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Guide to Letter carving: one

03/05/2020

Lettercarving in progressIn this time of lockdown and social distancing, I’m pleased to present my Guide to Letter carving. What better way to spend some time than learn the basics of this practice? You can carve outside or indoors: because I live in Australia the climate is mild and I have a garden, so I choose to carve plein air. Do what you want – there are no rules! First, though, you need the right equipment – this short video will explain the initial step on your adventure and, possible, absorption into carving.

Guide to Letter carving: three

26/05/2020
Slate letters cut and in shadow

Slate alphabet caught in deep shadow

This is the third in a series of demonstrations about how to letter carve in a time of pandemic.

Guide to Letter carving: two

18/05/2020

The letter Q is discussed in this video, so sit comfortably and listen out for my tips in this ‘guide to lettercarving’.

Letter Q

Here’s the video. You’ll notice I am carving upside down – this is not recommended for beginners!

In honour of a decade: number 5

09/05/2020

Two years ago I posted about a film describing the Monotype works.

Monotype composition caster

Monotype composition caster

This photo is of the caster I owned in the 1990s, working from a workshop in Bromley, Kent, UK. I have written about my exploits here.

To finish off this tribute to hot metal follow this link to another video showing the machine in action and sounding wonderful.

Alphabet carving: the beginning

26/04/2020

This is the start of an exercise in carving an alphabet in salvaged slate. You’ll notice that I’m carving the letters [c40mm] upside down – this is because the straight edge of the slate happens to be at the top of the letters as I sketched them. [There are two panels to the complete alphabet.] This makes it easier to hold the slate [which is fairly thin – about 10mm] firm on the ‘easel’ or banker, which I also made. If you would like details of how to make your own banker please let me know. Subscribe for further instalments. [Note also the ‘printer’s hat’ I’m wearing – this is an optional extra! Details on demand.]

Banker with slate

Homemade banker with slate and tools.

O my Giotto

23/04/2020

How often do you draw an O? How often in this age of keyboards do you pick up a pen, pencil or brush and draw an O? How often do you give thought to the creation of an O? Here are some of mine. Now, these are not necessarily an O – yes it is a circle but an O is more than that. An O has style and grace, and is not a pure mathematical or geometrical ‘form’. Nevertheless…without more ado here is my [rather primitive] selection

O large

Freehand O drawn with bamboo pen

Why this interest in O? It comes from having picked up Vasari’s Lives of the Artists [Penguin Classics, 1965 (reprinted 1976), trans. George Bull] who describes the artist Giotto picking up his brush when asked for a sample to give to the Pope. This is the relevant section – ‘The courtier told Giotto for a drawing which he could send to his holiness. At this Giotto, who was a very courteous man, took a sheet of paper and a brush dipped in red, closed his arm to his side, so as to make a sort of compass of it, and then with a twist of his hand drew such a perfect circle that it was a marvel to see. Then, with a smile, he said to the courtier: ‘There’s your drawing.’ As if he were being ridiculed, the courtier replied: “Is this the only drawing I’m to have?’ ‘It’s more than enough,’ answered Giotto.” [p.64.]

O with pen

O with the bamboo pen, made by John Skelton

Well, the Pope saw the O and was mightily impressed and Giotto got the commission. Vasari continues: ‘And when the story became generally known, it gave rise to the saying which is still used to describe stupid people: ‘You are more simple that Giotto’s O.’ This is a splendid witticism, not only because of the circumstances which gave rise to it but also because of the pun it contains, the Tuscan word tondo meaning both a perfect circle and also a slow-witted simpleton.’ [p.65.]

As an encore, here is an O from the Rev. Catich’s The Art of the Serif:

Letter O Trajan

Art of the Serif by Catich

Isn’t that so beautiful? How about we all take time out to draw some O’s?

What’s the connection between Johannes Gutenberg [inventor], Felix Mendelsohn [composer] and Charles Wesley [Methodist]?

15/04/2020

Simple answer = c400 years.

Full answer for the examination = the Gutenberg Cantata or Festgesang.

More detail even = Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.