Categories
lettering

Olleywood – celebrating an Australian artist in letters

…and with a nod to a more famous, if less morally coherent place on the west coast of the USA.

olleywoodThe standing letters, about 1.5m tall, celebrate the opening of a new art gallery near me, named after Margaret Olley (1923-2011). The gallery, part of the Tweed Regional Gallery, in northern NSW, Australia, was officially opened last week to much fanfare – a speech by the Governor-General no less, who had known the artist for many decades and spoke movingly of the artist, her life and her work. As this is not an art blog I will leave you to seek out more on Olley, but click here as a good starting point.

Categories
lettering lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera typography

Happy Third

Birthday’s should not go unnoticed, even if it is a blog. After all, behind the blog is a person.gold 3 The actual third anniversary of All About Lettering was on November 2 and, no, there was no celebration. (2nd anniversary blog here.)3 stones

This blog will make 355. I had intended when I began (full of enthusiasm and unaware of the amount of time  it takes to write a post, do the research etc) that I would have published 365 in the first year alone, that’s one a day. That hurdle – if it be one – still remains to be crossed, though it draws ever nearer.

The past year has been one of activity outside of typography (I have been completing a postgraduate course) and the frequency of posts dropped away. Indeed in the first months of the year there were none recorded, and yet I noticed that people were still dropping round to take a look.

Thank you, and to those who have been following since the beginning, a very warm thank you for sticking by. I still have a few things to say and illustrate about the marvellous world of print, typography, lettering and design. So don’t go away just yet. When it comes to numerals there isn’t a lot of good stuff around, but on a walk around my neighbourhood I spotted the stones shown here as a reminder that nature does best (though in truth these stones, forming a wall, were placed by human activity). The other  illustration is a quick calligraphic doodle of mine.

Categories
Typographic ephemera

Anthony Caro – in memory (1924-2013)

Anthony Caro has passed and as one who admired his work from afar I honour his soul.  Caro 2013

The book jacket illustrated  here comes from a volume published in 2000 about the two sculptors Caro and Chillida (ISBN 0-9678124-0-2, edited and introduced by Andrew Dempsey). The photograph is also taken from this volume.Caro 2013_0001

Opening this book for the first time in many years I find this passage annotated by an earlier self: (Caro is speaking) ‘In England there’s no tradition of forging as there is in Spain. I never felt connected to a tradition of working in steel. I chose to work in steel because it felt contrary to my inclinations. It offered resistance but it was so direct: “put” and “cut”. That direct way of working is a kind of parallel to Manet’s way of painting. Straight to the art, don’t get sidetracked by the craft’ (2000, p.42).

And here he is talking about his first encounter with David Smith in New York: ‘…he used to tell me to spend without stint on my art. He told me he drew on paper which cost two dollars a sheet, which was a lot in those days. I used to draw on the cheapest paper, paper for lining walls or drawers. He said, value your own art above everything, save on your household needs, never save on your art’ (2000, p.36).

What has this to do with typography? Everything and something….I leave you to find the connections. Thank you for reading.

Categories
Elements of Lettering

Roman lettercarvers named

It is rare for individuals who carve lettering to be remembered. I have carved a number of public inscriptions in the UK and I doubt anyone in a thousand years time will pause to reflect on the hand behind the cut. I would not expect otherwise. So I was taken aback when browsing Alan Bartram’s indispensable Lettering on Architecture (one of two books that should be on the bookshelf of any serious student of lettering – the other is Nicolete Gray’s A History of Lettering – see here for an earlier post on her) of the revelation that certain monumental inscriptions in Roman can be identified with one Luca Horfei and Matheo de Meli, in or around the late 16th century. Now I would like to write more on these characters, and Nicolete Gray gives a hint as to where to find further information – none other than James Mosley. For those who have not stumbled across that name before take note. He was librarian of the famous St Bride printing library in central London for many decades (until 2000) and what he didn’t know about printing history could…well, it could be written on the back of a postage stamp. He is a legend and I remember visiting that library when I was working in Fleet Street and being awed by the great man’s presence. Of Mosley, and this is a digression, a long one, I quote from Bulletin 32 [page 19] of the Printing Historical Society that I happen to have to hand: ‘After lunch, the company reassembled for James Mosley’s “Morris and the ‘Rugged’ School of Typography”. The most invigorating and original of the day’s offerings, this included a particularly fine and telling sequence of slides and [unscripted] commentary bringing to life an apparently neglected context of Kelmscott typography lying in some of the freehand drawn lettering of its period.’ You get my drift. Anyhow, regarding further commentary on Horfei and de Meli, that can be found in Mosley’s 1964 article ‘Trajan Revived’ printed in Alphabet. However, Gray offers a glimpse when she writes that Horfei followed the style of the writing master, G.F. Cresci, and designed ‘much of the lettering connected with the great town planning works in Rome inaugurated by Pope Sixtus V (1585-90)’ [p.147]. The illustrations below show: Luca Pacioli B; a B based on Trajan from Cresci (1570); and lettering designed by Horfei and cut by de Meli (1588).

Horfei and Matheo de Meli_0001 Horfei and Matheo de Meli

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Oops….

On a recent trip to the Granite Belt of Queensland (Australia) I stumbled across this in the pavement of the town of Stanthorpe. Clearly a builder of an adjoining property had no understanding, or love, of lettering. It reminded me of the time  I carved a foundation stone to an architect’s instructions for an Oxford college. The stone (sandstone) was octagonal to fit in a paved area. I delivered the piece on time, was paid promptly and added the images to my portfolio. A month or so later the architect rang. ‘John,’ he said, ‘there’s a problem’. Immediately I thought perhaps I had made an error in some name on the stone, or the date of commemoration was wrong. But no. ‘The bloody builder decided that because the shape in the pavement was different to the size of the stone he would cut the stone to fit. It’s a disaster.’

The outcome was that I was commissioned (and paid) to produce a second stone. It was never as good as the first – letter carving is a one-off. Otherwise be a printer.

D in stanthorpe

 

S in stanthorpe

 

Categories
calligraphy Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

Something very graphic for the weekend

I confess  the name Marian Bantjes is one with which I am unfamiliar. But then I am sure, too, that she has not heard of John Pitt. We bumped into each other (or rather me her) when I plucked her book I Wonder from one of our bookshelves where it had lain dormant for some years. My partner (another Marian) had brought the book back from a visit to New York, and it’s signed by the author. It’s a lovely volume, richly illustrated and superbly designed by Marian (the NY one). I’d love to hear from other readers who share my enthusiasm. This illustration is but one of many I could have chosen.

marian bantjes

Categories
lettering

Lettering on leaves – literally

I have not seen this before. Taken near where I live on the east coast of Australia. Be interested to see any other examples worldwide.

flowers words 1

flowers words 2

Categories
lettering, typography, alphabets, stonework

Nicolete Gray and women in lettering

It was two years ago that I first mentioned Nicolete Gray, writing then that I would have more to say about her (see here). Well, finally I do!

Today there are many accomplished and brilliant lettering artists and typographers. In the field of letter carving in the UK there’s Brenda Berman and Annet Stirling at Incisive Letterwork. I am sure you can think of many others now active in typographer and graphic design – please let me know. However, back in the 1940s and on it is true to say that women were not often noted (or noticed perhaps) in the field. There were exceptions, and Nicolete Gray (1911-1997) was foremost among them.

She was an historian of lettering as well as a practitioner, and among the projects she completed (in partnership with John Skelton – whose daughter Helen Mary is also an excellent lettering artist) was the one illustrated here, made out of wood to commemorate Shakespeare in 1964. Nicolette Gray shakespeare

Writing about the piece she says: ‘The work is interesting, I hope, as an experiment in the sort of expressionism particularly suited to lettering…I wanted my letters to work at different depths and, as it were, to wear different clothes…As I read the poets and tried to understand their place in their time, their names took on shapes and the letters in them characteristics: Christopher Marlowe with his great R’s striding across the wood, like Tamburlaine over the map of the world…shakespeare and Nicolette GrayAnd Shakespeare himself? One thinks not of him, but of the people he created. He is Protean, impossible to grasp.; I found that I was trying, as I carved each letter, to express something of his immense revelation of all the depths and delights known to human consciousness. So some of the letters are in boisterous relief,; some gay; some, like the last A and R, cut as harsh, ruthless forms through the surface cherry wood down to layers of dark rosewood and ebony.’ [From Expressionist Lettering in Calligraphy and Palaeography, 1965, Faber and Faber.)

For an obituary of Gray see here (from The Independent newspaper).

Categories
lettering

Signwriting – a lost art?

These illustrations were taken this week of a hand painted sign in the local town a few kms from where I live. Judging by the style I’d estimate the sign was painted in the 60s or perhaps 70s. It is a nice example of slab lettering combined with shading to make the lettering seem as if engraved or incised. (Shame about the orange graffiti.)

simpson signage a

simpson signage b

simpson signage

The next illustration, taken from A.J. Lewery’s Signwritten Art (1989, David and Charles), shows a page from William Sutherland’s  The Practical Guide to Sign Writing and Gilding, and Ornamenting on Glass (1860).

signwriting sutherland

Categories
lettering

More Gascoigne, for the weekend

A visit to the local regional art gallery and a new Gascoigne on show – new that is to me. (Those who missed my earlier post please take a moment to read it here.) The first is called Vintage 1990 (retro-reflective road signs on plywood).

 

She wrote: ‘I don’t want to put it in words or spell it out as a literal picture, but rather, capture it in feelings’.

Plus another sculptural work, iron sheeting, titled Inland Sea (?1986), which I think rather beautiful.