What a engrossing time I’m having with these built-up caps. What an eloquent, careful, and kind teacher Yves is! I am enjoying reading his oh-so-encouraging yet exacting critiques of all the work that has been posted for his “red arrows”.
As I wrote in my Instagram post,
It’s a slo-mo party in my studio. This page took me three days to do, and it was mesmerizing. A fellow student has called it something like “a festival of emotions”. That’s right. The satisfaction of a well made curve, the horror as one’s seemingly disembodied hand strays irrevocably out of the carefully planned width of a stroke, the shock when one realizes that 2 lines of sub-par lettering have eaten up 2 hours of the day. I can’t wait to do more.
I realize this was a fairly negative view of the experience in its detail, so I’ll add this here: Besides the satisfaction of a well-made curve, there is also the pleasurable process of building up these elegant arboriform waisted strokes, the absorbing interest in sculpting the interior spaces, and so much more.
Stay tuned for week 2b, when we add the broad-edge nib and gouache to the mix.
Built Up Caps began last week. I’m enjoying this intensive 6-week online course taught by Yves Leterme. This is the second course I’ve taken with him online at acornartsclasses.org. He is a wonderful teacher and Harvest has created a really good online learning venue, hosting excellent calligraphers and artists teaching interesting subjects.
At the end of this first week, I’ve got a lot of practice sheets to show (but not to show!). Here were my first attempts, which are rather hard to because it’s pencil.
And here’s the homework assignment I submitted:
Yves uses a digital red pen to mark up our submissions. He was fairly easy on me, noting the rogue K join, a strangely curved N, and — and this one has been so hard for me to fix! — the fact that I often pressurize two stroke-ends that join, creating a dark spot. I thought this would be a breeze to change, but it’s a habit that has been hard to break. This page also doesn’t show a lot of pressure-and-release, as he noted. I have a light touch, so it’s been difficult to get that with a pencil. In a later post, I may show a page done on watercolor paper with a Blackwing pencil. It’s a plan, anyway.
Many of my fellow classmates are posting their work on Instagram, as am I. Just look for the #builtupcapsonline tag. We are all working so hard and having a great time.
Thanks to Angie Vangalis for organizing an open-to-the public (!) virtual meeting of the Fort Worth Calligraphers Guild meeting online this afternoon. It was so good to be with people who care about x-heights, pen angles, and ink properties for a couple of hours.
Tamer Ghoneim presented the program, entitled “Circles on Steroids”, taking us through the process of writing in a circle — and, later, in a series of connected circles. Such fun! I followed along (image above), but instead of the straight-up blackletter that he demonstrated, I chose gothicized italic, a hand that is still texturally dense.
After the meeting I wanted to continue this process he introduced in the meeting: with a purple PPP ink cartridge in this Pilot Parallel Pen, he dipped the nib in the acrylic ink and then wrote, replenishing as the yellow faded and the purple approached full strength. He was using a Liquitex yellow acrylic ink, which somehow turned the purple in reddish, but my FW version didn’t do that, obviously. (I wasn’t at all surprised.) I repeated a quotation that had been suggested in the chat section of the meeting, lettering this time in a straight line somewhat in the style of the lettering by Karlgeorg Hoefer that I’ve been studying. The bolder weight necessitated some modifications.
There are some great opportunities to connect with the book arts community online these days.
There are several resources for video presentations by book artists:
The Guild of BookWorkers has even more videos of past conference presentations. These are usually fee-based, but are now free until April 17. Just use the code ‘GBW4FREE’ at checkout. The default presentation is chronological, oldest to newest, but if you click on ‘Date” you can reverse that. Begin here: https://guildofbookworkers.org/content/gbw-videos-free-1-month. So far I’ve seen Timothy Ely’s 2015 presentation on the drumleaf binding, and Shawn Sheehy’s 2018 presentation on building pop-ups.
I am still studying, still enjoying the hand Karlgeorg Hoefer used in his “Appel an die Völker der Erde”. David Sedaris wrote, “Whenever I read a passage that moves me, I transcribe it in my diary, hoping my fingers might learn what excellence feels like.” As a calligrapher, I really connect with that sentiment. The more I get into this hand, the more I admire Hoefer’s sensitivity and understanding of Roman bookhand. I begin to see that this seemingly idiosyncratic hand actually adheres strictly to the classical Roman Trajan forms. His pen angle matches that of Trajan Romans. The finials are a nod to Trajan serifs. He honors the structure that underlies Trajan Romans, the circle in a square with vertical lines at the intersections of the diagonals. The weight is similar to Trajans.
As I copy out the letters, I begin get into his PacMan ‘e’ — to admire his vision of the classical ‘e’ shape based on the Roman structure, the swing of the foot lengthened to accommodate the next letter. (Because, Trajans or no, this is a minuscule bookhand.) I feel his understanding of the classical arch of the ‘h’ and ‘n’, executed so beautifully in the ‘n’ and ‘m’ forms. I kinetically get his understanding of the way the bowl of an e leads into the vertical stroke of the next letter, and how the entrance stroke of that next letter is adjusted. I struggle not to turn that connection into a caricature of itself. I delight in the subtle shape of the folded-over endings of his ‘f’ and ‘a’ and ‘J’. I mull over his two-story ‘g’ with the upper-story rounded rectangle (called a “stadium”?). Has he widened and flattened this circle to keep it as open and airy as the rest of the letters? I get into the rhythm of flattening my pen angle for the serifs, and slightly steepening it for the next letter, flattening again, steepening again.
I spent an uninterrupted six hours in the studio today. I discovered a good many things that didn’t work, spilled more than one container of liquid — e..g. acrylic ink, gesso — and I scraped out and smoothed over more than one lettering error. At the end of the day it looked as though I had pulled out every tool, jar, paper, and storage box.
But … I now have a solution for a difficult problem — which I will implement tomorrow. I didn’t tramp in too much muddy snow on my newly mopped studio floor. The studio was tidied up quickly. And I have another page of daily lettering.
Ever since I saw it in International Calligraphy Today (1982, International Typeface Corporation), I have admired “Appel an die Völker der Erde”, a calligraphic poster by Karlgeorg Hoefer, . Here I’ve blown it up to the original 22 x 29.75 in and tacked it on the wall, the better to study. In my daily lettering journal, on the verso side, I copied the text as closely as I could, learning the Hoefer’s shapes and connections. He often slightly minimizes and tucks the ‘i’ in; I ‘ve inadvertently exaggerated it here, but I was so enjoying this tucking-in. The second stroke of the ‘r’ is often raised up the waistline to allow the next letter to tuck in. The bottom of the bowl of the ‘e’ is often pulled below the baseline to allow the next letter to tuck in. In a double ‘l’, the first one is usually normal while the second one dropped a little low to unlock it from the first. The ‘ch’ combination is always connected, but because the bowl of the ‘c’ is extended and foot of the ‘h’ raised to tuck into the bowl, it isn’t seen as a ‘d’. He seems to have done a push-pull on the finials of the ‘r’ and the ‘a’, similar to what happens in Carolingian ascenders, for instance.
These details form a compelling picture of idiosyncratic yet consistent choices that are both subtle and purposeful. Rhythm is important to the success of this piece.
Rhythm is also what my studies don’t have … yet. I’ll keep working. I’m thinking that a better paper (this is Strathmore Drawing 400 heavyweight), would be helpful. Hoefer wrote on “Japanese paper with Antiqua surface”. I haven’t been able to figure out just what that means. Nontheless, a kinetic understanding of Hoefer’s letters and connections will eventually yield that rhythm, and it’s what interests me most in this study.