I’m continuing to enjoy Akim lettering. I made these in preparation for next month’s local guild meeting. Even though I switched to a brush pen for the main lettering, I tried for a fairly monoline effect. I love doing Akim lettering with a brush pen.
Here I used the same palette as for the first one, but mixed neutrals. After I penciled in the box and did the main lettering, I went over the lettering inside the box with Pebeo masking fluid and a bowl-pointed pen (didn’t want to ruin my tiny brushes). Then I painted in the box. When the paint was dry, I removed the masking fluid with a rubber cement eraser. I had done a pretty bad job of tracing the lettering, but that was all right. And where it was just too egregiously out of whack I painted some neutral back in and blended it with the rest of the painting.
I’ve come across Akim script several times over the years, most usually because I return again and again to Hans-Joachim Burgert’s book The Calligraphic Line. This script is an approach as much as a hand, developed by Burgert. Until now, it has not drawn me in. But now I see it as a relaxation of the confines of lettering in favor of the graphical aspect of the page. And I’m really enjoying it.
These pages were done while sitting at the piano through many hours of choreography and staging and technical rehearsals for a production of “Carousel.” All I needed was a pad of Clairfontaine Triomphe paper and a fine-line marker. (I didn’t even need guidelines, a circumstance that is quite freeing.) Most of these were done with ZIG Millennium markers, sizes 005 to 03.
Our local guild, Bridger Mountain Scribes, is now 8 months into a year-long project. We are each making a portfolio of 6″ x 9″ pieces featuring a variety of monoline lettering styles and watercolor decorations. My theme is “Questions.” And here’s my piece, which I may re-do, for month 6. (You can see 3 earlier months’ work here.)
Our local calligraphy guild, Bridger Mountain Scribes, has embarked on a long-term project. Each month, Diana demonstrates a new layout, monoline lettering style, and/or decorative treatment for our 6″ x 9″ watercolor pages. At the end of the project, we’ll make an enclosure to house our pages. Here are three of the pages I’ve made during recent meetings.
Here’s a perhaps weird mash-up of summer, illumination, pencil, and Ben Shahn’s lettering.
I have an impressive, or perhaps merely excessive, array of flip-flops, all dating from at least 15 years ago, when we moved from Florida to Montana. They were all the footwear I had, besides a pair of sneakers and a pair of dress sandals. My closet looks very different now, but I love hauling out the box of flip-flops every summer for, oh, about 6 weeks each year.
Done in my pencil journal on a plane with a Blackwing pencil (Natural).
This week I begin teaching a 3-week, online edition of my workshop, “Ben Shahn-ish.” In preparation, I have continued to improvise with Ben Shahn’s folk hand as a basis. I last taught this more than a year ago, but each time I revisit the hand I discover more about it.
Ben Shahn’s folk hand is a wonderful canvas for improvisation in so many ways. As far as I know, we don’t have conclusive information about what tool he used for these letters. Ignorance is bliss in this case: I’ve tried them with a broad-edge pen, a pointed pen, a folded pen, a pointed brush, several pencils, and more. Each tool teaches a little more.
Later I’ll discourse at length on a philosophy of learning, but first: There’s a lot going on in the studio! But I have very little to show here. Nearly all of my recent work has been commissioned for weddings and other occasions. I’ve also updating the workshops I will teach this summer and fall.
In the past few weeks, I’ve completed a ketubah with watercolored maple trees, a Quaker-style marriage certificate (on mat board, unusually), place cards, menus, chopstick tags, invitation addresses, and more. And I’ve been developing new handouts for my updated “Ben Shahn-ish” workshop.
How we learn
I often use the pages of my daily journal to determine lengths, plan layouts, and explore scripts and script variations. When sharing my daily journal with my (awesome!) critique group last week, someone asked me how I switch so easily between calligraphy hands. I didn’t have an answer then, but I’ve been thinking about the question a lot.
It has something to do the way we learn. I vaguely remember that the ancient Greek philosophy of education asserted that when we learn one subject, we apply that learning to the next subject we learn, and we also learn how to learn, and so on. I think it’s called constructivism in modern jargon.
It’s all coming together
So when I first learned Edward Johnston’s foundational hand, I learned to analyze shape and spacing. Later, I learned pointed pen lettering and the important kinetics of pressure-and-release and gestural writing. When, much later, I circled back around to bookhand, that learning gave me the tools to do the pressure and manipulation required for a nuanced bookhand such as Civilité or those taught by Elmo van Slingerland. That’s just one example.
My point is that, after a mere 40 years of lettering, the disparate disciplines have come together for me, both intellectually and kinetically. Every hand has its mix of shape, counter-shape, gesture, tempo, rubato, pressure, nuance, and more. At this point, to sit and write in an italic hand and then switch to an uncial hand is, at its simplest, a matter of changing up the combination of these elements.
… except when it’s not, of course
This is not to say that I can perfectly render every hand at any time. Not at all! To write my very best bookhand, for instance, I’d need to write a lot of bookhand for several weeks. And I’d have to write with focused intention. This is true for just about any hand. And it’s true for broad-edge pens, pencils, and pointed pens. (I’m least tutored in the latter). The brush lettering is creeping its way into the tent, though I may not live long enough for the brush to join the other tools fully.
This is how I feel today. Tomorrow, I may sit down at the desk that my great-grandfather built for his son, the desk I’ve sat at for the past several decades, and find that I know nothing whatsoever about lettering. It has happened often enough now that I know to expect it.