8/08/2008

Designing with lettering

Some of you have commented on the lettering that I have used in the "Illuminations" series of designs featured earlier on this blog. Although I am a great admirer of hand lettering and calligraphy, I do not have the skills to take up a pen or a brush and do freehand lettering. I thought I would let you in on a little secret, this blog is a place to share inspiration and information, so for those of you who, like me, want to include lettering in a piece of artwork but need a bit of help- this is what I did.

Firstly, I painted a wash ground in the usual way, allowing two or three subtle shades to mix together, using water based ink. I am a great fan of Dr Martin's ink. (not to be confused with Dr Martin's boots!) Then, I typed out the text on my computer using a very large font, I chose Palatino type, selected bold italic. I then traced around the outline of each letter and placed it in such a way as to meander the words across a curvy line. This was a bit of a fiddle but easy enough, using a good quality tracing paper and a very fine .3 HB lead in my pencil. As tracing puts everything in reverse, I printed the lettering in reverse to start with.

So now, I have my letters in a faint pencil outline on my wash ground. I should add that the wash ground has to be perfectly dry. Next, I took a mapping pen with a very fine nib and drew around the letter shapes, then let this dry before carefully removing the pencil with a soft eraser. Next step, I painted the letters one by one with a slightly stronger wash and Voila! Now I know this is a bit of a cheat, but the final result does look better than adding the text at a later stage by computer. 

Before I close, I must tell you about an amazing calligrapher that came to our bookbinding group to give a workshop. His name is Paul Antonio, if you get a chance have a look at his website, even better, see him in action. He is amazing, what's more, he sings in Italian whilst performing, and I use the word advisedly, his swirls and flourishes! Needless to say that he works without the aid of a computer.

10 comments:

  1. This is a really good idea! I love calligraphy but haven't got the patience to learn how to do it properly - so this would be a great thing to try out for me! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. How incredibly generous of you to clue us in on this fabulous technique. I'm sure many of your readers - including me - will be scurrying to try it! There is a wonderful calligrapher - lives in Wales? Scotland? can't remember! - he is doing a massive St. John's Bible project. Do you know who I mean? Sorry I'm not being more specific. I'm going to go look at your calligrapher now. Thanks for your beautiful blog.

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  3. Paul Antonio is WONDERFUL. I went googling for the scribe I was referring to in my earlier comment. His name is Donald Jackson. Here is a blurb about him: "As Senior Scribe to Her Majesty the Queen’s Crown Office at the House of Lords, Donald Jackson had reached the pinnacle of his profession. But for years he had an unrealized dream: to write the Bible by hand." Here is a site about the bible project:
    http://www.heritageedition.com/about.htm
    And here is another: http://www.saintjohnsbible.org/people/saint_johns.htm
    If you google his name you'll find out more about him.

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  4. Thanks for the information Morna,
    How amazing, I have looked up the websites you mention, what an incredible feat! I shall look some more when I have more time. I am in awe of such talent.

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  5. Wow how interesting Valerie :) Would never have thought to do it like this... must be slow work.
    My mum has a calligrapher friend who trained with Donald Jackson...
    Do you know of the Society of Scribes & Illuminators ?

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  6. Thanks Rima for the link. I would love to learn more about calligraphy and in particular illumination.I have had some gold leaf for ages and I don't know how to use it. Sometimes I think that I need another five lifetimes!

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  7. Val, how could this possibly be called 'cheating' when it's the way I do it too?!!...as Rahpael said to Pope Who-knows-which-one-it-was-at-the-time 'Genius takes what it needs'...and that's what we are doing! Yea for Raphael...and David Hockney who is also not afraid to divulge his 'cheating' techniques!!

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  8. I used to love printing out type, altering it as you have described, then scanning it back into the computer. There is nothing like hand-rendered type!

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  9. By no way is this a cheat, just using the best of all available resources, and the finished result is perfect. x

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  10. You are so talented and your work shows such care.. I am delighted to have found it!!!

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