Categories
calligraphy lettering Thoughts on lettering

O my Giotto

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?

Categories
Thoughts on lettering

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

Simple answer = c400 years.

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

More detail even = Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

 

 

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework sculpture

Sounds of stonecarving

Listen to the sounds of chisel against sandstone as I work the stone to the shape I require.

https://stoneletters.files.wordpress.com/2020/04/sounding-carving.mp3

This is the piece I am working on

Work in progress
Sandstone sculpture unfinished

And completed:

Sculpture in limestone

Or try this video too

Categories
Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

In honour of a decade: number 4

Ian Hamilton Finlay. I first wrote about this wordsmith/polymath in December 2010. You can read it here. To add to this, I now show two pieces that have been in my collection for decades. First:

evening will come
Evening will come…Ian Hamilton Finlay

This is printed on card [75mmx220mm] and somewhere I also have a lapel badge. The second item is perhaps much rarer – a screen printed poster [450mmx590mm], with the inscription: Ian Hamilton Finlay / Designer: Jim Nicholson / Wild Hawthorn Press 1967.

Sails
Ian Hamilton Finlay / Jim Nicholson
Categories
calligraphy History of Lettering lettering Thoughts on lettering typographers

The [not so] New Typography

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about NonHuman books, and particularly the version produced by a machine of Tschichold’s The New Typography (1928). After publishing this piece I realised that I did not have a copy of this book, much to my surprise; confusing it with Asymmetrical Typography, which I do. Rather than wait, I got onto ABE and within moments located a copy in Melbourne – the 1995 University of California reprint. new typography

The text reads of its period, but given the current crisis we are in, has prescience. Take for example:

Unity of Life! So the arbitrary isolation of a part is no longer possible for us – every part belongs to and harmonises with the whole.

It’s also worth bearing in mind his view [the late 1920s, one hundred years ago] against the cult of the individual, which is what we have seen these past how many decades, in so many creative areas – think architecture, think novels, think music.

The creator disappears completely behind his work. People of today regard the arrogant thrusting forward of the man before his work as aesthetically embarrassing. Just as every human being is part of a greater whole, and is conscious of his connection with it, so his work should also be an expression of this general feeling of wholeness.

new typo title

Categories
lettering Thoughts on lettering

Carving a letter R in stone

Check out this – and do not be deceived by the ‘simplicity’. Instead listen to the music made by the dummy striking the chisel.

Letter R_Tom Perkins
Letter R carved in slate by Tom Perkins, August 1992

This fine example of an R is in my possession, has been since it was carved by Tom Perkins in August 1992, when I attended my first letter carving workshop at a place called West Dean in Sussex.

Categories
eric gill lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework Thoughts on lettering

Fiona MacCarthy vale

I was saddened to hear the news of FM’s passing,  not that I met her face-to-face.

Eric Gill and Fiona MacCarthy
Paperback version of Eric Gill by Fiona MacCarthy

I bought a copy of the Gill biography when it was issued in paperback in 1990. [The hardback came out a year earlier and was reprinted three times.]

However, I can record a connection with FM, through correspondence in May 1990, which are included within the biography just pulled from my library shelves.

She was living at The Round Building, Sheffield and I had sent a letter to her publishers, Faber&Faber in London about some project I was then conceiving. [I do not have my letter sent.]  I never took up her advice – though I may have written to Michael Richey, as she gave his address. I will report back.

Letter from Fiona MacCarthy
Letters received, typewritten, from Fiona MacCarthy in response to my letter.
Categories
Thoughts on lettering

In honour of a decade: number 3

This post is a tribute to the still remaining bookstores that offer the opportunity to browse and chance across gems of literature. I wrote this blog six years ago and it is even more relevant now.

Computer and books
Past and present

For example, only a few days ago I was in a local town, with 30 minutes up my sleeve. I see a couple walking down the pathway clutching some books. This is a Sunday and I think, Where did they come by those? It doesn’t take long for a recollection of a secondhand bookseller nearby to come to light; even less for me to make my way to the store.

It’s 2.30pm and the store is empty – aside from the owner talking with someone she knows. They continue talking while I browse – all sorts of stuff but mainly about a washing machine that’s on its last legs and the owner is wondering whether to buy another or get someone in to repair. A question of economics basically.

All this I’m hearing as I continue my search of the stacks. Nothing. Nothing. Then. I come across two books within a few feet of one another – They are: Portraits from Serbia and The Surgeon of Crowthorne. Why is this remarkable? The first because I’m researching a novel based on the events of 1999 – 2004; the second because I am about to see the movie based on the book, now titled The Madman and the Professor. 

This is why bookstores, secondhand ones, are so important. They throw up opportunities and chances denied the online stores, where everything is attainable with the click of a key.

Long live the book and long live the bookstore.

 

 

https://wordpress.com/post/stoneletters.wordpress.com/2565

 

Categories
Thoughts on lettering typographers Typographic ephemera typography

Nonhuman Books. Really?

Check out first this short [3m] video about a project that produces ‘nonhuman books’ – books that have not been touched by any form of human interference.

Hello again. What I see is not ‘poetry’, as is a claim, but random words ‘selected’ by a non-thinking, non-sentient, algorithm. These are no more books than Father Christmas lives at the North Pole.

In the interest of fairness those readers who wish to know more can visit http://www.atomicactivity.com/books/

and, when there, purchase a copy of A Nonhuman Reading of The New Typography by Jan Tschichold.

[Perhaps I will.]

UPDATE [21/3/2020] – And I did and the book arrived yesterday. Along with a balloon, which bore a text most apposite in today’s troubled times.

Atomic_detailAtomic_front

Original and non-human
The same page from the human and non human versions of the New Typography.

Atomic balloon

 

 

Categories
Elements of Lettering lettering Typographic ephemera

It’s 40, can’t you read?

Lettering comes in many forms, none more important surely than street signage that direct people. And within street signage comes texts literally written on to the road to advise motorists of, well, in this case speed.

Forty please
Don’t speed here – keep to 40kmph.

I do not doubt that the Australian Government has a code on street typography. Do they have one on legibility? Notice how this sign is being eroded by nature.

And see this earlier post as it looks as if the piece was given a paint job.