For this year’s Christmas Card I have used a Half-Uncial lettering style based on the script used in the Book of Kells. Although this style in now associated with Ireland, it was in fact used throughout Europe in the middle ages.
I used an “Automatic Pen”, a wide dip pen used for large lettering such as posters. I wrote out the required letters a number of times and scanned the best. The digraph ae was particularly difficult as in this script the left hand side of the a and o look the same, therefore ae and oe are identical. So I was pleased to find some alternate characters in one of Arthur Baker’s Calligraphy Manuals. The initial G is decorated in a later style, which I drew separately in felt pen. All was then scanned into Photoshop and put together with the pale background colour.
So what does it mean?
Glæd Geol is the Old English for Happy Christmas (literal translation Glad Yule). The word Cristesmæsse (Christ’s Mass) was not used until the eleventh century.
I had been researching the design of versal letters used in the Lombardy region of Italy for a different project when I needed a design for a family wedding present. The Lombardic letters have an interesting and distinctive shape that work very well as initials. I experimented with various ways of using watercolour paints to create the initial letter. The watercolour style adds a flowing watery element to the strong but also flowing lines of the Lombardic letter outlines.
Framed with their names and marriage date, the letters made an ideal wedding present, and was very well received. These would also work well for anniversaries such as silver, golden and ruby celebrations.
I have since created single letter versions for births, christenings, birthdays and anniversaries.
The painted letters and frames can be any colour, but I have found that mixtures based on complimentary colours work best. These painted letters (framed or unframed) are now available in my Folksy Shop.
I was recently asked to frame two modern Aboriginal paintings on board about 300 x 200 mm. They were slightly different sizes and out of square. The artists had also painted over the edge of the board. I decided that the best way to display them was Float Mounted in a Box Frame. This presented the whole painted area including the edges and enabled me to use identical size frames. They can now be displayed as a pair although the colour of each painting and its mount are very different.
I have finally got my workshop sorted out and ready for business. Looks great with newly painted walls and floor. I have also found a home for my sixteen-foot long shop sign!
With the help of a local cabinetmaker, I have got the sign up with the glass in position.
The sign is made of one piece of hardwood 16 feet long by 2 feet tall. The lettering is cut into the wood in classic roman style and gilded with gold leaf. The black glass has clear glass letters allowing the gilded wood to show through. The glass is 8mm thick and in 3 sections, 2 of which are over seven feet long.
In 1983, I was working for an ad agency group in Regent Street (central London) and would often walk to their flagship agency in Covent Garden. I would pass a boarded up shop that still had its early 20th century front including the glass sign across the top. One-day builders had moved in and were dismantling the shop. A quick word and a cash exchange secured the sign. The sign grew in length as it came down to pavement level! How could I move it and get it home? Help!
One of the agency’s art directors, Haydn Morris, came to the rescue and we carried the 16-foot (5 metre) sign across central London. Eric Sykes’ The Plank comes to mind as we make our way through the narrow streets of Soho and try to cross Regent St with one of us at each end of ‘the plank’. Having got back to the agency the only place we could put the sign was in reception, needless to say I didn’t work there much longer!
Last week I took part in an NLLA workshop on Ruling Pen Alphabets run by Penny Price. We explored the possibilities of using a ruling pen to create different shapes that could be used to form letters. Penny lead us through a series of exercises to build up guidelines of form that can be used to create original alphabets. Before the advent of technical pens, ruling pens were used to draw rules (lines) in technical drawings of all kinds. By using the side of the nib, much broader strokes can be drawn.
Just seen a fabulous film about sign painters in the USA. Really gives the atmosphere of painting signs almost as a counter-culture activity. Sign writers in the US seem to be a bread apart and one that was heading for extinction, perhaps this documentary will help save them and their distinctive style. The style of roadside signs in the USA could never be confused with their counter part in Europe, where we have also seen these skills disappearing.
It’s always difficult to find the right wording or image for Christmas, not too religious but without becoming completely secular and forgetting that it is a religious festival.
This year I’ve used a poem by one of my mother’s favourite poets, Seamus Heaney. The Last Mummer also connects with me. Since I was at school I have performed a Mummers’ Play in Sussex every Christmas.
I’ve used a letter style that is traditional but not too formal. A sort of Black Letter script. I started by using a broad nib pen to write out the words and watercolour to paint a background colour. Both of these were scanned and taken into Photoshop. I then outlined the letters and cut them out of the colour area and hey presto letters made up of shaded texture rather than solid black.
As the cards were digitally printed I had no choice in the paper stock’s colour so added a tint across the whole card to make it off-white.
Very interesting workshop with Lin Kerr at the North London Lettering Association. More to do with colour exercises than calligraphy. Adolf spent over 15 years of his retirement painting large initial letters (400 x 600 mm) using an unusual palette of colours. We recreated this range of colours by mixing complimentary colours together. We used the resulting tertiary and other colours in the middle, furthest from the two original colours. These were used to paint small letters (30 x 50 mm) in the style (sort of) of Adolf Bernd.