Home Upcoming Events Decorated Letters with Dr Mark Van Stone G220622

Decorated Letters with Dr Mark Van Stone G220622

Learn techniques honed over centuries by master scribes to illuminate books. European Medieval Scriptoria developed some of the most accessible techniques for creating beautiful letterforms.

Every calligrapher will tell you, “Calligraphy rewards the beginner from the first day, but continues to reward the diligent student and professional for the rest of one’s life.” As experienced calligraphers will attest, it actually takes years to master Roman Capitals, the loftiest letterforms. But the prolific book-production workshops of Paris, Florence, and countless convents developed drawing techniques that could be mastered by the lowliest artisans in the studio.

Mark Van Stone has unearthed and re-created these secret techniques to enrich your lettering with beautiful decorated initials. One of the secrets to these rich designs is *improvisation*… Every style of letter-decoration is drawn organically and incrementally, like glorified doodling. It requires little pre-planning, using a simple vocabulary of basic forms to construct awesome passages of flowing decoration.

In our five days of Decorated Letters with Dr Mark Van Stone, we shall study:

• Versal letters (Simplified yet sublime Capitals, in four variant forms), • Early Penwork filigree (The reason it is the most abundant motif in illuminated manuscripts is because it is so easy…), • Celtic knotwork (Again, there is a reason it is SO abundant), • Building letters and page-frames from Interlaced Vines, in two variant styles, • How to decipher an illumination technique from an ancient manuscript. •• You might describe this work as transcendent doodling! •• (Note: while Gilding with gold leaf is not officially part of the workshop instruction, many illuminators included it in their designs. We shall have a demonstration and sharing of gilding techniques, but that is a whole week class by itself!)

$625 plus lodging and meals, ranging from $684 (dorm) to $1,074 (private bath) See option by using the “Register Now” button.

At this time masks are optional in indoor spaces. Proof of covid vaccination or negative test within 72 hours of arrival at Ghost Ranch. Both policies are subject to change. Sample: Lodging options for 6-night workshops range from dorm-style $684 to private bath $1,074 which includes room and meals for the first person occupying the room. If you are sharing the room with a family member or trusted travel companion, the second occupant should register for their workshop separately and choose the "commuter" or "2nd+ person sharing a room option" in lieu of a lodging option. This will help ensure that all participants are included in meal counts, and placed in the correct workshop in order to receive the pertinent follow-up information.


click to download


Please use the options below to find helpful information regarding Ghost Ranch Workshops and Retreats

If you need shuttle service, please reach out to Kevin at White Buffalo Shuttle 831.359.8077/ |  nivek @cruzio.com

No notes for this event

Virtual Events: Payments made for Virtual Events are non-refundable. If you are unable to attend the event, recordings will be made available to you after the event. For events with multiple sessions, every attempt will be made to make the session(s) available to you before the next scheduled session.

In-Person Events: During this Covid-19 pandemic period, written notification must be received no later than 45 days prior to the start date of your workshop in order to receive a refund, minus a $100 processing charge. No refunds will be processed after that time. We reserve the right to announce a change in leadership or cancel any program 45 days prior to the first day of the workshop. In that event, you may transfer to another workshop without charge or we will refund the full workshop payment. Many participants have found it helpful to purchase travel insurance. This cancellation policy does not apply to January term. If the cancellation is Covid-related and is received less than 45 days prior to your start date, your funds will be left on deposit for another ghost ranch workshop or future stay or you can make it a full donation to support us through this unique business period.

Ghost Ranch Scholarship Request

Thank you for your interest in applying for a Ghost Ranch scholarship. The typical scholarship amount is $100-350. We are able to grant more scholarships in the winter, spring and late fall seasons than we are in the summer months. 

You will receive a copy of your scholarship form after you submit it and should hear back from Ghost Ranch about your application within a 10 working days. If you have additional questions, please reach out to Robin Keck, robingk@ghostranch.org.



Click here to see a full list of FAQs

What day/time does the workshop start and end?

In-person workshops begin with check-in at 3:00 p.m. and a ranch orientation in the evening on the first date listed for the course and end at 10:00 a.m. with checkout on the last date listed.

Virtual workshops will have a varied schedule that is identified within each workshop description.

During Covid safety period - single occupancy lodging is the standard
  • During Covid-19 periods, all lodging types will be single occupancy at no additional charge. Of course, you can share a room with a spouse, partner, family or another person that shares your full-time residence. The extra folks that share a room will pay for workshop registration fees and meals.
What is the difference between a room with private bath, a room with semi-private or shared bath, and a room with communal/dorm bath?

Private bath refers to the type of bathroom, not single occupancy

Private Bath Room: There is a bathroom in that one room that is not shared between or with any other rooms. The highest rate tier of Ghost Ranch lodging.

Semi-private/shared: There is a bathroom between two rooms that is shared by the occupants of the two adjoining sleeping rooms. These rooms will only be used as family or group suites, not to be shared by unknown neighbors as in the past.

Communal/dorm: There is a communal bathroom/shower in the lodging building and participants will need to exit their room to reach these facilities.

Click here to learn more about lodging at Ghost Ranch


  • Dr. Mark van Stone
    Dr. Mark van Stone

    Dr. Van Stone received his undergraduate degree in Physics and worked in the gamma-ray astronomy laboratory at the University of New Hampshire, until lured away to self-employment as a calligrapher and carver. He established himself as an expert in calligraphic paleography and the evolution of written forms, teaching and lecturing widely on the subject for the next twenty years.
    A lifelong autodidact, he constantly seized opportunities to study in the reading rooms and storerooms of libraries and museums throughout the world. A stint as a clay-animator at Will Vinton Studios, and study with netsuke carver Saito Bishu Sensei in Kawaguchi, Japan, focused his sculptural skills. A Guggenheim Fellowship took him around the world, studying manuscripts and inscriptions of many nations, from Medieval Europe to the hieroglyphs of Egypt and Central America. His unique approach to understanding any craft: practicing it. There is something one learns by actually making an artwork that one can learn no other way. Mark’s unique combination of scientific training, passion for beauty and calligraphic expertise has bestowed profound insight all these diverse traditions.
    In the 1980’s he began to focus on the most complex and little-understood script, Maya Hieroglyphs, entered the University of Texas graduate school under the reknowned Linda Schele, and earned his Ph.D. in 2005. During this time, he co-authored Reading the Maya Glyphs with archaeologist Michael Coe – the standard introduction to the topic. He is presently Professor of Art History at Southwestern College, and in 2010 published the book, “2012 – Science and Prophecy of the Ancient Maya”. He is presently putting finishing touches on a catalog of Ancient Maya ceramic molds in Guatemala.


Jun 05 - 11 2022



Pin It on Pinterest