Teaching Ben Shahn -ish letters

My exploration of Ben Shahn letters. Click on the image for a closer look.

I enjoyed teaching Ben Shahn lettering to members of our local guild this month. Well, my take on them, at least. Clear examples of Ben Shahn’s actual lettering in this style have not been gathered into a book that is easy to acquire. In The Complete Graphic Works of Ben Shahn, there are some small images and one large but very faint image.

The renditions of contemporary calligraphy teachers vary widely. I think this is because the way the letters are put together with one another is as important as the letter forms themselves. Ben Shahn delighted to nest letters together, especially “LL”, to enclose one letter wholly or partially within the preceding letter, and to allow adjacent letters to sometimes share a single stem. It is a gently playful hand that is a delight to write.

We also explored the properties of Bister inks, which are similar to walnut ink but made in a range of colors.

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