More abstraction – metallic on Mi-Tientes

I did this a few days ago, lost it, and just found it again today. More abstraction of the letter forms I’ve been using from Hans-Joachim Burgert’s book.



This is fairly small, a sheet torn from a 6″ x 8.5″  book of Canson Mi-Tientes paper, done with Luna metallic watercolors and a #6 Mitchell nib, I think.

Daily lettering – Mohawk Superfine and italic as texture

A little materials testing, a little more abstraction …




Moving towards a two-dimensional , flat all-over pattern. I tried to keep the pen-angle, pen-width size, letter order and shape intact, abandoning word spacing and changing only the direction. Sometimes I broke the rules to preserve the texture, but sometimes the broken rules were inadvertent.

Further abstraction from yesterday’s lettering

Now’s it more work — not work, but play, difficult play. And a nice change from the italic exemplar over which I slaved most of today. There is nothing like making an exemplar to point up all the ways my lettering falls short!

2015-01-17 further abstraction


I’m tempted to start again with another set of formal letters, but I may move on.

More Hans-Joachim Burgert process

I’ve been continuing to re-read Burgert’s book,  The Calligraphic Line. At the beginning, he writes that calligraphy is two-dimensional design using a limited set of symbols with a limiting set of rules. He discusses the spectrum of legibility  -> abstract 2D design, and the concomitant spectrum of typography -> fine art. (Or something like that; I don’t have the book in front of me.)

Burgert provides a hittite heiroglyphics image as an illustration to go with his discussion of the leap from flowing oral language to written symbols. After reading this, I constructed an alphabet using elements of that hittite image. It was handy; another image could have done as well. This is the alphabet:

2015-01-16 formal alphabet

Using this alphabet, I wrote out a quotation following standard rules of typography, writing left to right in horizontal lines, paying attention to kerning, and so on.


It was interesting, but I wanted to push it further to abstract two-dimensional design. After one falst start, this was the next step:


I thought it was interesting. And then pushed it further along the abstraction spectrum:

2015-01-16 formal alphabet whence did 3, but was surprised at how little I had moved along the typography/abstraction spectrum between lettering 2 and lettering 3. So far, it’s fairly easy, so I probably haven’t gone far enough yet.

Slow down, you move too fast


2015-01-10 rainbow page of even texture freely written caps

I had planned to write about Irene Wellington today, but I’m still back at that page of even texture that Hans-Joachim Burgert discusses in The Calligraphic Line. I tried it again today. I have things to say about it, but most of it is on the page itself, so why repeat myself? If you want to read it, click on the image to get a larger image.

I did try to have a more open texture than yesterday, but as I progressed down the page I reverted to my “default” density, I guess. Something to work on. There’s always something to work on.  There are always multiple  things to work on. I was particularly aware of the left shoulders of letters like R, P, and D.

This 9″ x 12″ page (IRL the margins are somewhat larger) was BK Rives Heavyweight, which is rather grainy, especially at an x-height of something less than 1/4 inch.

H is Hans-Joachim … Burgert

H is for Hans-Joachim Burgert. Thanks to Brody Neuenschwander’s translation, we English-speaking calligraphers have access to Burgert’s book The Calligraphic Line. This book looks at calligraphy from the perspective of two-dimensional design, and primarily a line in two-dimensional design. But that description is limited; the book is much more. Burgert struggles with definitions of calligraphy. He applies formal critique to calligraphy, setting it firmly in the modern art world. There is no similar book to be found, and I consider it to be part of the central canon of calligraphy literature.

As I wrote in today’s daily lettering, this book is one that I return to again and again, to learn from (and argue with) his critiques, and to re-ground my thinking about calligraphy.

Over the years, I have studied the lettering in several of his pieces. This is the lettering I associate with him (found in this collection but not easily pointed to in situ).

Today’s lettering is mostly freely made capitals written with a size 005 Zig Millennium marker on a 9″ x 12″ page. It is a response to a statement (or challenge) he makes about a piece of calligraphy written circa 300 BC. He admires the writer’s ability to write so freely and yet maintain an even texture and color, and he states,”I do not believe that any modern calligrapher could do this.” I tried it. Towards the bottom I quoted him one of his lettering styles which I’ve studied in the past. Click on the thumbnail for a larger view.

2015-01-08 Hans-Joachim Burgert thoughts monoline free caps

G is for Gail … Rubini

G is for Gail Rubini, who taught typography and print design at Florida State University when I was studying for my Fine Arts degree in Graphic Design.

2015-01-08-TypePoster-20082015-01-08 splituncial_poster 2008In one of the print design classes I developed a typeface, Split Uncial, scanning in letters made with the scroll end of a scroll-and-brush marker. Making the vector letters were easy, the kerning, not so much. Of course, it was just an exercise in how to design a typeface, not a finished typeface. Here are a couple of posters I made with my typeface.

Later, I collaborated with Gail’s team on an installation: My Alaska, Too. I programmed the six-screen interface which pulled in current images of Alaska from the Internet, looping and updating the feed at set intervals.


2015-01-08-monoline-italics-variationsToday’s lettering was done in preparation for teaching a calligraphy class. These italic variations will be part of a handout to help students critique their practice lettering. Variations are as follows: standard italic, 5° slant; italic made up of straight lines to demonstrate both rhythmic underpinnings and the way that the oval is influenced by the stick; low-branching joins (from baseline; high from waistline); high-branching joins (from baseline; low from waistline); a demonstration of inconsistency in shape and branching, but not in width or spacing; condensed italic, half the width of the standard line; expanded italic, written at half the height of the standard line but keeping the width the same.

F is is for Friedrich … Neugebauer

F is for Friedrich Neugebauer.

I never met Mr. Neugebauer, but his book The Mystic Art of Written Forms was a profound inspiration in my early calligraphy studies. This was the first calligraphy book I read that was not grounded in the English stream of calligraphy that grew out of the Arts & Crafts Movement.

Mr. Neugebauer taught typography and graphic design in the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, a school which was allied with Bauhaus and German Werkbund values. I didn’t know that back then, but I did recognize that this was a very different style of calligraphy. The focus on materials and geometry was apparent even before I understood it Constructivist roots. Even though this book is an instructional book — the subtitle is “An Illustrated Handbook for Lettering” — I regarded the book as inspirational rather than instructional. The beautiful, stylized serifs which characterize Neugebauer’s work was were evident but not explained in the book, or perhaps I missed it because I was so far from ready to understand them.

2015-01-07 study of Neugebauer uncialsI don’t think I’ve explained that it is my intention to spend at least 30 minutes a day on daily practice. It’s a modest goal, but attainable. When the backlog of holiday-schedule chores abates, I plan to return to my one-hour minimum. Today’s lettering, shown here, is a first copy of Neugebauer’s Uncial exemplar. Although his exemplar is shown at about 11 pen-widths high, I chose to do mine at about 9 pen-widths with a Speedball “C” nib. The slightly flared finials are a Neugebauer trademark; at this size I achieved it with double strokes rather than pressure, which is what I’m sure he did. The horizontal serifs are partially drawn, although with a little practice they could be made with one stroke and some pen twisting.

These forms are based on Roman Uncials and influenced by the graphic design movements of mid-20th century Europe. They look very different from the Uncial of the English stream of calligraphy, which was influenced by Insular forms of England and Ireland.

I should have used a bigger piece of paper but I only had about 20 minutes 🙂


E is for Ewan … Clayton

E is for Ewan Clayton.

I have taken several workshops with Ewan over the years, and it is always a wonderful experience. Most recently, at the 2013 calligraphy conference Legacies II in Dallas, Texas, we explored a pseudo-primitive lettering style developed by Ben Shahn. Earlier, in 2003, I also studied “Color and Environment in Artmaking” with Ewan and Hazel Dolby at Camp Cheerio. And before that, in 1990: “Spirituality in Calligraphy” at Calligraphy Connection at St. Johns University in Minnesota.

Ewan Clayton’s recent book entitled The Golden Thread: A History of Writing is a must-read for any calligrapher. If there is a canon of calligraphy literature, this book stands firmly in the center with just a few others. I reviewed this entertaining and educational book in the June 2014 issue of the Guild of BookWorkers Newsletter.

2015-01-05 Ewan Clayton workshop my piece 2013This is a not-very-good image of one of the pieces I did in Ewan’s 2-day class at the 2013 conference. I believe I photographed it with my smartphone while it lay on the floor of the workshop room.

Later in the year I spent some more time with these letters and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

2015-01-05 thank-you notes and moreMy daily lettering today consisted of one quotation and several thank-you notes. Shown here is the outside of one of the thank-you notes as well as two of the envelopes.

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