How to make a Vine Flourish

A few weeks ago I had to address some envelopes for an envelope exchange organized by the EPPC. I was late, as always, but I really wanted to do something special, so I though of leaving the calligraphy pure and intact without any other ornamentation than its own strokes and adding all the decoration in a dense limited space like a precious ribbon on the side of the envelope. I wanted the design to be essential in its strokes but rich and complex in comopsition.

The Vine Flouish is an elegant flouish with very simple base elements that you can create to ornate your envelopes or your calligraphy. It’s perfect to create a highly decorated frame around your work, or even whole backgound, but can also be used in a more dispersed form.

step to step guide

  1. Define borders: defining borders will give you some guidelines for your work and maybe, even the courage to brake them;
  2. The oval, like in most pointed pen styiles of calligraphy, is the base shapes of this flourish, draw ovals with your pencil until you fill your area;
  3. Choose the main branches, look at your ovals and think where your vine wants to grow, I usually choose a wave path around my base ovals and I highlight that path with a darker pencil;
  4. Choose the main dorps in the design, I would usually continue the path over the missing part of the oval and complete it with a big dark drop. These drops will be the darkest spots on your design, attract the viewer’s eye and create thie vine flourish distinctive contrast, therefore you don’t want to use too many of these drops: one for oval will be enough;
  5. Add introvert branches, these secondary branches with their smaller drops will follow and undereline the wave movement of the main branch that you have chosen.
  6. Add extrovert branches, these secondary branches with their smaller drops will take away the attention from the main wavy movement.
    • Try using the secondary branches at point 5 and 6 to create strong crossings between strokes and look for occasions for flower vases to be filled with other branches
  7. Add fillers, the only limit to how small with your branches you can go is the point of your pencil, the fillers branches starting from the same principles seen above help balance the composition and creating complexity
  8. Leave room for Gold! While drawing your branches try to plan and save some white areas in relevant positons like at the center of your swirls or sorrounded by drops. These blank spaces will host gold circles. The gold is optional, if you don’t have gold leaf or metallic pigment, the design will still work well, though I believe that gold adds that extra subtle focal points that catch the eye and interest of the viewer.
  9. Ink time: once your draft is ready you can go over with ink, when adding ink your perception of the design can change: don’t be afraid to slightly (or even drastically if you are a rebel) change the design and the drop positions, it’s part of the process. Once your ink is dry, please wait or you will lose all your work (I talk from personal experience) you can erase the pencil and pass to step n. 10
  10. Gold time: golden accents can be added in many ways, gold leaf with its shine and colour gives the best results, but you can also use metallic pigments or markers. The temptation to have your design dripping in gold is great, but golden accents work because they are accent, make sure you don’t turn them in a whole language.

The same thought process can be used for projects with many different applications here I used the vine flourish as a background to a drawing I made. I built one modular element and replicated it until I filled the space

Here I used that same modular element but I added variations to frame the cards to go with the envelopes above

Here you can download for free the template I created for the cards above, a full page in Vine Flourish and a single branch you can use to compose your own Vine Flourish. I’d love to see your work and your Vine Flourishes so make sure to use the hashtag #vineflourish on social media!

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