Sunday, December 30, 2018

Forty Years #39: How I Work Now

My current approach to calligraphy probably owes most to what I consider to be my signature work, the ongoing  Spirit Books series of handmade sculptural books using natural materials. While Childbirth Journey is the first work I consider to be truly my own, the form (traditional lettering and abstract pastel gestures) was not. The Spirit Books took four years to develop from my initial attraction to gathered sticks and vines and is more original in its concept. Over the 26 years and 100 books, I have kept the process as organic as possible. I have applied that same process to my calligraphy.

I never make sketches. I do not arrive at a design up front. I always work at the scale the final piece will be.
White Ellery House, Marker on Tracing Vellum, done on site

I usually don’t decide on the style of lettering until I start writing. The pen or brush, paper, words, and my state of mind lead me.
Speedball c nib & Dr. Martin's Bleedproof White
Speedball c nib & Dr. Martin's Bleedproof White

 Speedball C nib & Higgins Eternal Ink
Pilot Parallel Pen
Ruling Pen

I almost never make lines. I do on the few occasions when I am doing a longer original piece. If it is short and original, I’d rather do it multiple times than make lines. I think of Robert Henri’s assertion that  “every true work of art is the attainment of ... a more than ordinary moment of existence.” If I am doing work for reproduction (easier to post and share), I can make corrections in photoshop. My most frequent problem is having the lines go slightly higher on the right. I have been told that in handwriting analysis this is the sign of an optimistic personality. 

There are two things in my relationship with calligraphy that have allowed me to develop this approach. One is that I do not teach. I only have to learn or keep up with what I want. I have no obligation to be able to write a hand so that I can teach it. Two is that I do no commercial or commissioned work.  I can be completely personal in my focus. Of course, there are things that means I cannot do but I have chosen my path. Part of what these 40 posts have done is show me that I am where I am because of choices made. I can let go of paths not taken and fully appreciate the one I am on.

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