt teal blue. The final gold touches on the lettering and illustrations are dots of 23k gold leaf. I used hot press (smooth) Fabriano paper, and lightfast Winsor & Newton watercolors.

Playfulness with Letters and Letterforms: Picture Your Words

Yesterday at Letters of Joy, a calligraphy and paper arts conference sponsored by Write On Calligraphers of Edmonds, WA, I had 36 adventuresome students in two classes entitled Picture Your Words. The eager artists rose to the challenge of thinking differently about lettering and images brought together. They gamely followed a series of exercises I had prepared for them (if you are one of those students, know that I appreciate your hard work) with the help of a booklet I designed for the classes. On the cover of the booklet was the artwork shown below. It exemplifies the final exercise I gave them and was done with a fine black gel pen and Winsor and Newton watercolors. The original is 3" x 3.5". Can you read it? Here's to having fun with drawn letterforms and color. Try it!

Opera Names as Calligraphy Exemplar

To demonstrate how straightforward calligraphy can help capture the meaning of words and names, I elected to change styles with every opera name in the column below when asked to do this commission for a retiring costumer for Seattle Opera. (Need opera now? Click this link for a few bars of the current feature.) Comedic or tragic, Germanic or American, the opera names each suggest stylistic treatment. This calligraphy was freely written and not retouched. Is your favorite opera listed here?

The Pen Unleashed: Romping Letterforms

I think this is true: many calligraphers are drawn to the craft because they love structure, detail, and disciplined letterforms. But given a sudden lapse in conformity, calligraphers can cut loose from all this and let the pen do the walking. Such a lapse happened to me recently, resulting in the composition below.  The words are quoted from Minnie Aumonier, the pen used was a Speedball C-2, with the color added digitally after the unretouched calligraphy was scanned into PhotoShop:
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In Good Taste: Designing for Chocolate


What role can a calligrapher's work play in modern packaging design if lettering is not required? Calligraphic line used as ornament has elegant, illustrative character. For this packaging design project done for Seattle Chocolates Truffles, I was asked to provide an overall pattern of calligraphic swirls that would be printed on the bag and also on the box. Here you can see the artwork before it was applied in the printing process, and the final package. The result is a timeless design that has kept this product a bestseller. To view this product on the Seattle Chocolates website, click here.

Please visit the gallery of additional Seattle Chocolates packaging images in the column to the left of this post.