Articles – Varia
Table of contents
- Tips, Tricks and Floral Designs with Bob Boyajian
- Gestural Calligraphy
- Graphological Analysis of the Alphabets
- Notes on Design – Part 2
- Notes on Design – Part 1
- …In French you say?
- Penmanship is alive and well
Summary of a workshop in which American calligrapher Bob Boyajian shared lots of tips. Originally published in L’Arabesque, Summer 1993. Due to the length of the article, we posted only a few excerpts with technical pointers.
Place cards and certificates
When using a lightbox, Bob doesn’t like to use tape to secure cards and certificates onto the lightbox; instead he makes a pocket holder by cutting down an envelope. The card or certificate is then slipped into this pocket to hold it securely in place. If you have to use a lightbox for several hours at a time, cover the remaining top surface of the box with black paper to protect your eyes from the light.
When lettering a name on a certificate, Bob never puts the name right on the line, but rather just above it.
When trying to center names, don’t put the beginning and ending strokes on until the name is finished. Then, if you find the name is not quite centered, you can add a long flourish to the beginning of the first letter or a long tail at the end of the last letter to remedy the centering problem.
On place cards, write the names just above the center of the card.
White charcoal pencil
This can be used to rule lines on dark paper; the lines are much finer than with chalk, and can later be rubbed off with a cloth. It can be sharpened with a small piece of sandpaper.
You can use this instrument to add dots to the letters in a name, for instance gold gouache dots on black letters. For small dots, the ruling pen should be closed until the tips are almost touching. For larger dots, open the pen a bit more. With a medium-sized brush, apply thinned gouache to the inside of the ruling pen and wipe off excess. Place a ruler over the horizontal center of the name, at the height where you want the dots to be. Then touch the ruling pen to the center of each vertical stroke, leaving a gold dot with each touch. Leave the ruler in place to get all dots in a straight line across the name.
You can add shadows to letters to make them look three-dimensional. For black letters, Bob uses grey or silver gouache for the shadows; for red letters, he uses grey or yellow ochre. Don’t add the shadow line directly touching the letter; leave a slight space, so that you have black (the letter), white (the space) and grey (the shadow) areas. You can use either a flexible copperplate nib or a wide nib to draw the shadows.
To create flowers, we used a special brass nib split into three (each stroke leaves a triple line). Editor’s note: you can cut a piece of thin balsa to create a three-prong nib, or use a two- or five-prong automatic pen or poster nib.
You can use a dropper to fill the left and right sides of the nib with a different colour; these will mix in the center to give a third colour, thereby giving each triple-line stroke three different colours or shades. Editor’s note: Colour mixing will work only with nibs that have a reservoir; not with the balsa stick.
Bob demonstrated on envelopes how to do the various petal strokes, turning the envelope a few degrees with each stroke until a full flower was completed. He said to think of the flower as a wheel or clock, making the strokes from the center outward. After these first strokes had dried, he dipped the nib in dirty coloured water to make secondary petal strokes in between the first ones. These new strokes were immediately blotted. The transparency of the dirty water plus the blotting created pale petals to contrast with the first set of dark ones. With the corner of the nib, he then placed a few tiny dots near the petals. The finishing touches came with the addition of glitter in the center of the flower and elsewhere.
Bob had brought several small white blotters that he had been using for some time. They were saturated with blottings in various colours. Then, on clean paper and with clear water, he created a few designs, letters or flourishes with a pen or brush; he quickly patted these designs with one of the used blotters. The clear wet strokes picked up the colours from the blotter, leaving a rainbow of pale colours.
Personal text published in L’Arabesque, Winter 2002. Yannick Durand, who practiced and taught calligraphy in Montreal, was a figurehead for the calligraphy in Montréal, and especially for contemporary calligraphy.
Though my calligraphic apprenticeship has been very traditional, my personal research on the subject is situated on a more contemporary level.
I play with the form, stroke, colour and contrast of the letter. The game is nevertheless based on traditional forms, and one can easily understand the necessity and importance of this apprenticeship: my personal experience takes its source from this tradition, and constantly nourishes what I call my wild imaginings or “doodles”.
My research deals with the letter, rather than the text. The letter, considered as an entity, fascinates me and I haven’t yet finished studying these ancient marks, so that I may take flight from them… as far away as possible! My work consists first in study, and then deconstruction. This second stage can be done with pen in hand, or in one’s head: reflection is an integral part of my approach, and it has a mind of its own. To arrive at a new structure, a new image, where sentiment and emotion express themselves and become the medium for emotion. Above all, the letter is, for me, a vehicle of emotion, a carrier of profound and intense sentiment.
What is meant by contemporary calligraphy? Donald Jackson, while giving a course in Montreal, expressed very appropriately “we shall never do better than the monks”. True enough! The general spirit, society and culture of that long past age, especially in the monasteries, was particularly auspicious for the supreme art of writing, compared to our 21st century where everything conspires against that kind of culture. At the very least we can steep ourselves in this heritage handed down to us, and attempt to make it last. But could it not also be our role, as modern scribes (is the name still appropriate?), to carry this heritage further and elsewhere, to other spheres, to different meanings and with changed images?
Contemporary calligraphy struggles to take its proper place, to acquire its letters of nobility, or even to be considered as calligraphy! Flirting in the world of abstraction, and at the limit of pictorial art, we barely recognize such endeavours as “calligraphic”. And yet, when one returns to the etymology of the word, we know that we speak of “beautiful writing”. However, the term writing does not limit itself to the letter. Drawings in the Lascaux caves, for example, are considered writings in the broadest sense. Paintings of certain artists are their signatures, their marks, their writing. Writing is mark-making. And is not the stroke, basic component of the letter, also a mark in its primary sense?
Re-interpreting the letter, a contemporary expression of ancient rules, is more than just an educational exercise tied to a certain aesthetic; the letter becomes an artistic endeavour in and of itself – no matter how we call it!!
By Clorilda Lavoie
This 1996 article was written by Clorilda Lavoie, professional graphologist, who was at the time president of the Association des Graphologues du Québec, and director of the Institut Grapho-Logique. The article was a special request by one of our members, Jean-Luc Ferret, who had sent Ms. Lavoie a few paragraphs of each alphabet. This article was first published in L’Arabesque, September 1996.
Mr. Jean-Luc Ferret, a professional calligrapher, expressed the wish to have a graphological interpretation of calligraphy across the ages, which I am pleased to offer.
To place this work in its proper context, allow me to start with two definitions (translated here from the “Petit Larousse”, a standard French dictionary).
CALLIGRAPHY: the art of shaping handwritten letters in an elegant and ornate manner.
GRAPHOLOGY: technique for the interpretation of handwriting considered as an expression of personality.
As agreed with Mr. Ferret, I have limited myself to a short summary for each style. These are meant to be a synthesis of the personalities of their writers, and therefore of the personality of people writing in that period.
- UNCIAL (3rd to 5th cent.): Period with a preference for kindness, feeling, benevolence, reserve and moderation.
- HALF-UNCIAL (6th to 8th cent.): Time characterized by a yearning for creation and culture. Also a period of oral communication with a tendency to accept everything.
- ARTIFICIAL UNCIAL (6th to 10th cent.): Warmth, presence, sensuality and a desire to live life fully. The organizational system was inspired by personal interest.
- INSULAR MINUSCULE (8th and 9th cent.): An era of social opening-up, when vitality and enthusiasm could be expressed, thus leaving room for self-assertion.
- CAROLINGIAN MINUSCULE (9th cent.): This script was less conformist. It was more sociable and fanciful. Its character was welcoming and respectful of others.
- CLASSICAL ROMAN (1st cent. to the present): The period was marked by the stereotypes of this style. No room for emotion of individuality: a mask was always worn.
- RUSTICA (1st cent. until the Middle Ages): Invited people to open up to social values, to contemplate progress and advancement, rather than to remain static.
- GOTHIC (12th to 15th cent.): Time of inhibitions when rigidity, mistrust and constraints stifled intuition and creativity.
- ROTUNDA (14th and 15th cent.): A more active intelligence marked this style of writing. There was also a curiosity for innovations, and less rigid behaviour.
- BASTARDA (15th cent.): Bastarda is unstable, lacks order and clarity in its ideas. It extols fancy and cultivates its outward appearance.
- HUMANISTIC (15th and 16th cent.): Evolved at a time when imagination could be expressed as much in abstract as in concrete forms. Being open to others allowed people to amalgamate meekness and firmness.
- ITALIC (16th cent.): This period was propitious to analysis and investigation. For people of this epoch, a talent for persuasion and an adherence to their ideas explain, to a certain extent, their tendency toward impatience.
- COPPERPLATE (18th and 19th cent.): This period was characterized by deep aspirations that were expressed particularly on the spiritual and philosophical levels. There was a constant invitation for self-control and perfection.
These are very brief glimpses of the personalities hidden behind various calligraphic styles.
I warmly thank Mr. Ferret for giving me the opportunity to bridge a gap between calligraphy and graphology. I regret not having been able to devote more time to this thrilling research that illustrates so well the evolution of the “personalities” of past centuries.
By Louise Christensen
This is the second of three articles by graphic designer Louise Christensen on calligraphy design and page layout. First printed in L’Arabesque September 1988.
Visual noise is cacophony! Imagine listening to your stereo without fine-tuning the station. The static would drive you crazy! The human eye is also constantly being bombarded with visual static in the form of images, shapes, and colours that vibrate simultaneously. Luckily, our eyes are sophisticated viewing instruments that can weed out all this extraneous information (known as peripheral vision) and focus on the desired subject. What we designers need to know is exactly how to manipulate that focus in order to transmit our messages as visual communicators. We do that with the spatial organization of graphic information.
By applying certain rules to the spatial relationships, we create recognizable patterns that help define and organize space. Gestalt theory, developed early in the twentieth century by psychologists, can give us some tools to help structure this space. The word “Gestalt” comes from the German signifying form, configuration or shape. Gestalt psychology states that the response of an organism to a situation is a complete and un-analysable whole rather than a sum of responses to specific elements in the situation.
- The parts of a visual image may be considered, analyzed and evaluated as distinct components, but
- The whole of a visual image is different from and greater than the sum of its parts.
In the first article, we saw how contrast, figure/ground and equilibrium could be manipulated to provoke certain visual experiences. Now let’s look at some other principles.
Closure – Humans strive for harmony and stability in life. In order to achieve that harmony, we have an inherent inclination to complete any unfinished or unbalanced shape. For example:
Similarity – Components bearing a marked or identical resemblance will be grouped together.
Continuation – The tendency of the eye to follow a linear direction (straight or curved). Even though these are actually abstract shapes, our eyes are drawn along in a particular direction.
Proximity – Components in a state or condition of being nearest in sequence, space, time or degree are perceived as a single entity. For example:
Now you have some powerful tricks in your magic bag with which to whittle, pare, sculpture and chisel space. It may seem overwhelming at first (and a bit obtuse), but soon these will become second nature. I often refer to these simple rules of thumb when approaching or analyzing a problem.
Use these rules as a basis for your calligraphic logos. However, try to keep to simple geometric shapes such as the square, triangle, rectangle, circle, etc. Keep it simple and bold. It must be reproduced at different sizes; this means you may have to do different versions for the smaller sizes to beef up finer lines so that they do not disappear. When designing a logo, always work in black and white without leaning on the crutches of colour. (Remember that it will probably be photocopied.) Use only black gouache or ink in preparing your final artwork; no pencil or watercolour! (These will almost certainly be weak and difficult to reproduce.) Incorporate that negative space. Keep the proportions pleasing.
TIP: To find the correct proportion of any image for enlargement or reduction, simply draw a diagonal through your rectangle. Follow the diagonal until you have reached the desired height or width and then drop a perpendicular from the point where your desired dimension intersects with your diagonal. (Note: you may only select one dimension as a given. The other dimension results from the intersection at the diagonal rule.)
Project – Design a calligraphic logo in a square. You may only use one letter. The letter must touch all four sides. It can extend outside the square, if you wish, but only on one side. Black and white only. Begin BIG. Make the square about three inches wide. Your stroke width should be at least 3/4 inch wide. Keep in mind that it could possibly be reduced to 1/2 inch wide on an envelope or letterhead. Working large format helps you to see the negative space. For fun, try making photocopies of your finished piece and using them as building blocks to form an abstract design. Now you may play with colours, perhaps filling in the negative spaces to get a pseudo-stained glass effect. For the truly inspired amongst you, reduce your logo to the size of a potato or art gum eraser and cut a personal stamp. (Remember to reverse the design.) Go wild – the possibilities are limitless.
The next article will deal with the grid as a layout tool and other studio tricks to keep you from slitting your wrists at two a.m. in the morning.
Notes on Graphic Design and Visual Communication, by Gregg Berryman, 1979, William Kaufman, Inc.
Designing with Type, a Basic Course in Typography, by James Craig, 1980, Watson-Guptill Publications.
By Louise Christensen
Louise Christensen wrote a series of three articles on page layout; this article was first published in L’Arabesque – July 1988.
Design: to conceive and plan out, to make preliminary sketches, to contrive or set apart; to make a pattern or sketch of; the arrangement of elements that make up a structure or work of art; an underlying scheme that governs functioning, developing or enfolding (Merriam Webster’s Dictionary).
Design demands organized, rational and defined space. Design does not occur spontaneously. Good design in any art media is a blending of space perception, colour theory, technical execution, history and psychology. In the following series of Notes on Design, I hope to pass on to you, no matter what your level, some small suggestions and rules of thumb to help you conquer your calligraphic (or other) design problems. Design does not “just happen”. It must be oh-so-carefully coaxed and gently caressed into equilibrium. The know-how shared in these articles will give you a good understanding of how the human eye perceives imagery. Let’s look at some principles for analyzing visual techniques:
1. CONTRAST (Figure/Ground)
Figure: The positive elements, which appear to be on top of a field or ground.
Ground: The perception of the field, white or negative space surrounding the figure.
(Fig. 01 – For sale sign)
What makes us see the relationship is the contrast between the figure and the ground. For example, in the “for sale” sign, if the letters (figure) were pale grey instead of solid black, they would recede and almost disappear into the white (ground) because we could not see the relationship of the letters to the sign surface. Contrast, therefore, gives a line, an edge, by which we delineate space and create depth perception. Just try the following exercise to illustrate the point.
Using a black marker or soft pencil, blacken the section labelled “A” in the Protruding diagram (see figure 2). Now very lightly shade in the section labelled “B”. Move over to the Receding diagram and blacken all the triangles labelled “R”. We see that the contrast has transfigured a flat line drawing into appearing as a positive (protruding) three-dimensional box, a figure on a white space, field or ground. In the Receding diagram it has given us a completely new relationship with a corner that moves away from the viewer into a negative (receding) space. By experimenting with contrast in your lettering designs, strive to obtain the extremes: What is my darkest dark and what is my whitest white? Also remember that the space between your letters is your ground, and is just as important as the actual lettering itself.
(Fig. 02 – Protruding and receding designs)
Now for a little psychology…. The entire placement of your image onto the page is also a figure/ground relationship. (This means the shape of your paper or the size of your matte in framing.) A well-balanced design in equilibrium emits a sense of peace, symmetry and harmony. The human mind, being somewhat guided by gravity, will always attempt to straighten or balance out any unevenness of being. Therefore, an asymmetrical design arouses emotion (sometimes negative) and is more dynamic. Try to imagine where the eye enters the page, tracks across and then exits. A classical design such as a formal wedding invitation is a good example, because we are all familiar with the layout. It is centered, symmetrical and in equilibrium. The eye enters normally top left, follows the imagery in order of priority (determined by contrast of size, weight, style, colour, etc.) usually from top to bottom, returning to the top. This path, when traced by arrows, gives us the shape of an X, a balanced letterform.
Here are a few layouts that affect us quite differently emotionally:
Balanced Design – Look for the “X”. The eye remains on the page.
Dynamic Design – Eye enters left, quickly drops, exits right in an upward (positive) motion.
Sombre – Static, low-key, understated, positioned low on page. Eye moves in a relatively straight, smooth line.
Playful – Element of humour. Bouncy.
Think of the feeling you wish to express. Look at your layout and make those positive and negative spaces speak as a whole. Remember that the whole is greater than each individual component.
So, to summarize, we have discussed contrast, figure/ground (positive, negative), equilibrium and dynamism as design techniques. In the next article, we will look at other psychological reasons behind effective design, the grid as a layout tool, and calligraphic logos.
I hope this has helped you understand just a little bit more what thought processes actually are provoked by graphic imagery. Practise your skills by scrutinizing logos and even packaging on consumer products. Start a clip file by tearing out favourite images or clever uses of figure/ground for reference. Next time you are confronted with the ubiquitous blank page, a quick flick through your files should energize you and evoke masterpieces. Until next time…
(Note: For studying figure/ground relationships, it is best to begin with black and white only – to eliminate the confusion of colour theory.)
Louise Christensen is a freelance graphic designer/calligrapher working in Montréal. She began her career way back when with a Mechanical Engineering Technologies degree and worked as a technician for Corning Glassworks in that field. Eventually, she moved to Boston, Mass., to take professional courses in graphic design at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, R.I. She received a Bachelor of Fine and Applied Arts in Graphic Communications Design from Rochester Institute of Technology and has been meeting deadlines ever since.
This article is a mash-up of two articles published in L’Arabesque – a very short 10-word lexicon published in March 1987 and a fuller lexicon from November 1998. The 1998 lexicon was compiled by Luc Saucier. Sadly, the author of the first article remains anonymous. References were books by French calligrapher Claude Mediavilla, and consultation with Montreal calligraphers Jean-Luc Ferret and Yannick Durand.
Some terms relating to calligraphy instruments are known, in our predominantly American context, only under their English names. But that’s no problem! Here, for your eyes only, is a small English-French lexicon (including genre) to help you make sense of it all.
|ascender||=||la haste; l’ascendante (à tort: la hampe)|
|Bookhand script||=||la lettre de livre|
|bowl (of round letters)||=||la panse (de la lettre)|
|Carolingian script||=||la lettre caroline|
|Copperplate script||=||la lettre anglaise|
|descender||=||la queue; la hampe; la descendante|
|egg tempera||=||la tempera à l’oeuf; la détrempe|
|flourish||=||la fioriture, le paraphe (ou le fion)|
|flourishes||=||des arabesques (fem.)|
|foot (of letter)||=||le pied (de la lettre)|
|Foundational script||=||la lettre académique|
|gesso||=||le blanc d’apprêt|
|gilding cushion||=||le coussin à dorer|
|guidelines||=||les portées (fem.)|
|handle||=||le porte-plume (manche est trop général)|
|loose-leaf gold||=||la feuille d’or libre|
|negative (inner) space||=||le contre-poinçon, la contre-forme (de la lettre)|
|patent gold||=||la feuille d’or collée|
|pen width||=||bec de plume|
|pumice||=||la pierre ponce|
|quill||=||la plume (d’oie ou de cygne)|
|secotine (glue)||=||la colle secotine, ou de poisson|
|serif||=||(un) l’empattement de la lettre|
|shell gold||=||(un) l’or à la coquille|
|square-cut nib||=||la plume de ronde; la pointe carrée|
|stem (of letter)||=||le fût (de la lettre)|
|stick ink||=||le bâtonnet d’encre|
|stroke sequence (ductus)||=||le ductus|
|tail (of lettre)||=||la volute (tant pour le haut que pour le bas)|
|to burnish||=||polir ou brunir|
|to flourish||=||embellir, enjoliver, ornementer (approximatifs)|
|x-height (body)||=||le corps de la lettre|
Since the beginning of history, the wise have declared: The pen is mightier tan the sword; however, few of us indeed, have ever really learned how to use a pen. Well, at Sutton Elementary School, Levels 1, 2 and 3 have begun practicing exactly that. They are learning the Italic style of handwriting using the workbooks from the Italic Handwriting Series by Barbara Getty and Inga Dubay. What exactly is the Italic style and why is it an easier and better method?
The Italic style of handwriting, alos known as Chancery Cursive, originated in Italy i the early 1500s. The first instruction manual was designed by Ludovico degli Arrighi in 1522. Many others, such as G.A. Tagliente, G.B. Palatino and Gerard Mercator followed in the same footsteps. This Italic hand, because of its clarity and legibility, became the most common style taught in Europe from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Italic is the easiest and most effective alphabet to learn and to teach because the shapes are based on natural, enduring letterforms. It doesn’t fail us when we speed up, and the confusing transition from basic printing to cursive is avoided. No more complex loops! Looping letters together confuses and distorts. The shape of both print and cursive styles is essentially the same, aside from simple horizontal or diagonal lines, which join two letters.
To begin, a simple vocabulary is taught in order to refer to different movements more easily. Then, ovals, arches and diagonals (zig-zags) are practiced. Many adults have succeeded with improving their own handwriting by practicing just zig-zags. In workbook A, the letters are introduced in families, not in alphabetical order, for example k, v, w, x and z are together because they all consist of diagonal strokes. By doing this, the confusion with b and d, using the Palmer method, is avoided; which side of the ball do you place the stick on…left or right? No more of that. In each workbook, the letters are taught by first tracing and then trying one on their own. If it’s too hard, they keep tracing until it is comfortable to write independently.
Writing calms the nerves, focuses the mind and develops concentration. It inculcates the habits of correctness and precision, just as mathematics, music or dance. It allows the writer to discover rhythm and control, while improving his / her attention and memory. Handwriting itself, is a form of memory-aid. It gives children that quiet moment to think, to reflect and to learn. It allows a child to slow down, focus and discover who they are. Many studies have shown that what we learn from the ages of four to eight has a powerful impact on our memories and on the rest of ou lives. All this, through controlling specific movements with a pencil.
Italic handwriting is “order, simplicity and grace” in motion. When children produce something beautiful with their hands, their self-esteem blossoms as their self-confidence grows. This carries into the lunch room, the school yard and throughout their daily lives. Introducing children to correct posture and pen-hold at these early stages, allows for a positive, as well as a more confident child to walk into other classes. Daily writing practices also teach children to draw better because they learn to see lines and spaces and their relationships. The unity of head, hand and heart results not only in dexterity of hand and the cognitive intelligence to convey or communicate an idea, but in the peace of mind at being able to do so.
If you pick up a copy of the Old Farmer’s Almanac, 2001 Edition, you will find an article on page 246 by B. Getty and A. Maier about handwriting and the Italic Handwriting Series.