Sunday, July 19, 2015
Studio Sunday-New Calligraphy
I recently accepted a commission for a quotation from The Confessions of Saint Augustine for the president's office at Merimack College. It was the first time I had taken on a commission for a piece of calligraphy that would be framed in close to 30 years. While it seemed like a good idea when I said yes, I quickly had my doubts. I wanted to keep the freedom I feel I have been writing with of late while creating a piece that would have the level of formality required for the location and the quote. The requested size was 24" x 30". I have to say I wasn't thrilled with the quote. I prefer a quote to end with uplift and I felt that the last sentence did not.
I knew from the start that I wanted to use black ink on off-white paper and that it be just words, with no imagery or background. I experimented with both pen and brush.
I felt the brush lettering was a little too informal and contemporary. I experimented with several different size pens and decided I would use my new favorite nib after the Mike Gold workshop last fall—a Speedball c-4. I did a rough draft in pencil and then ink to get the line breaks and the spacing. You'll notice some calculations on the bottom left as I tried to figure out how far apart to draw the pencil lines. I had sworn that I would never draw pencil lines again but it quickly became apparent that I could not do a quotation of this size without them. To keep more looseness in the lettering, I only drew one pencil line for each line of text (rather than a second one to mark the body height of the letters).
Most of the lettering I do now is either for scanning into the computer where I can make corrections if need be in Photoshop or for casual use. Although I often say, "It's only paper, what is there to be afraid of?", I was. One night before I went to bed, I decided that I had to push finishing the job to the top of my to do list. It was beginning to take on weight and hover above me like a black cloud. I slept a little later the next morning and eased into the day. When I went into the studio, I carefully made the pencil lines, took some deep breaths and began. I got through with no errors and I like to think a liveliness of lettering. I must say I viewed the final product with satisfaction, but whether I say yes if I get another offer is unknown.