Thursday, March 22, 2007


Bait for blog trawlers. Some sketches from recent trips into Toronto.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


Hm, seem to be only doing posts about calligraphy. But lettering was one of the first graphic arts. The development of writing down through the ages is one of the finest achievemnts of mankind. Good lettering has always been artistically beautiful. The study of lettering, letter spacing, leading, is a good way to develop the eye and the eye/hand coordination necessary to all the arts. Hand lettering used to be commonplace, and it was good. And I'm not talking the middle ages.
In all the space devoted to the classic animated cartoons these days, I've seen little mention of all the lettering that is present everywhere in these things, on windows, panel trucks, on the "Duck Hunting Season" signs, spaceships, Acme boxes, you name it. All the opening titles were always hand lettered and they're bloody beautifull. They weren't just great animators and painters; they could do lettering too! Very few people these days can do hand lettering like that. Our society doesn't encourage it. Now we have all our lettering provided for us mechanically- it started with Letraset (remember rubbing down that dry transfer stuff? Even then you had to watch the spacing yourself) and now is everywhere, thanks to the digital age. No question that the computer can get us some great effects. Too much effect too easily gotten, in too many cases. But something has been lost, the lettering today is too perfect.
The call to sunny tropic shores on all those travel posters was all the more inviting thanks to that beautiful italic brush lettering; or the feeling you get on the fade up to the opening titles of the great movies is all the greater realizing they were HAND MADE; alot of today's Photoshop efforts cannot match it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Calligraphy: Explicit!

I want to explain where the name for this blog comes from. I have a great interest history, and especially the medieval tme period and consequently, medieval art. The great and manuscripts, books and their decoration are fascinating to me. partly because of the art, but also because of the people who created them. There is much to be learned about the medieval mind. We have the mental image of the poor, lonely scribe, warming his hands by a low guttering candle, in a cold stone tower, hunched over his work, ink stained, muttering prayers and praying that the Vikings don't show up. (Not necessarily an accurate picture, but more on that later.) We think of him as anonymous. But a surprising number of manuscripts are signed by those that wrote them. More than just signed; often with some comments regarding the work, or a short prayer, or his relief in finally finishing the task at hand. The Latin phrase that appears under the title above is one of these afterwords or "explicits"; this one shows up again and again in numerous manuscripts from the Middle Ages.
Truer words were never spoke! How often have any of us groaned and stretched after hunching over the work for hours at a time. Any craftsman knows this, be they painter, poet, sculptor, modelmaker, 2- or 3-D animator....
I first ran across it myself in the book Medieval Calligraphy by Marc Drogin, one of several books by this author. I dedicate this entry to you, sir, wherever you are, for this phrase has returned to me over and over with great weight.It is so profound. And written down by some poor slob four hundred years ago! The whole body labours, regardless of the ergonomicists' best efforts.
And way back somewhere in those aching vertebrae, we kind of enjoy it....
And nothing to do with the three fingers on the hand of an animated character!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Two words: Robert Fawcett

Have always always been a lover of the American Illustration tradition. All those great names and the art: Pyle, Wyeth, Dunn, Held,Leyendecker, Flagg, ROCKWELL. And the list goes on and on.
So much has written on the topic in the last twenty years that it's hard to say more, but to provide my own reminiscinces of how I encountered it all. First saw all that stuff way back in high school and earlier; in those days, you had to hunt it out. Mostly it was to be found in the Public Library, the last best kept secret of the Small Town Community. The shelves were generally full of those books that Jim Vadebonceur is now repackaging in his IMages series: often with that strange hardcover coloured binding with the ebossed decoration? and occasional first editions. The print quality was not the best , certainly nothing like it is now. But the art came through: the compositons, the dynamic poses. I knew I looking at the right stuff. Over the years I have upped the ante, getting the newer reprinted material (remember the Ballantine books by David Larkin?) going to see original art, gallery exhibits, ticking things off thelist of must sees. The thrill of seeing N.C.Wyeth in the oil for the first time....!
It may be surprise to some that such stuff was not in fashion for the longest time: it was in vogue in the art schools of the time, at least the ones I went to. In the illustration course at Sheridan, the teachers thought these artists were old hat. The Illustrators Annuals looked very different: the names were Peak, Fuchs, English, Heindel, and alot of "interpretive" stuff. I have come to appreciate these names more recently, but didn't think they had a patch on the earlier artists! The sheer drawing ability! There were a few- Frazetta was big among us cognoscenti, but not yet mainstream. The lines between "high" illustration and pulp, comics and so on had not yet blurred. It is great to see how the scene has changed and to see these great artists come back into favour. Vindicated!

And so to Fawcett, always one of my faves because of his more graphic approach. The use of line. Use of strong values. The rough application of media. The compositions are astounding. The storytelling is careful, succint.

The sheer drawing!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


A couple of recent sketches for want of anything else and to get this thing going.