"It's the dwarves that go swimming with little hairy women!"

"It's the dwarves that go swimming with little hairy women!"

This is a quote from Gimli in The Return of the King, when he's losing the drinking game from Legolas.

With two Lord of the Rings-loving friends of mine I had very recently made the plan to cosplay as a dwarf, an elf and a hobbit; I would be the dwarf. That's how this quote came to mind when I was looking for something to write here. I chose to use it because I thought it was funny to write a drunk quote like that in a pretty script, but also because it offered a few challenges. For one, it is pretty long, and I already have some experience with calligraphy, so that seemed like a good idea. (However, I hadn't used a nib before, so soon I discovered that that extra challenge wouldn't have been necessary, as using this tool turned out to be more different from what I was used to than I could ever have imagined.)

Another challenge was that the dwarves in Tolkien's universe have some very particular traits, and I loved to experiment with ways to express these in a font.

Because of the difficulties with the nib, I decided to do only the first half of the quote for this first stage of the project. Exploring this new way of writing while listening to the videos, I already kept in mind the dwarves: broad, short creatures, fierce and strong, who love metal and curly decorations, but usually write in the long straight strokes of runes. Their character also led me to write with black ink on a brown piece of paper instead of white; in a future version I may use a grey sheet to give the impression of metal. I chose a wide (chiseled) nib, thinking of their strength and the way letters would look when carved in rock or metal.

The result is this:

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In future versions I plan to pay more attention to giving the letters the same size and I'll check out the effect if I write the "A" in a style more like the "O" and "G"; I should make the style more consistent in general, experiment with an I that can't be confused with an S and make up my mind about using a serif or not.

This was one of my first practice sheets (normal printing paper that drinks ink like it's lemonade), when I was getting rather frustrated with the fact that I kept holding the nib in the wrong angle:

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I'll get there with practice!

Another practice sheet, playing with styles:

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My interpretations for "Welcome to Calligraphy" (with the first pen and notebook I found):

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Please tell me what you think, and see you on the next update!

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Update 22-09-15

This time I tested some different nibs, using the course's practice sheets.

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Nib 1 is a pointed nib, but with this one I found some difficulty to get a good contrast between thin and wide lines. Nib 2 is also pointed, but a little more narrow, and I felt a lot more comfortable using this one. Nib 3 is a chiseled nib, but narrower than the one I used for my previous practice.

This is another sheet written with nib 3:

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I tried some different things with my quote in mind, but found that nothing seemed to fit it as well as what I had done last time. So I returned to what I'll call nib 4, the wide chiseled nib I had used then, and again experimented with some different styles. I also tried to draw some concepts in pencil, for example using a braid shape for my "I", but this never quite worked out the way I pictured it.

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Then it was time to practise the styles I liked most on a piece of paper that doesn't drink the ink. I realise there's still a lot of room for improvement, but this gave me a better view of what I want to do for my final version of the quote.

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Let me know what you think of the different styles, and thanks for having a look!

Update 23-09-15

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As the "pillar I" felt too heavy for this style, I decided to look into something else that is very dwarvish: braids! Unfortunately I forgot that I can't draw... But if I practise to make the braided I more narrow, I think this could have a cool effect. What do you guys think? Could the braid work, should I keep to the kind of "I" like the third one in the previous picture on yellow paper, or should I go with a different style altogether?

Final update 25-09-15

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After a bit of warming up while watching the last videos, I did the final experiments with my quote.

For a while I played with the idea of placing certain letters higher than others, but after some consideration I decided against this. Each letter would have to be at exactly the same height as its "mates", otherwise it would immediately look very messy, and I wasn't sure I could pull that off, so I finally went with the straight version (left):

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Then I made some more pencil sketches and decided to try and centre every line.

I also experimented with writing some words larger than others, but as the "important" words are all at the end of the lines ("dwarves", "swimming", "little hairy women"), that didn't really work for this quote.

And then it was time to put pencil lines on my piece of paper and do the Real Thing. Of course I made all too many mistakes, but I like the end result. The writing was all done with the chiseled "nib 4" I spoke of earlier, including the braided "I". The border was added in a drawing program.

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