Articles – Techniques
Table of contents
- Gottfried Pott: Calligraphy and Music (1 of 2)
- Gottfried Pott: Calligraphy and Music (2 of 2)
- Decorative Vines
- Lettering inside shapes in 5 easy steps
GOTTFRIED POTT: CALLIGRAPHY AND MUSIC (1 OF 2)
By Yannick Durand
Article published in L’Arabesque, Winter 1994.
From August 26 to 29, 1994, the German calligrapher Gottfried Pott was in Ottawa to give a course titled “Calligraphy and Music”. Calligrapher and musician, in his research Gottfried Pott has gradually associated these two artistic disciplines, and has created a parallel between musical creation and contemporary calligraphic creation. Through a series of progressive exercises, we worked on rhythm, contrast, composition, balance, components of both calligraphy and music; Gottfried Pott directed us in calligraphic creation in the same way as a musician works on his music compositions.
1. Working on a decreasing rhythm (decrescendo of the volume in musical terms). The rhythm gradually decreases, without the line seizing up or stopping. Figure 1: felt brush marker.
2. Working on the strength of the line and repetition. Each stroke follows the same rhythm, but without trying to copy exactly, the preceding stroke. Opposition between calligraphy, where each letter is unique and exists as an entity, and typography, where letters are exact reproductions. Figure 2: felt brush marker.
3. Working on rhythm and line. We introduce notions of gesture, pressure, direction, speed of execution, and control of the gesture and of spontaneity. Figure 3: felt brush marker.
4. Working on shape. Starting with a legible letter shape, we arrive at an abstract shape that only retains the gesture, line, and rhythm of the original letter. Addition of colour (not illustrated). Figure 4: felt brush marker.
5. Working on the structure of the letter. Integrating techniques to reinforce the structure of the letter, whether in continuity or in contrast with the shape and muscle of the letter: it results in a new image, a new meaning of the sign. Figure 5: metal nib, ink.
6. Working on contrast with an abstract rhythm. Create contrast based on a line that bears no relation with a calligraphic stroke. Figure 6: brush, ink.
Last part of an article written after a workshop by Gottfried Pott. While the first half was rooted in rhythmic variations, the second part pushes further into abstraction and into compositions “for many voices” (to continue the musical metaphor). Originally published in L’Arabesque, Winter 1994.
7. Starting with an abstract linear stroke, find a concrete letterform, based on the contrast of a larger line, a splotch.
8. Working on balance. Abstract composition with a circle, line and point. Within that image we place an abstract text, a succession of the basic strokes for letterforms: horizontal, vertical, diagonal and curved lines.
9. Working on the concrete form. Choose a letter. Search for a new balanced image by juxtaposing this one letter twice, three times, or four times. Break the symmetry by adding a line, a new structure that splits and explodes the previous composition: the resulting instability leads to a different kind of balance.
10. Working on contrasting lines and harmony of shapes. In a composition with the same letter repeated twice, create a new image by adding a finer line, a different colour, or a different shape.
11. Working with two forms of the same letter. Bring together two calligraphic forms from different historical periods, two lines of different strengths or different colours. Each of the elements is opposed to the other: the play of contrasts creates a sense of balance and harmony.
Already a strong motivator for the practice of calligraphy in and of itself, Gottfried Pott also made us think about contemporary works, and gave us some tools to delve even deeper into the artistic universe of writing.
Workshop review originally published in the Fall 1994 issue of L’Arabesque. This article was slightly re-edited for re-publication.
Julian Waters’s workshop was marked by lots of good work and amusing observations, and we came out of it with a broadened perspective on working with letterforms to create interesting textures and movement in our calligraphy.
The two days were geared towards expanding our understanding of how letters can interrelate in both textural and size aspects. We worked exclusively with ruling pens. Most of us were familiar with thin ruling pens, which are used for ruling lines, but the broader wedge-shaped ruling pen was new to most students. The advantage of the ruling pen is twofold: it can hold more ink than conventional broad nib pens, and the tip can be manipulated by turning the pen sideways to increase its contact with the paper, thereby generating a different type of stroke.
The exercises were too numerous to describe here in much detail, but you’ll get a feel for the different textures by looking at the examples of student work reproduced alongside this article.
We started off quite simply, just learning how to hold the ruling pen and how to get ink to come out of it. Starting with alphabet sentences (pangrams), we worked on connecting the letters in multiple lines to gain a sense of where the black and white spaces appear. Legibility was not important; our goal was to see and build the overall texture.
The first few exercises consisted in making letters holding the ruling pen at 0 and 90-degree angles, to examine the width of the strokes. Next, we freed up our pen angle to produce either the thickest or the thinnest letters possible. Still connecting lines and letters, we observed the balance and contrast between letters of different thicknesses. With wide or thick letters, the white spaces would pop out more prominently; thin letters could generate a very light feeling. Next, we used these different weights of letters to create a gradation within each piece. Students experimented with variations, trying to understand how different textures were generated.
The next day, we proceeded with progressive exercises to expand how we think and work with space, letters, textures and gradations:
- Alternate two weights of letters, starting each successive line with the opposite weight to create a checkerboard effect.
- Gradually increase the weight of letters with each line, without changing the size of letters from line to line.
- Change weights within the line while moving across the page.
- Vary the relative width of letters, and work with very condensed letterforms. Letters could be heavy or light in terms of individual weight, but they needed to be very tightly spaced to create the proper texture.
- Play with different widths within lines and throughout lines, to create visual excitement. Julian compared the letters to a curtain, in which the wider letters are see-through and the condensed letters are more opaque.
- Repeat a selected element within a text to change the rhythm. Work with one dominant texture and interrupt it with a different shape of letter. We started by working with condensed letterforms and sporadically broke the texture with very wide “O”s or spaces.
Julian said that we needed to think about the shape of the letter we want beforehand, even writing it in the air first, and then write with quick bursts of motion so as to keep a flow within the process.
In wrapping up the workshop, he suggested that we look at other variations of weights, widths and sizes on our own, to broaden our repertoire, and to use the results of our exercises as inspiration in our calligraphy.
Finally, Julian encouraged us to develop our craft through our own work, whether it be exercises, finished pieces or even mistakes!
(Fig. 01 – Header)
This article by Cynthia Garinther, the editor of the newsletter back then, was originally published in L’Arabesque – December 1985.
(Fig. 02 – Steps)
- Trace in pencil the skeleton of a vine, plus a few main flowers or fruits.
- Add leaves and other motifs, close enough to fill in the space around the vine.
- Add colour (watercolour, gouache, markers, etc…)
- Using a very fine nib and black China ink, trace the vine, each decorative item, and the frame. For a different effect, use colour for the frame. Or you can eliminate the frame altogether by simply erasing the pencil lines.
- If you wish, sprinkle small golden dots around the vine, using gold leaf or golden ink.
(Fig. 03 – Samples of flowers, fruits, leaves, etc… from various manuscripts)
Lettering inside shapes in 5 easy steps
Edith Engelberg, article published in L’Arabesque, Winter 1994
1 Write out the Roman alphabet in monoline square capitals, and keep it nearby while you work. Any alphabet style can be used, but this one is easiest to stardt with.
2 Begin with a simple shape, such as a circle or an oval. Use scrap paper for this rough copy.
3 Choose a word or a short saying and pencil it into your shape, folowing the curved lines very closely. A lot of correcting and erasing may be required to achieve the result you are aiming for. The Roman alphabet lends itself well to being re-shaped to fit the curves while still retaining its legibility.
4 Don’t worry too much about maintaining classical Roman proportions, wich may have to be sacrificed anyway to make your lettering fit into the available space. Add serifs if desired – these sometimes help in fitting the letters and in defining the shape.
5 When you are satisfied with your piece, re-write it or trace it in ink, ballpoint, or marker onto a sheet of good paper. Pigma pens work very well for this purpose. When the ink is dry, erase whatever pencil lines you needed for the shape and for the lettering.