Mark Van Stone - Versals & White Vine Decoration

This class is part of Legacies III.

John Neal Books is not hosting this class.

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Versals & White Vine Decoration

Mark Van Stone

2-Day Workshop

All Skill Levels Welcome



In this class, we shall learn the basic vocabulary and structures of:

  • Romaneque Versal-structure: Basically Capital or Uncial letters with exaggerated entasis and serifs.
  • Versals built of straps of consistent width, and their binding “hardware” of “cuffs”, “rivets”, etc.
  • Sprouts, leaves, branching, flowers, petals, and other building-blocks of vinework.
  • How to construct beautiful growth-curves, with spiraling, interwoven, and balanced branching.

Vinework initials are ubiquitous… So common because their rules are simple, consistent, and learnable.

My teachers were the Medieval artists who made the manuscripts that enthrall us today. Having deciphered their techniques by scrutiny and experiment, I employed their ingenious improvisatory decorations in my calligraphy work for decades.

These are the easiest and most improvisational illuminated-letter techniques. None of these require gilding (though one can add it for accents, or the letterform in Renaissance White Vine can be gilt). Like any improvisatory style, they have basic rules, but once these simple rules and methods are mastered, then the designs are improvised; they really grow organically.



  • The usual calligraphic stuff: pens, inks, good paper, pencil (PL38) & sharpener (PL13), eraser (E13)
  • Drafting pens (My preference: Pigma Micron, sizes 005, 01, 02, 03, 08) (M17)
  • “Bowl-Point” pen nib (and holder) for laying color… Speedball makes one, also most other pen manufacturers. (like a fountain pen-nib). Crow quills if you like them, (N97) (N98)
  • Watercolors and mixing apparatus (I like a Carmex® jar for each color…), (WNWC1) (BR43)(S260)
  • Brushes for laying solid color areas.
  • Traditional colors: Red, Blue, Green, Yellow……but bring whatever colors turn you on.