Feathers & Flourishes: Jake Weidmann Gives Traditional Bird Flourishing New Life
Every calligraphic tradition around the world has its own form of flourishing. But early experimental pointed penmen began an art form far more complex and imaginative than had never been seen before: off-hand flourishing.
European penman were the first to do pictorial flourishing, creating images out of sequenced pen strokes. Their designs were carefully executed and meticulously planned, but in the end, they gave flat, dull results. It was the American penman who started flourishing in a less formal sense. They began to use the pen more fluidly to display the versatility of the penman’s skill.
While there have been countless subjects depicted through flourishing, birds have risen to the top as the favorite subject of the pen flourisher throughout the ages. Birds are the icon of grace and whimsy. “They’re a great subject to depict with the fine strokes of the pen because of their aerodynamic form,” says Jake, my bird flourishing expert. “Birds are full of life, and that vitality can easily be given to the bird on paper through flourishing. The art form matches the subject.”
Early experimental penmen found there were endless possibilities in showmanship with off-hand bird flourishes: the small and feeble sparrow composed of a few simple strokes or the powerful eagle designed with more complexity. As you look over the pages of history, every bird carries the distinct personality and signature of the penman who created it.
Left: One of Jake’s practice flourished birds perched on a scroll with a quill integrated into the design, 2016; Center: "Eagle and Anchor" – pen and ink, 2007. One of Jake’s first flourished birds, inspired by Master Penman Zaner’s famous eagle; Right: Simplified bird flourish executed with Jake’s handmade snakewood straight penholder.
My Artist and Master Penman follows the long tradition of bird flourishing as a way of showmanship among his peers today, but has taken it one step further.
“You cannot honor the past by repeating it. You honor the past by giving it new life and relevance in our modern age.” This is something Jake has said throughout the years of his career. He has experimented with bird flourishing since early on as a penman, finding new ways to display his skill and creativity.
"Immanuel" – Meaning “God With Us," this was commissioned by the president of Jake’s Alma Mater, Biola University, in 2013.
It was in 2012 that Jake discovered his own signature style of bird flourish, mixing hyper-realism with traditional calligraphic flourishing. One of the first in his series was Little Sparrow (below, left). This piece emerged from the wreckage of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting in December of 2012, an event that left the nation broken. At a loss for words in the midst of that dark night, my Artist found his voice in his work – and new expression through an age-old tradition.
Since 2012, a full-fledged flock now flies around our studio-gallery, each bird given its own unique narrative through their spirited flourishes.
Left: "Little Sparrow" – pencil, 2012. The flourishing off the wingtips of this humble bird shows the powerful impact of a single, small life. This piece emerged from the sorrow felt in the tragic aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting. Right: "Flight of Fancy" – pencil, 2016. Jake’s latest gallery release transforms a small barn swallow before our eyes as his ink-dipped wing tips take on full-fledged flourishes. This expert design of flourishing, inspired by Master Penman F.B. Courtney, creates a seamless grace around our small acrobatic bird as he traverses the open skies.
Left: Jake painting the finishing details of his White Breasted Nuthatch. Its creation process took a total of two months. Right: The final version, "Ascension," was completed in Spring 2016.
Left: “Blossoming to life!” Jake's latest work-in-progress. Right: "Birds of a Feather" – pen and ink, 2009. New life comes to an old cliché as Jake playfully utilizes calligraphic off-hand flourishing to create an eagle from 31 individual birds. No doubt there is power in numbers as delicate fledglings conglomerate into a single bird of prey.
Jake continues to flourish birds as they have never been seen before. His nearly finished peacock in white ink (above) is the world’s first-ever fully bloomed flourished peacock. “In all of the research I’ve done and archives I’ve explored, I’ve never seen a peacock flourished like this,” Jake told me with his initial concept of the piece.
Another “first” rounds the corner in our studio as Jake prepares his largest flourishing piece to date (iPad sketch shown above). Standing four feet tall by six feet wide, a lightly sketched canvas of two back-to-back swans perch themselves on his easel. This piece eagerly awaits my Artist’s brush in 2017.