Archive for category Medium: Calligraphy

Lettering With Love || Sue Hiepler & Yasmin Reddig

This is an attractive book that’s really hard to classify. It’s not exactly art instruction, yet not quite calligraphy either. That is, of course, broadly the point and the idea is to suggest images that contain both watercolour and lettering. The subtitle, “the simple art of handwriting with watercolour embellishment” says as much.

To be absolutely honest, I think you could flick through it, say “Oh yes” and then get on with your own ideas. However, if you want projects, images and letterforms, it’s all here and, in spite of my reservations, I can’t help liking it – and that’s really quite high praise.

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Decorated Lettering || Jan Pickett

Pitched rather nicely between craft and calligraphy, this is a project book for those who aspire to what we might call fancy pen-work.

It starts with some useful guides to techniques and letterforms before moving on to more freestyle work. This then develops into a look at ways of decorating letters that could be described as informal illumination. This is a book for those who want to have some fun rather than make a serious study, and it’s none the worse for that. Further ideas, under headings such as “going dotty” and “fun with pastels”, follow and there are hints, tips and demonstrations where and when they’re required.

The whole is relaxed and colourful while also being informative and inspiring and it’s an easy book to like.

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Complete Guide to Calligraphy || Vivien Lunniss

Well, I haven’t seen one of these for a while! Either I’m not being sent them, or calligraphy books aren’t as thick on the ground as they were a few years back. Certainly, I had to check this carefully to make sure it wasn’t a reissue, but I can find no previous trace and the author’s name is new to me. It originates with the packager Quarto, who have an excellent track record in illustrated instructional books and manage to make the whole process highly efficient and visually appealing while at the same time admirably easy to follow.

The structure of the book is much the same as any other with an identical or wildly similar title. The cover strapline is “everything you need to know, with 20 beautiful lettering styles”, which both confirms that and also sums the book up. There’s an introduction to materials and equipment and basic methods of working, along with the rudiments of design as you’ll need to know them. The rest is progressive, with a series of step-by-step demonstrations of commonly used scripts, showing you how the letterforms, both Roman and italic, are built up. What is different, though, is the much wider use of colour. This isn’t just to make the book more appealing than if it was black only and is a genuine departure. As well as simply being there, it also allows Vivien Lunniss to show the different penstrokes that go into a single letter, greatly increasing clarity.

Did we need another book on letterforms? Well, time, styles and book production move on and I’d say this nicely updates the literature without simply repeating what’s been done a hundred times before. It’s an attractive and innovative addition you should definitely look at.

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Calligraphy Studio || Christopher Calderhead

Subtitled, “The ultimate introduction or the art of hand lettering”, this is indeed a comprehensive guide and covers everything from letterforms and pen strokes to map-making and even writing on the human body.

The layout is not so much an instruction manual or a course as something to read through and immerse yourself in and, as such, is not (nor, it should be emphasised, does it claim to be) something for the beginner. Rather, it’s a book for those whose interest has been established and who already have some facility in the medium. The text is discursive rather than concise and the book is also generously illustrated with both examples and tips as well as finished works.

Having said that it’s not an instruction manual, there is nevertheless plenty of practical material and, if you want to take calligraphy seriously, this should satisfy you for a long time.


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The Encyclopaedia of Calligraphy Techniques || Diana Hardy Wilson

The Encyclopaedia series was a winning format when it first appeared and one that has stood the test of time well, setting the standard for design-led instruction books where each spread is an entity in its own right. Several of the volumes have been revamped and, although I can’t see any evidence that this one is more than a straight reissue, it retains a fresh and inviting feel.

There are two distinct sections, Techniques and Themes and the combination of what to do and what to do with it is pretty much unique, most calligraphy books going for just one or the other.

Techniques covers all the things you’d expect, from basic penmanship to letterforms in Carolingian, Copperplate, Italic, etc. Diana also includes extras such as gilding, the use of quill pens and ornamentation.

In Themes, she gives extensive examples of the sort of work you can produce, with illustrations from a variety of contemporary practitioners. There is a limited amount of detail here, so this is more a gallery than a series of projects, but the extended captions and chapter introductions go a long way towards giving you ideas to work on.

If you want what is effectively two books in one, you’ll get excellent value for money.

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Learn World Calligraphy || Margaret Shepherd

This nicely-done and copiously illustrated work offers a look at calligraphy alphabets beyond the usual Roman, Italic and Uncial. You get Celtic, Oriental, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic and more with details of how to cut and hold your pens as well as the letter shapes, and notes about the tradition in a variety of cultures.

I think it’s fair to say that this is something for the calligraphy enthusiast rather than the beginner or dilettante. You need to be comfortable with basic techniques (and Margaret has several books which will help you master those) before you try the less-familiar shapes that are shown here. However, if you’re looking for a way to expand your range, you’ll find a lot to explore and digest here.

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Calligraphy in 24 One Hour Lessons || Veiko Kespersaks

I think the first impression you get of this is from the title, which evokes (from me, at any rate) the comment, “Well, that sounds like a good idea”. Like everything else that promises to teach you a subject in a day, a week, or whatever, it’s almost certainly a tall order, if only because it doesn’t allow for all the practice you have to do in between. Nevertheless, something that breaks a subject up into bite-size chunks is always going to encourage those who like the idea but are put off by what they perceive as the size of the task, and that can’t be a bad thing.

Once inside, the book turns out to be a fairly conventional calligraphy manual. There’s the usual introduction to pens, paper, basic letterforms and script families. The 24 lessons are then divided between different hands, with minuscules and majuscules and exercises on letter and word spacing, composition and design, with a brief look at illumination. The book concludes with a series of projects that will give you ideas on what you can use calligraphy for, as well as put what you’ve previously learnt into practice.

It’s all nicely done and well illustrated. Yes, it’s not ground-breaking, but that’s not really what you want. The layout of calligraphy manuals was settled a long time ago and the author has the good sense not to mess with a tried and tested formula. At £12.99, it’s good value for something this thorough.

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