A bit more Snape-ish calligraphy

(First, a quick note to anyone who has been getting malware and virus warnings when visiting any of my websites or circlet.com — they’ve FINALLY killed the infection. I hired a professional team from Sucuri.net who not only eradicated all the malware code, they hardened my WordPress installs, and they will keep watch for one year! Good stuff.)

Now, on to the arty stuff.

I undertook to practice two different alphabets here. One is a form of uncial that has a sort of Celtic look to it (having been the style used in many of the church manuscripts) and the other a more formal Gothic blackletter.

I’m better with the formal ones right now because I’m very stiff as a beginner. I have a bit more control and my inaccuracy and untrained muscle memory are minimized with the very formal letters. Whereas the uncials seem — to me, anyway — to want a bit more expressiveness in the stroke and I don’t yet have the fineness of technique to be able to be more expressive without just plain getting things wrong, letters too big, too small, strokes not matching as they should, etc.

Anyway, first “The Half Blood Prince” in uncial:

I played here again with the Pilot Parallel fountain pens which let me mix the inks somewhat, flowing from black into (bloody) red.

Before attempting the form of blackletter I hadn’t before, I first practiced it using just a plain piece of paper (from my laser printer) and a Sharpie brand calligraphic tipped magic marker. First I practiced the whole alphabet, both majuscule (uppercase) and minuscule (lower case) letters. Then i wrote out a sample of what I wanted to create in the piece.

For this I chose a quote of Professor Snape’s, from that ill-fated Defence Against the Dark Arts class:

“The Dark Arts are many, varied, ever-changing, and eternal…”

Here’s the mock up, side by side with the finished piece:

As you can see, once I got to the real lettering, by then my internal editor had kicked in and I thought “really? would Snape be that redundant? or was that just a case of J.K.R.’s editors being lazy?” I decided to edit the quote.

Here’s a closeup of just the quote.

I played with the “blood” effect again, to signify the internal struggle that Snape must have had between his love of the Dark Arts and his knowledge of what they had wrought.

I recall what Yoda said about the “seductive” nature of the Dark Side of the Force. Part of me thinks that the reason Snape could never fully love Lily — oh, he was smitten with her in his juvenile, emotionally-stunted way, and upon her death that galvanized into an obsessive devotion — why Snape’s emotions for her never matured better while she was alive was because he had already been seduced by the Dark Arts. Ultimately the Dark Arts are about selfishness and selfish ends. Voldemort is the ultimate narcissist and when his followers are at their worst (see: Lucius) they are much like him. Until Snape could love Lily more than dark magic, he could not truly love her (or anyone). I think this meant he also could not love himself. The feeling of power and self-worth imbued to young Severus by his mastery of the Dark Arts was a surrogate for truly learning to love himself, a surrogate which prevented the maturing of his emotional state. And of course upon Lily’s death and the self-blame that came with it, could anything but self-loathing have arisen? If anything, the Dark Arts and the feeling of power they brought only became even more of a crutch, a kind of self-medicating.

It makes me realize once again that it isn’t Harry Snape hates. It’s himself.

Anyway, these are the sorts of thoughts that well up during the meditative sort of mind-wandering that happens while lettering. It takes me a fairly long time to letter something like this. These thoughts culminate, then, from the internal battle taking place in Severus’s conscience, from the sort of blood/soul sacrifice that casting the Dark Arts requires, to the final word of the quote: “eternal.”

The letters in eternal are shakier, their lines less rigidly upright, skewed slightly to the sides as if on the verge of collapse like the leaning walls of dilapidated buildings. Eternal is forever. Eternal is there is no coming back from the dead.

Probably no one who sees the lettering will actually glean any of that from the piece without reading my explanation, but I’m really making this art for me, not to hang in galleries. One would hope, though, if my grasp of the craft would reach a certain mastery, though, it might have a chance of making sense. (And not merely look like my hand got tired near the bottom of the page…)

Finally, here are the two pieces side by side, so you can see how very different the two alphabets are.

Next, I may tackle the various house “mottos” from the Sorting Hat song(s), in house colors…?

One thought on “A bit more Snape-ish calligraphy

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