Articles – Calligraphers
Table of contents
Biography and book reviews by Cynthia Garinther
Article on Jean Larcher published in L’Arabesque, December 1985. A GREAT THANK YOU to Mr. Larcher who had graciously given us permission to reproduce his works in this article. Some outdated references to buy the books have been omitted.
Born in Rennes in 1947. After high school, between 1962 and 1965, he studies lead typography and printing techniques. At the same time, he takes calligraphy classes at a school in Paris. He works in various advertising studios and agencies until 1973, at which point he becomes freelancer and tries to earn a living as a typographer-calligrapher. He also starts teaching typography, organizes exhibitions, writes articles and gives conferences on the evolution of graphic design. In the early 80s, with his status as artist-calligrapher well established, he extends his activities to create logotypes for advertising, newspapers, industries and television. More recently, he started practicing calligraphy as a purely aesthetic pursuit, as a means of expression, and participates in international manifestations that focus more and more on the revival of this art. Mr. Larcher travels enormously and publishes books.
(fig. 02 et 03) (Illustrations 2 and 3 are from the book CALLIGRAPHIES : APPROCHES)
TYPOMONDO N° 5 / JEAN LARCHER
Spécial Calligraphie (Calligraphy Special)
“There are few calligraphers in France, but they do exist; calligraphy, an art requiring huge mastery, an aesthetic manifestation of sobriety and the indescribable, and the result of an intensive and rigorous training, is confronted by the most advanced technologies, and a dialogue is opened; the efforts exerted from either side fill these twenty-eight pages of formal creation.” Jean Larcher
Bussière Arts Graphiques is an industrial company specializing in graphic arts. This French company possesses the best technology for photoengraving and other processes, and has managed to surpass pure technical quality in the service of artistic quality.
This special calligraphy issue (large format: 28mm x 42mm), entirely calligraphed by Jean Larcher, has greatly inspired me. The choice of quotations, the colours, the techniques and the sheer quality of printing create an exceptional book.
(fig. 04 : Calligraphy alphabet, traced with a Speedball N° 0 nib, black China ink, final design written with a Brause 511 nib on beige rag paper, scarlet oval with black contour line, final size 342 mm x 520 mm, photographically inverted, 1984.)
CALLIGRAPHIES : APPROCHES (Approaches in Calligraphy)
By Jean Larcher
Editions Quintette, Paris 1984
This is a new book recently published in France. It is a collection of personal works by Jean Larcher.
Approches is an inexhaustible source of alphabets and inspiration. The author describes the process and materials he used for each calligraphy alphabet.
“In parallel to their professional activity with all the constrains of commercial work, some calligraphers will have personal outlets where they are much more creative; this direction should be encouraged to test and experiment, and to acquire additional skills. This book, we hope, will stimulate you and point you in the right direction; it is in no way a goal to attain or a project to copy, which would be stupid, but is instead intended as an awakening of the spirit. Moreover, in our personal progress as typographers and calligraphers, let us remember that the art of calligraphy is not an end in itself; it is a way for humans to communicate, and we simply have to use it advisedly for pleasure, of the creator and the reader, without forgetting one thing: first and foremost, calligraphy is a source of pleasure and passion.” Jean LARCHER
Excerpts of an article on Henny van Renselaar published in L’Arabesque, Summer 1991.
Cynthia Bowllan: ”There’s something I’d like to talk about before we finish. You’ve mentioned that your training has been in formal and experimental calligraphy. You know, probably every calligrapher has an opinion on what those terms mean. Please tell us what you mean.”
Henny van Renselaar : “Formal calligraphy has a formal definition, I think. Quite simply, one studies historical, not contemporary scripts. In addition, one studies the purpose for which the script was used, the background, historical setting, the materials – wood, paper, parchment, ink, brushes… all the tools.
You start studying experimental calligraphy only after you’ve finished studying formal calligraphy. In experimental calligraphy, you transform formal calligraphy into your own shape, your own vision. You can also transform your own handwriting. This is what I did. The key word here is TRANSFORM. When you transform a letter, you always have to watch the shape. It’s not important that one is able to read the text but it must be well designed.
Technically, you can be very good, but it doesn’t always follow that you’re an artist. You are a real artist when you can express the thing (a poem, a feeling, a sound, a whatever) you want to express. And it doesn’t matter if other people believe you have succeeded. What matters is you. You have to go deeply within yourself. You have to be very hard on yourself to honestly answer the question, “Did I dot it? Did I express what I felt?” For it is very easy to do something beautiful but there must be more. Beautiful things get boring after an hour. If you’re not sure you have succeeded in this quest, then sleep on it and you’ll know the next morning. If every time you look at your piece it becomes new once again, then it is a good work. You can do a very nice thing by accident. But haven’t you noticed that every time you try to do it over again on good paper, you usually fail? This is because it is very difficult to reproduce that spontaneity that your accident has. Your original piece is a work of art because it IS original. So watch out for accidents. Use them. Cut them out. Paste them up. Frame them. Design with them and say to yourself, “Hey, look at what I’v done.”