Here in the US, cornucopias are associated with Thanksgiving because of the abundance that they signify. The horn-shaped baskets often hold harvest-related goods like wheat, fruits, and vegetables, which gracefully spill out of the cornucopia. For today’s tutorial, I decided to make a calligraphy cornucopia, which combines calligraphy flourishes with the cornucopia concept!
1. Gather Your Paper + a Pencil
I chose to make my calligraphy cornucopia on a brown envelope. You can use any color of paper you want, and it doesn’t have to be an envelope; but I have a gift certificate to send out, so making the cornucopia into mail art was a natural choice! If you’re making your cornucopia on dark paper, grab a white mechanical pencil. If you’re using light-colored paper, a regular pencil is perfect.
2. Make a Calligraphy Cornucopia Draft
I almost always make pencil drafts because they’re great insurance against mess-ups. To make this draft, start by drawing a squished circle with a stem just to the right of the center of your envelope (if you’re making mail art). The circle should be about 1.25″ (32 mm) in diameter.
Now, add curved lines and a curly vine to your circle as shown below.
Now, draw a triangular collection of small circles to the right of your pumpkin to signify a grape bunch. Then, draw two leaves at the top of the bunch.
Now, draw the cornucopia behind your pumpkin and grapes. To do that, start by making a semi-circle to the upper right of the fruits. Then, connect a long triangle to the semi-circle. The long triangle should curl at the end and reach upwards.
Now, make seven or so curved lines that hug the contours of the cornucopia. Then, draw three curved branches with leaves behind the pumpkin.
Once you’ve drawn the branches, make a series of flourishes (i.e. curly lines) to fill out the space.
Continue to draw branches and flourishes until you’re satisfied with the draft.
3. Add White Ink
Now, get out white ink and Arabic gold watercolor. Prep both with water, as per the Seven Tips for Writing White Calligraphy article and the Creating Gold Calligraphy: How to Use the Finetec Palette article.
Set your gold watercolor aside for now. Then, dip your nib in white ink and trace over the pumpkin and the grapes with nice, thick downstrokes.
Now, use a light touch to add thin, curved lines to the pumpkin. Try to focus the lines along the top and the bottom of the pumpkin, and apply them sparingly to the middle. It’s also a good idea to add little dots to the left side of each grape to represent highlights.
Continue to draw over your draft lines until you’ve covered everything but the dots. Remember to make thin upstrokes and thick downstrokes! Beautiful flourishes depend on stroke contrast.
4. Add Gold Watercolor
Now, use your gold watercolor and a dip pen to fill in the cornucopia with “phone cord” flourishes that face alternating directions. Try not to let the sections of flourishes touch. Maintaining clear segments will result in a clean, professional look. Once you’re finished filling in the calligraphy cornucopia, go over your dots with gold as well.
5. Add the Finishing Touches (for Mail Art)
This step only applies if you’re using your calligraphy cornucopia for mail art. First, write the recipient’s address on the left. I’d use a pretty calligraphy style like the Janet, which will complement the cornucopia’s elegance. Making your own guidelines and slant lines will help you to product polished calligraphy.
When you’ve finished the address, add another flourish to fill in space underneath the recipient’s zip code. Then, add more dots of gold to give the piece some cohesiveness. Wait for the inks to dry (overnight is safest, but I was okay with thirty minutes here in dry Colorado), then gently erase your pencil draft lines. Finally, add a postage stamps to the top of the envelope that feature autumn colors! To ensure safe passage in the mail, consider waterproofing the paper.
6. Enjoy Your Calligraphy Cornucopia!
Once you’ve finished your calligraphy cornucopia, take a second to enjoy it! The combination of gold and white inks is just stunning, and I love the abundant look of the calligraphy flourishes — perfect for Thanksgiving.
I currently have this envelope propped up on my desk, and I enjoy getting to look at it every day. It’s such a cool motif, and it’s difficult not to stare at it! It’ll be hard to send this one out because I like it so much, but the fact that it is part of someone’s gift makes it easier. (I am glad to personally send gift certificates $60+ upon request in a beautifully calligraphed envelope like this one.) This will be a jewel in the recipient’s mailbox!
Regardless of your dip pen skill level, I encourage you to give this tutorial a try! I suspect that you’ll surprise yourself — and I promise that your chances of success rise exponentially if you take the time to make a draft. Thanks so much for reading, and happy autumn/Thanksgiving/holidays!