Roman Capital Workshop With John Stevens

article by Yolande Lessard
translated by Barbara Gapmann 

John Stevens, who began his career as a lettering artist, is an internationally  renowned calligrapher. He possesses exceptional dexterity, as demonstrated, for  example, in the way he manipulates the flat brush. His pared-down style and the  high quality of his work make John one of the calligraphers I admire most. 

The Roman Capital workshop organized by La société des calligraphes de  Montréal consisted of five weekly two-hour Zoom sessions. A private Facebook  group was set up so that we could exchange ideas and take the learning process a  little further. Each participant could post his exercises on the site and get John’s  comments on the work completed during the week. A vote of thanks goes to Erin  Neilson for managing the Zoom sessions. 

We began our studies with Neuland script, using the flat brush. This script features  bold sans-serif strokes, often using a minimal interline in order to create a good  dense texture. We then practised sans-serif block letters, using a narrower flat  brush. We also worked on monoline, using lead pencils; this style has uniform  strokes, without thicks and thins. The forms and proportions of these letters are the  basis of Roman capitals. We wrote a long monoline text, using a fine-point marker,  in order to familiarize ourselves with interletter, interword and interlinear spacing,  and learn how to avoid rivers. 

By the third meeting we were well prepared to get into the meat of the subject of  the Roman capital, which dates back to the 1st century B.C., when it was used in  stone inscription. One of the most beautiful examples of this classic alphabet can  be found at the base of Trajan’s column. This elegant script, executed with a flat  

brush one-half inch wide, features serifs as well as thicks and thins. We started by  making large-module letters (five inches tall), a method used for acquiring muscle  memory. A good quality flat brush is indispensable for a really clean line in  producing Roman capitals. Most of the strokes are pulled; the letters are  constructed by varying the angle, pressure, stroke thickness, rhythm and  manipulation of the brush. It all seems so easy when you watch John forming a  letter—but make no mistake, it’s not easy at all! It takes careful study of the forms  of the letters, knowledge of proportions and hours of practice. John provided us with a manual (Capitals / John Stevens), as well as videos he produced on  preparing the flat brush and how to execute every stroke used in Roman capitals.  All these things were of great help in the learning process. 

John has a great deal of experience in the fields of publishing (magazines, books),  packaging, advertising, television and film. He enjoys speaking about aesthetics  and design, which form an important part of a calligrapher’s work. He invited us to  create a book title, explaining the rule that the work as a whole should make a  lockup. He emphasized the importance of the relationship among design elements,  diversity in unity, and the balance between form and counter form. 

As the fourth week approached, we moved to the study of a more informal writing  style, a variation of Roman. I felt that this part of the program was too short; there  was enough material for another workshop. John discussed rhythm, fluidity,  movement and the ability to express the spirit of a text through our calligraphy. We  explored a number of alternative approaches, combining writing, drawing, and the  use of such tools as the bevelled nib, pointed nib, pointed brush and long-hair  brush. 

I’d like to thank John Stevens for sharing his knowledge and experience with us.  He is a teacher who knows how to inspire his students and open up new avenues  for us to explore.

Gilles Champagne

On October 5, 2021, Gilles Champagne, our friend and dear calligraphy colleague, bid us farewell. 

This man of endearing simplicity and so accessible, shared his passion for calligraphy with generosity and humor. 

However, the past year was particularly difficult for him.  With all the appointments with numerous specialists of different hospitals and CLSCs, he lived many difficult moments, both physically and mentally, yet despite everything, he never complained.   Throughout these challenges, Gilles continued to produce a monthly contribution for our virtual Calli group, except for September, the month he no longer had the energy to begin.  He was so totally invested in calligraphy that he was always very happy to always be the first to send his calligraphy work to our colleague Louise Rousseau, who assembled everyone’s works for the virtual sharing. 

Gilles, who has taught me calligraphy since 2015, was a godsend to me and I am very proud to cherish the memory of everything he has shared with me.  There are so many happy moments filled with great humor and laughter and simply seeing his splendid greeting cards.   On top of that, imagine all the envelopes he personally calligraphed and sent to each member… yes you read that right, to each member of the Société des calligraphes de Montréal for the publications of our magazine Arabesque.   He did this during so many years with his boundless resilience, but what he loved most of all, was receiving cards from his students.  So much so, that every year he jokingly informed us that his birthday was September 8, just to be sure to receive some.  And, even if the card he received was rather modest, he always came up with magic words that was soothing to my heart; …”it’s far out beautiful!”  How I miss his soft words of encouragement! 

Gilles turned 80 on September 8 and his important wishes came true: to celebrate his 80th birthday with family and to receive many greeting cards. 

Every time that you will think of Gilles, his memory will live on again. When you share an anecdote about him, when you put to practice the advice he gave you, when you remember the good times spent together… With each of these occasions, the spirit of his presence will live on. 

Thank you, Gilles, for all the wonderful calligraphic moments shared with you.

By Marie Pierre Robert
Translation by Carole Scheffer

Spotlight on Louise Rousseau

By Claire Bourassa

Translation by Carole Scheffer

“It’s up to me to nurture my imagination!”

Louise Rousseau

Spring 2020. Newly retired and in confinement, Louise misses the Saturday calligraphy activities where with a dozen other members she could work on a collective theme. She proposes to Mathieu, our president, to organize a virtual calligraphy activity every three weeks: “Since it is no longer possible to do so in person, we can exchange in this other way. There are people I have known for a long time and when I look at what they have produced, I think they have allowed themselves a lot of liberty! There is something personal that is taking hold in many of them.” This activity started in the spring of 2020 and has continued ever since. It has about twenty participants, an absolute success!

Discovering calligraphy and Yannick Durand

In 1995, Louise was looking for an artistic activity to reenergize herself. She tries the stained-glass making, then turns to calligraphy, remembering the beautiful Copperplate style letters her father wrote using a fine pen. She meets Yannick Durand, who was then teaching at the Saidye-Bronfman Centre. She encourages her to work with her left hand: “You are left-handed, take your left hand and find the position which is comfortable for you!” Louise does more research on her own and studies left-handed calligraphers like Lieve Cornil: “In grade school, when I was writing with fine pens, I realized that I had to turn my sheets of paper, but for calligraphy, I turn them in the other direction.”

Her left hand gives her a certain distinction that she finds somewhat pleasing: “You structure the page differently, turning the page, what’s horizontal becomes vertical, it brings to me something different.” This desire to distinguish herself can also be traced from her family: “I come from a family of four and we are very close in age. Keeping my individuality is something that has always been important. »

Developing a personal calligraphy

With Yannick Durand, Louise becomes interested in the message conveyed by her calligraphy: “Beyond words, so much else can be conveyed in our communications. The words Love and Rain are simply not written in the same way! With Yannick, a lot of thinking went into that idea. There is so much in the non-verbal that can be expressed, and it is surely due in part because of my training in psychiatry that is helpful to me in perceiving it. Emotions are transmitted. They are the reflection of the words that are expressed. » 

She then explores more gestural writing that approaches a “calligraphic image” at the frontier of abstraction and legibility. After Yannick’s sudden death, Louise became a member of the Montreal Calligraphy Society and continued her training with Denise Lach in Percé: “You worked with a particular letter and explored how far you could transform it. I had chosen a G, for five days! It teaches you what it is that makes for legibility!” Two years later in Percé, Louise took part in a workshop with Laurent Rébéna: “We worked on a letter’s form and its negative space. You build from the letter and develop a harmonious script, keeping a certain legibility, while exaggerating certain traits. »

The desire to exhibit

The tradition of exhibiting her work goes back to the days of the courses with Yannick Durand, but also to her participation with a group of calligraphers, Les Calmars: “We had known each other for more than ten years after taking courses with Yannick. We had all become friends and calligraphy became family. Together, we always organized exhibitions, it was important. We would start a piece and finish it sufficiently to frame it and put it up on the wall. Otherwise, you were just not finished!”

The adventure of the Calmars continues for ten years with annual exhibitions. In 2018, as the group disbanded, Louise and Paulette Dufresne, a calligrapher friend, co-organize an exhibition in Paris with the poems of a Franco-Quebecoise friend, Marie Gagnon: “I offered a personal interpretation of her poems. I was going to look for the passages that interested me. I did not want to be a scribe! This collaboration was quite interesting because the author is a contemporary, and she was surprised to see what I did with her text. That is when all the fun started! When she saw the exhibition, she understood my approach, how calligraphy conveys an idea! »

The introduction of the monotype in her calligraphy

While preparing her exhibition in Paris, Louise feels the need to enhance her calligraphy with monotype, which brings a visual richness and depth to her work: “I wanted to add something while I was part of Calmars. There was a Calmars way of thinking. I went on a free visit to the Atelier circulaire (a print arts centre) and I liked the presentation of a engraver artist, Jacinthe Tétrault. She has a mentoring soul. She makes you think, and makes you explore. She is most rigorous in her technique. » 

After the Paris exhibition, two more took place in Montreal at Galerie Espace, Boulevard Saint-Laurent, with Paulette. At the very last one in December 2020, their friend Romane’s haikus inspired them: “When we went to make our monotypes, we already had our poems. It is good for the soul because you deep-dive into your bubble. I made a notebook with my preferences. I added the ideas or images that came to me. »

The tools

Louise enjoys working on textured paper with her monotypes. She loves the tools that allow her to create various effects: “When I took classes with Yannick, she had her Automatic Pens with her. She let me to use them, and I really liked them! I now have several of those! Then I have Folded Pens (Cola Pen), Automatic Pens, and ruling pens of different sizes. I also tinker with the pointed pen. With these tools, I can take the mediums I prefer, like sumi, pigments, acrylic, with the consistencies of my choice. » 

Her projects

Louise enrolled in a workshop on poetic imagination in July in the region of Percé (Coin-du-Banc). She will be reunited with the multidisciplinary artist Lino, with whom she had completed a creative workshop in 2019. Then in April 2022, she and Paulette will again be exhibiting at the Galerie Espace, with Romane’s haikus: “You must give yourself projects, some challenges. We are taking risks. If you only make plans when you are sure about things, there just won’t be any projects! »

In closing this portrait, I wanted to mention that this meeting with Louise Rousseau was not only about calligraphy; there was a much broader human dimension that emerged because her words are real bearers of hope: “When you have worked 40 years in psychiatry, it’s not some governmental measure that confines your imagination. Only you can do that, and it happens quite easily so you must deal with it. This was my leitmotif during my first months of retirement. It’s up to me to nurture my imagination! »

Thank you, Louise! Message well taken!

For more about Louise
Louise’s Instagram:  @rousloui
Her publications

To participate in virtual calligraphy projet

Her inspirations
Denise Lach, calligraphe

Lino, multidisciplinairy artist et professor at Percé

Brody Neuenschwander, art et calligraphy historian

How to Take Great Art Photos

By Tamer Ghoneim
Translation by Diane Rioux

Do you find it hard to get quality pictures that show the life and vibrance of your work?

Our goal in this article is to give you some simple tips for taking amazing pictures of your work.

We’ll start with the most important consideration…


Have you ever noticed that the quality of your photos is always worse at night or in a dark environment? They’re often grainy, not sharp, and the colors and contrast are less clear and vivid. 

Think of your camera (whether it’s a phone or an expensive DSLR) as a “light-collecting,” rather than a picture-making, device. It will consistently take pictures in areas with plenty of light – especially soft, diffuse light like on a cloudy day. 

The idea that your camera works best on a cloudy day rather than a bright, sunny one may surprise you, but cameras don’t perform as well when there’s a big difference in the brightness of a scene (like in the afternoon on a sunny, cloudless day).

So, the first recommendation is to find the best light you can to take your photo. 

Pro Tips:

  • Photograph your art in a well-lit area with diffuse light, if possible. Slide a table close to a window or group of windows in your home and capture the shot there. 
  • You can still get good photos on a bright, sunny day by taking pictures outside in the shade or using curtains to diffuse the light.  
  • If you have a budget, there are many great artificial lighting options available such as large soft boxes.


Another vital element to getting crisp, quality images is keeping your camera stable. If you have to hold your camera by hand, try leaning against a wall or rest your arm on a nearby surface. 

Also, when you tap the shutter button, hold for a moment while the camera takes the photo rather than moving it away instantly.

Mounting the camera on a tripod or a similar device is the best way to stabilize.

Pro Tip: If you use a tripod, use a timer or shutter delay to prevent movement when you touch or press the button.


Always consider the end use of the photo when taking it. Are you taking a picture to make art prints, for social media, publishing, etc.? Set up your photo with the end use in mind.

For example, if you plan to create art prints, the goal is to capture the highest quality image of the art itself. If you’re planning to share the photos online or on social media, it may be beneficial to include other elements – like art supplies or unique objects that add interest.


Editing can dramatically enhance and stylize images. There are some great mobile apps like VSCO and Snapseed or professional tools like Adobe Lightroom that allow you to apply manual adjustments and filter effects to improve your images. 

Pro Tip: Boosting brightness, contrast, and saturation can give your images a bold and colorful look. Decreasing these settings will produce a more faded, moody appearance. 

Image 01: Studio lighting setup for a mobile phone using softboxes for lighting and a tripod for stability
Image 02: Direct image of artwork to be used for creating professional art prints
Image 03: Image of artwork to be used for social media or other online content

Tamer Ghoneim is a professional calligraphy artist and instructor, specializing in blackletter/gothic calligraphy styles, including modern interpretations and abstract designs. Based in Houston, Texas, his goal is to encourage people of all ages and skill levels to learn the rewarding art of blackletter calligraphy. 

Birthday Cards – Sister Noëlla’s 101st Birthday

On December 5th 2020, Sister Noëlla Doyon celebrated her 101st anniversary. With the pandemic, celebrations were toned down from last year’s big  100th hurrah with her extended family.

To remedy this absence of festivities, a calligraphic challenge was proposed by Claire Bourassa and took the form of birthday greeting cards. You will find some examples of cards sent by our members below.

Sister Noëlla, may your 101st year be filled with joy, love and the blessings of friendship. Happiest of birthdays to you on behalf of the Société!

Mathieu Doucette

Claire Bourassa, Envelope and card
Chantal Fontaine Hébert, Envelope and card, embossing and illumination, 23 ct gold and variegated metals, Zebra nib.
Diane St-Antoine, Carte
Gilles Champagne, Envelope and card
Saskia Latendresse, Carte

Virtual Calligraphy

By: Louise R

Translation: Mathieu Doucette

A virtual activity initiated during the pandemic for members of the Society who are looking for opportunities to share and explore calligraphy.

This new activity, free, and open to all members was offered to promote sharing through the internet. The participants receive a guideline which they must follow in order to create one or more pieces of calligraphy. We suggested a period of 3 weeks to send the pieces back.

The activity centered around the theme of the Society’s Member’s Exhibit scheduled for November, Amoureux des lettres. A letter of the alphabet is part of the guidelines offered every three weeks. Participants can choose to make a drop cap, words, sentences containing this letter, etc. We started with C for Calligraphy, or COVID, depending on the mood, then the P for landscape (paysage) or papa, then an M. Taking the alphabet out of order keeps us on our toes!

Every three weeks, the pieces submitted are put together as a composition and shared with the participants.

The response from the members so far has been enthusiastic, with each member creating a personal, inspired, varied piece and yet everyone is subjected to the same theme and letter. This virtual sharing is inspirational, with everyone’s personal touch. The publication of this work is voluntary, the sharing can be limited to the small group, and everyone can send their trials that will only be broadcast on social media if the participant wishes.

Yolande Lessard

Calligraphy: Yolande Lessard
Text: Yolande Lessard
April 22nd, 2020

This poem was written on April 22nd, 2020 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic which swept through the world with Montréal being severely affected. The entire city and its population was suddenly confined. I was grieving the loss of my husband, Félix Doudou Boicel, who passed away on March 10th, 2020 from a pulmonary fibrosis. Gatherings and funerals were illegal.

Calligraphy in confinement

With all the turbulence that spring 2020 has brought, it was also a period of creation for some of our members. Here is a gallery of calligraphy created during this confinement period, as well as pieces that can serve as inspiration during these difficult times. Thank you to everyone for their contribution. If you would like to submit a piece for publication, please contact Mathieu Doucette

Horizons Azur: call for registration

The call for registration is now closed.  View the Horizons Azur artworks:

Visit the Horizons azur gallery

The Webster Library at the University of Concordia has invited members of La Société des calligraphes de Montréal to exhibit within their walls. The theme of this exhibition is: HORIZONS AZUR.

  • Dates: from March 16 to April 26, 2019
  • Address: Bibliothèque Webster, Université Concordia
    1400 boul. de Maisonneuve ouest, Montréal, QC, H3G 1M8

The theme, Horizons Azurs (Azure Horizons), suggests calmness, tranquility, hope, the vastness of a cloudless sky and the hypnotic attraction of a quiet sea.

We will have a display case inside the library. We take this opportunity to challenge you to think 3D. Works on paper or canvas will of course be accepted, but we dare you to plunge into the 3rd dimension: books, self-supporting mobiles, shadow boxes, statues, ceramics, or any other object incorporating letters. Be inspired!

We will also showcase tools alongside the artwork: pens and inks, plus cola pens, ruling pens, pebbles and other unusual tools that will have served to create the artwork.

The display case will be accessible seven days a week, including evenings, during regular library hours. Once again, no sitting is required.


Registration deadline February 1st, 2019
Submission of artwork and a high-resolution photo March 1st, 2019
Delivery of artwork at the Webster Library Friday, March 15, 2019, before noon
Vernissage details will be sent to exhibitors
Demonstration April 11, 2019, from 6 pm to 7:30 pm, room LB-362 of the Webster Library.
Pickup of pieces Friday, April 29, 2019, before noon

Registration to the exhibition

The exhibition registration fee is 25,00$, non refundable.

Cash or Cheque Payment:

  1. Please fill out the registration form (Download form)
  2. Send the form with your payment (cash or cheque payable to La Société des calligraphes de Montréal) to the following address:

La Société des calligraphes de Montréal a/s Saskia Latendresse
8410, rue Saint-Hubert
Montréal (Québec) H2P 1Z5

Paypal Payment

  1. Please fill out and send the registration form by email to (Download form)
  2. Use the Paypal form below to pay the 25$ registration fee:

Participant’s name to 2019 exhibition

For more information:

Saskia Latendresse
Tél. 514-389-1976
Courriel :