Exploring the uses of handwritten letterform, gesture and space

graphic design
book arts
Calligraphy, or beautiful writing, in words often ascribed to Plato, "is a geometry of the soul which manifests itself physically". The Greek word kallos refers to artistic beauty of the highest level and deepest understanding. The Greek root verb graphein is translated as either writing or drawing, both of which require laying down a line.

Throughout history the scribe has been honored for the ability to put thought into words, whether to keep track of cattle, record a beer recipe, proclaim the omnipotence of a leader, jot down a poem, or expound on spiritual truths or scientific, socio-political and philosophical theories to distribute to the world.

Handwritten letterform is the form, shape, and space created by the line. There is a personal challenge and reward when the pen is our tool of choice.

Line is meant to have energy!

Letters have an anthropomorphic quality to some extent, and have their own postures. Sometimes the same letter seems to sag or have a good lift, depending on who draws it (or when). Counters, or the white space inside a letterform, can swell in a healthy way, or be pinched almost out of existence. Letters can hug each other or be standoffish, can harmonize or contrast, exist happily together or seem to fight for the same place on the page. As artists we are (and must be) attuned to the feeling that is transmitted through our strokes and shapes, and that is really the moving force behind drawing anything. It's not so much the subject matter as the feeling that is transmitted.

The uses of calligraphy are many and growing, and I would like to refute the idea that it is a "lost art", or that it only deals with embellished and pretty writing. It is very much an alive thing that mirrors and tracks, at best, one's life.

Quotation from Dogen Zenji - Large brush stroke with formal calligraphy.

Homme et la Mer - The first verse of a poem by Charles Baudelaire.

Video Strokes - For a master's degree dance performance, these strokes were filmed with video camera, the film providing an active changing background that complemented the music. The dancer is Katherine Hawthorne.

Hawthorne's concept was inspired during a trip to Beijing, where it is a common practice in outdoor parks to write on large panels of slate, flat on the ground, with long brushes dipped in water. This becomes an exercise of the body, mind and spirit.

Enso - with words from poet Robert Frost

Architectural interior - This calligraphic mural, one of five, was completed in 2006 for the new Belmont Library in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mural - The Chinese word for book and a quote with English translation below decorate an interior arch in the City of Belmont Library. "A book is like a garden carried in the pocket".

Wedding Certificate - Detail showing top portion of traditional vows designed with elaborate initial, graceful Italic calligraphy, and numerous lines to for each witness signature below.

Illustrated Text - Commissioned to honor a young adult by his mother, acknowledging his personality and essence with Bible quote and illustration.

Illustrated Name and Quote - This commemorative piece was made for a client's daughter, acknowledging her personal qualities.

Illustrated Text - Commissioned to honor a young adult by his mother, acknowledging his personality and essence with Bible quote and illustration.

Wedding Vows - Keepsake heirloom vows, authored by the client, designed and written on 100% rag handmade paper.

Bertrand Russell Prologue - Commissioned quote of the prologue to Bertrand Russell's Autobiography. Good words, ink, gouache, and raised gold.