Bridger Mountain Scribes

The Bridger Mountain Scribes of Montana comprises calligraphers in southwest Montana, including Bozeman and Gallatin Gateway. We meet once a month to discuss calligraphy, artists books, and other book arts, usually on the 2nd Monday of the month at the Bozeman Public Library.

We are a member guild of the statewide Montana guild, Big Sky Scribes. If you’d like to find out more about calligraphy in southwest Montana, attend our meetings, or join the guild, email

Next meeting July 15

Our July meeting of Bridger Mountain Scribes will be held on Monday, July 15, 2019 from 11 AM to 1 PM at the library in the small conference room.

And while you’ve got your calendar out, also mark your calendars for the August meeting on August 12, same time, same place.

This month we are continuing to study gothicized italic. If you like, continue with the guidelines given last month. If you’re feeling confident with that practice, I challenge you to expand your study in any or all of these ways:

  1. Continue with the model but change your paper, writing fluid, and/or pen nib. If you change your nib size, you can either writing the same size for a larger or smaller pen-width size, or you can change your lettering size to keep the same pen-width x-height.*
  2. Choose another model, and rinse and repeat: trace, then copy. Depending on the size of the model, you may choose to blow up the model to fit your pen, or select a pen size that fits your model.
  3. Make a finished piece ini gothicized italic. Choose your a quotation, make a few thumbnail layouts, choose one, and do it! Remember that, because this hand is so compressed, the space between lines can also be very small.

Next month, please bring your work — practice pages and any completed pieces. We’ll discuss what is working, get answers to any questions, and mull over what improvements might be made.

And we always like to see whatever else your working, including .. the year-long project (remember that?). I’m finally making some progress on mine.

* A note about pen-width size. The “boldness” of a letter form is measured in the ratio of the pen’s width to the height of the lower-case letters. This image shows a pen-width x-height of 4, with ascenders and descenders to be written at 2 pen-widths high. The smaller number of pen-widths per x-height, the bolder the letter.

Image result for pen-width x-height

Next meeting June 10

Our June meeting of Bridger Mountain Scribes will be held on Monday, June 10, 2019 from 11 AM to 1 PM at the library.

This month we are working on gothicized italic. Here are the instructions for practice:

  1. Gather your materials. 
    Paper*: at least letter size, any practice paper (Strathmore Drawing 300 is good, but copy paper will work). 
    Pen: #1.5 Mitchell Roundhand nib or a 2.5mm Brause or Tape nib, or the 2.4mm size Pilot Parallel pen is close enough to work pretty well. 
    Writing fluid: Use ink or gouache or the ink that comes with the Pilot Parallel pen. 
    Model: the Sheila Waters page of lettering that was handed out at the April class.
  2. Place your practice paper on top of the model. Using a light box or (window in daytime) mark the baselines and guidelines in pencil and then make penciled guidelines with a t-square or by measuring down on both sides of the paper. 
  3. Using the light box again, lightly trace the skeletal forms of the lettering.
  4. With the original piece in front of you for reference, replicate the lettering as closely as possible. Make notes as you go, about what surprised you, what you’re having trouble with, what is working, what you’ve learned, and so on. Think about shape (inner and outer), spacing, ligatures, pen angles, etc. 

If you’re up for a further challenge, pencil in the same guidelines on a fresh sheet and try it again without the benefit of the penciled-in skeletal forms. Much harder, but very educational!
* If you want to begin practicing so that you can bind your practice sheets, I recommend Strathmore Drawing 300 or 400, 18″ x 24″ and cut the 18″ x 24″ sheets in half to get 2 sheets 18″ x 12″ each, and fold them into folios that are 9″ x 12″ when folded. Nest 3 or 4 of these folios to make a section. I number the pages in my sections to keep myself organized. (Unfortunately, this means that your folio folds are against the grain, but that’s not the end of the world.)
Next month, please bring your work and your working materials so we can practice together at the meeting. We’ll discuss how it went, improvements we can make, and what is working too.

Here’s an example of one of my practice sheets. I had moved on copying a sample of Edward Johnston’s gothicized italic (partially shown beneath my sheet).