A virtual meeting with Tamer Ghoneim and the Texas Lettering Arts Council

3.8mm Pilot Parallel Pen, purple ink cartridge that comes in the box of PPP cartridges, never used (I wonder why?? — not ), and an ancient jar of yellow FW acrylic ink, on Strathmore Bristol.

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.

Same 3.8mm Pilot Parallel Pen, purple ink cartridge, yellow FW acrylic ink. Bookhand on Arches Text Wove.

Book arts online during the pandemic

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.
  • Bainbridge Island Museum of Art has video archives of many, many presentations by book artists. https://www.biartmuseum.org/open-book-tours-video-library/

Julie Wildman is offering a free mini calligraphy lesson on Facebook at 11 AM CDT each weekday. https://www.wildmandesigns.com/

And finally, take a virtually tour of a museum here: https://artsandculture.google.com/partner. Some funkier collections include:

You'll find more there too, from heiroglyphics to graffiti.

A good day in the studio with Karlgeorg Hoefer

On the right, stepping it down to 4.1mm x-height (never mind the pencil, which was wrong) and a 3/4mm Brause nib with walnut ink on Strathmore Drawing 400 heavyweight paper.

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.

Structure upon which classical Roman capitals and bookhand letters are based.

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.

A good day all around.

Exploring the hand and vision of Karlgeorg Hoefer

Studying Karlgeorg Hoefer's, "Appel an die Völker der Erde"Studying Karlgeorg Hoefer's,

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.

Daily lettering – bookhand

Daily lettering: bookhand practice with 1.5mm Brause nib and a palette of leftover gouache.. Left side: x-height 5mm; right side: x-height 4 mm.

Lately I've been doing more bookbinding experiments and general studio cleaning and organizing. It's good to get back to daily lettering.

My current reading stack is diverse. I've recently begun Daemon Voice, a series of essays by Philip Pullman. The sheer craftsmanship of his writing makes it a continual pleasure to read his work.

I just finished, finally, The 7½ Lives of Evelyn Hardcastle, by Stuart Turton. I'm not sure it was worth it, but every once in awhile I admired a good metaphor.

Artist book – Can’t Not Look: Democracy in America

The first of a variable edition of 3 manuscript books is complete and available for sale. Can't Not Look: Democracy in America is a collection of quotations from our presidents in three sections: "Civility & Comity", "Ethics & Equality", and "Dangers to Democracy". Each section contains at its center a fold-out quadruple truck of our present leader's tweets on the same subject.

I have nearly completed the second and third books, and am still working on the camera-ready images for a short-run print version.

This book is difficult to photograph, I'm afraid. The paper is vintage handmade John Green: "Dover Castle". Here are a few images.

Gouache and steel nib on John Green "Dover Castle" vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can't Not Look: Democracy in America. Text from George Washington's farewell speech. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.
Gouache and steel nib on John Green "Dover Castle" vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can't Not Look: Democracy in America. Text from Jimmy Carter's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention, 1976. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.
Brush pen on John Green "Dover Castle" vintage handmade paper. From my artist book, Can't Not Look: Democracy in America. Detail of first four-page foldout. Single page size is 4.75 in x 7.5 in.

Decorative exchange envelopes

After a hiatus of some years, I've rejoined an 11-months-long monthly decorative envelope exchange. I'm enjoying it. We aren't required to include anything calligraphic in the envelope -- although we do have to include something. I'm putting calligraphy in mine.

My February envelope, using that palette of leftover gouache (that just keeps on giving).for the card inside.
My March envelope. The blurring kind of obscures the design, but you get an idea, anyway. All done in pencil, which is what I've mostly been doing in my studio lately.

Daily lettering: freely written capitals with leftover gouaches

Freely written capitals using that same palette of leftover gouaches and a 1.5mm Brause nib.

I'm thinking that the little meander book (2.5 x 3.5 in or so) in the corner may be how I got this leftover palette of gouache in the first place. The colors match. If so, then I began with three primaries (warm yellow and blue, cool red), and that's it.

At this rate, I'll be binding another journal of daily lettering soon.