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!
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.
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.
Last fall, I answered the call from our president Mathieu Doucette to send a birthday card incorporating calligraphy to our centenary member, Sister Noëlla Doyon. She invited me to come and visit her at Les Jardins d’Aurélie Seniors Residence in St-Hyacinthe, which houses the communities of the Sisters of Saint Joseph and the Precious Blood. From our first contact in February, I realized that I was in the presence of an exceptional centenarian! Sister Noëlla is a very petite woman who moves at a brisk pace with a simple cane. She has a keen eye and is quick to speak and has a wonderful sense of humour.
“Calligraphy brings me life!”
An interest in calligraphy was always present in her life, especially as a teacher where she perfected her writing on classroom chalkboards.
“At school, you had to make beautiful pictures on the chalkboard, write beautiful sentences with an author’s eye that you embellished with flowers. We would run with it for four to five months, then at Christmas we would switch it up. I always said that every time I entered the class, I looked at the board! I had a teaching colleague in Granby who was a model for me. By slowly inclining my hand, I eventually entered the realm of the italic, and that was definitely my best work!”
The chance meeting of Yannick Durand
In the fall of 1995, at 74 years old with more than 35 years working as a teacher and 18 years as a librarian, Sister Noëlla was finally on sabbatical and ready to take up a new challenge.
“During an activity at the YMCA, I heard about the work of Yannick Durand. The same day, I made an appointment with her at the Essence du papier boutique on rue St-Denis in Montreal, where she worked. “
Sister Noëlla quickly started her lessons with Yannick at the Saidye-Bronfman Centre, then went to her Calligrafia workshop on blvd St-Laurent.
“A real Frenchwoman! She corrected every single letter we wrote, and sometimes she granted us a hand-drawn star. It was Yannick who introduced me to calligraphy. She was the one who wowed me the most by encouraging me. She didn’t have to repeat herself, I could spot that as a former teacher. Some teachers repeat, but not Yannick! We could feel that we were making progress with her there, but we had to practice! “
During her early years in calligraphy, Sister Noëlla experienced more difficult times.
“One evening, I arrived back at the Residence completely discouraged. It was taking me too long to get it right. I felt completely blocked! I went back to Yannick’s class and asked her to show me the letters that I had the most difficulty with, the ones that are more elongated, so that I could memorize them properly. I did a tremendous amount of those afterwards!”
This beautiful master-student relationship lasted 10 years and ended with the death of Yannick in January 2006. In the special autumn-winter 2006 issue of L’Arabesque devoted to Yannick Durand, Sister Noëlla paid tribute to her: “Yannick, an expert in the pen… All her works amazed me… I thank God for the luck of having crossed her on my life’s path […] I hope that her God in heaven will fulfill her. Goodbye to my dear calligraphy friend.”
Continuation of calligraphy and exploration of other writing styles
After the loss of Yannick, Sister Noëlla continued her training in calligraphy. In Longueuil, she met calligraphers Roger Beaudouin and Nicole Morin, a former student of Yannick.
“[Nicole] told me to go see Mr. Beaudoin. He will prepare a beautiful duck feather quill for you! Nicole also taught me, but the writing style did not have enough of an angle to really entice me. She did help me in the creation of a calligraphic landscape.”
She also followed courses to embellish her Italic, especially capital letters, with Luc Saucier and Gilles Champagne, among others. A little later, she enrolled in an illumination class with Brigitte Papineau.
“I did the letter E, but I found it too long. I am not patient enough with the gilding process.”
For someone who dedicated so much of her practice to the Italic hand, trying Copperplate felt completely natural.
“Joy Deneen gave me Copperplate lessons. I wanted to learn it because I had worked on a similar technique throughout my teaching years with cursive writing. But I did not master those majuscules! “
Participation in members’ exhibitions
From 2005 to 2010, Sister Noëlla participated in several exhibitions of the Societé. To illustrate this active period, she showed us a small album of photos, exclaiming: “It was great fun! I tried several new things! “
She is particularly proud of her work in 2011, as part of the exhibition: Urban Dialogue. She wrote a sentence which testifies to her great openness towards the Other: Maintaining the quality of dialogue in Montreal shows great fraternity. From a visual aspect, it was her first time integrating cartography with calligraphy.
Calligrapher in her community
For several years, Sister Noëlla was an active calligrapher in her religious community, particularly in addressing numerous envelopes. On nuns’ anniversaries, she prepared tribute pieces on white backgrounds using felt-tip pens.
“It was a slippery surface! I put a few flowers at the bottom, sometimes even artificial flowers. The sisters still tell me about it because they loved my paintings. “
In 2015, the last year of her active practice, she designed panels with the names of nuns celebrating jubilee anniversaries, such as sixtieths and fiftieths.
“I wrote all the names on a big card. Nowadays, everything is computerized!”
Hassan Massoudy, her latest favorite
Before departing, she confided in us her crush on the Iraqi calligrapher Hassan Massoudy, established in France since 1969. She discovered him due to his many lectures on calligraphy and, to this day, keeps a photo of the artist at work.
She also wants to give this advice to novice calligraphers: “Continue to be tenacious! If you don’t like it, drop it. If you like it, you have to work for it to be presentable and for you to have some recognition.”
Au revoir, Sister Noëlla. Thank you for your joie de vivre, your love of calligraphy and this wonderful encounter!
Sister Noëlla’s life in a few dates
December 5, 1919 Born in St-Guillaume, a village near Drummondville. She is the second in a family of 11 children, five girls and six boys. Her sister Jeannine, who is 10 years her junior, is part of the same religious congregation.
1934 – 1937 Boarding school in St-Hyacinthe at the Sisters of Saint-Joseph
1937 – 1939 Teacher in the village of St-Guillaume
1939 Summer trip to Albany, NY
1939 – 1943 Entrance and novitiate with the Sisters of Saint-Joseph community
1943 – 1975 Teacher in Montérégie and in the Eastern Townships
1975 – 1977 Library studies training at Ste-Thérèse college in Blainville and Collège Maisonneuve in Montreal
1977 – 2002 Librarian at St-Joseph High School, St-Hyacinthe
1978 Trip to Israel after obtaining a certificate in Theology at the Université de Sherbrooke
1991 Trip to France, a community gift for her jubilee as a religious professional (50 years)
1994 Bachelors in Science (B.Sc) at l’Université de Montréal
1995 Sabbatical in Montréal and discovery of calligraphy with Yannick Durand. Became a member of the Société des calligraphes de Montréal
2002 – 2015 Librarian at Résidence Notre-Dame, St-Hyacinthe
2005 – 2010 Participated in the annual members exhibits of the Société
2015 End of the practice of calligraphy. Sister Noëlla continues her membership because of her interest in calligraphy and the members of the Société.
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
Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Canadian Heraldic Authority, founded on June 4, 1988, by Jeanne Sauvé in the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. Luc Saucier, a member of La Société des calligraphes de Montréal, has been associated with this institution since 2005.
1) What is the Canadian Heraldic Authority?
From the twelfth century, European knights adopted the practice of decorating their shields in order to be recognized when they were clad in armor. The primitive coats of arms, often very simplistic, were useful in clearly identifying the person sporting them. Over time, monarchs assumed control of the granting and official use of coats of arms, which allowed them to pay tribute to individuals and groups. A coat of arms thus came to be perceived as a mark of honor awarded by a sovereign. Heralds of arms – officers of the court who also acted as diplomats – were charged with the task of conducting a census to collect the various coats of arms held by the sovereign’s subjects.
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.
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
details will be sent to exhibitors
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.
On July 15, I left for Bellingham to participate in Seattletters, my second International Calligraphy Conference. I was charmed by the campus with its view of the bay and magnificent sunsets. I found my “calligrafriends” from last year (Letterworks 2017) and met many new people.
As my first choice, I had chosen the class of Master Penman Pat Blair, the White House Chief Calligrapher. I had heard a great number of positive comments from students who had taken her course last year. As Copperplate is my favorite hand, I wanted to learn her technique and better understand its subtleties. The course lasted five days. The first two were spent reviewing the lowercase and capital letters and learning how to plan for and add flourishes to ascenders and descenders. The remaining days were dedicated to the creation of two projects: a long text and a word or simple phrase against a watercolour background.Continue reading “Seattletters 2018 Conference by Elyse Viotto”