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
lettering

Back from a break – signwriters at work

It’s been a while since the last post (four months). I will ease myself in gently with this photo of men at work painting a sign. The craft of sign writing is alive and well here in Australia. For those interested another post can be found on signwriting here.

closing down

Categories
typography

Bit more Johnstonia

Can’t have too much. These black and white illustrations from a book on London I picked up from a secondhand shop over Christmas.

More Johnston_0001

More Johnston
Underground poster
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.

 

Categories
calligraphy lettering typography

A long overdue note on Michael Harvey

Prompted by the chance spot of a news item announcing the publication of his latest book – Adventures with Letters. For those who do not know Michael’s work please check this link. MH has been working in lettering/calligraphy for more than 60 years, being taught the art of letter cutting by Joseph Cribb, one of Gill’s assistants. He is a renowned and distinguished typographer as well. His earlier books, including Carving Letters in Stone and Wood (Bodley Head, 1987) and Creative Lettering Drawing and Design (Bodley Head, 1985), were among those volumes that influenced me when I was starting out. I’d recommend them to anyone wanting to know more about either discipline.

The link to his new book can be found here.

 

Categories
History of Lettering

John Peters, some further thoughts, especially on Fleet Titling

Back here I wrote about John Peters. Today I write about his design of a Monotype face called Fleet Titling, loosely based on Ehrhardt capitals. The company found it useful back in the late 1960s for its signage.

 

Categories
Thoughts on lettering Typographic ephemera

WOW, it’s the weekend

Piece of sculptural lettering for your weekend pleasure. By Midge Johnansen (Qld, Australia), exhibited at the Swell Sculpture Show, September 2012. Dimensions: 2.4mx1mx6m. Made from plywood and painted.

Sculptural lettering

Categories
Brand design Typographic ephemera

Something unisex for the weekend

Signage is everything. In a global world signs communicate where language ends, much like the frescoes in a medieval church. This comes not from a church yet it is just as powerful. More than that, it is something we all need, daily. (Taken, east coast Australia.)