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Letterwork revisited

April 8, 2017

IMG_1667

Yikes, calligraphy. Here’s me about 10 years ago, (looking a lot younger than I do now 🙂  ), doing some heebie jeebie work for a friend of ours’ church.  I’m including it and a certificate done for the same person to show basically what my commissioned work was for 40 years or more. Precise, traditional, nerve racking a lot of the time. If you make a mistake you can start all over.

hugo's diplomaB

It took years to free myself up from the calligraphic, graphic design, and typographic training I had, to begin to find my own voice. Evert van Dijk, a dear friend of ours and fine calligrapher/artist was instrumental in helping me to get away from obsessive perfectionism and to find my own writing styles and rhythms. Also, the work I did with master typographer and calligrapher Jovica Veljovic helped me to allow small imperfections to appear in the work. He taught me that, if executed with knowledge and experience of spacing, letter weight, etc, the overall impression would be of competence and the little glitches wouldn’t be noticeable.

Well, I’ve recently had a chance to do some lettering again. And Jovica’s tip really came in handy. Rende and I made some signs for our local edible garden. I wanted them to be nice, but since there is a fair chance of them getting stolen or damaged, I didn’t want to spend hours and hours on them. So without lines, no sketches, no preparation except 3 layers of varnish, I just took a loaded brush and lettered them freehand. You will see that they are not perfect by any means, but (especially because they are read vertically) they make a convincing impression of good lettering.

bord peulvruchten

finished wood moestuin signs

The signs are to label the beds for crop rotation, which happens over a period of 4 years. The idea is the first season, to plant the vegetables (like potatoes) which take the most nutrients out of the soil in one bed, and the next season to plant much less demanding plants in that bed, moving the potatoes to a new bed. The translation of the Dutch is:

Vaste planten= perennials
Aardappels= literally Earth apples  or potatoes
Peulvruchten= legumes like peas, beans, snowpeas, sugar snaps
Koolgewassen= cabbage-like veg, broccolie, brussels sprouts etc
Bladgewassen= lettuces and other leafy greens including squashes
Wortel & knol= root veg, like carrots, onions, celeriac

And now for something entirely different. I was inspired by a friend’s book of poetry and photographs to pick up my pens and brushes again for some freehand calligraphic art.  Here are some of the results. And here is Jörg’s website (German language).

take me across1

take me across copy

The style used here is inspired by my piece, ‘Wage Peace’ which you can see and read about here.

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10 Responses to “Letterwork revisited”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I was there 40 years ago in your “perfectionistic” era and now in your “allow for imperfections” era. The beauty has always been there but the heart, the heart, the heart shines through today!! I know those ground apples will be bountiful in appreciation of their loving acknowledgement above!!


  2. Hele mooi! Beautiful lettering, imperfections (wherever they are) and all. And I love the two pictures.


  3. A very encouraging post, thank you Sarah, and your calligraphy is amazing. I was interested to hear of your crop rotation. We’re only planting Peulvruchten this year because last year I got carried away with the aardappels and didn’t plant anything else. (Our garden is very small) All the best, eoin


    • I like that you are using the Dutch words, Eoin. Hope the aardappel harvest was ok last year. And enjoy the peas, beans etc you are planting this season. For our little garden, I’m only planting flowers this year, since we ordered over 100 different varieties of seeds for the group garden this year! Curious to see how it will all do.

      And by the way, harking back to another thread, I wondered if you knew the pronunciation of the birds’ names in Dutch. The ‘kool’ in koolmeesje is pronounced Kohl, with a long o like in home. And meesje is mays’ye. Curious if this makes the words sound nicer or not to you. take care, Sarah


      • No, I have to admit that I thought it was ‘coolmeasy’ but the Kohl sound makes sense because it’s ‘Coaltit in English. I like different languages but I’m not a linguist… Regarding the potatoes, we had a bumper crop last year, we were delighted with it. We had two varieties, an early and a middle. I wish I could grow them every year but of course I can’t because of the space we have. Yes, we could rent an allotment not too far away, but it’s nicer to just have the food growing in our back garden. This year it’s peas which I love and Broad beans which I plant because they grow well. 🙂


  4. Yes, I wondered how you’d pronounce it, Coolmeasy is sweet though.
    Great that your potatoes did so well.
    Ah, broad beans, memories of my Irish dad whose great hobby was gardening. They are called ‘tuinbonen’ (town bohnen’) here in NL. Anyway, as a child I wasn’t too crazy about the broad beans, but he grew the most delicious Irish tomatoes. I’ve never tasted anything like them since. They were just so strongly tomatoey! A bit salty and tangy and sweet and firm.
    In fact, even the tomatoes we grow here in our own garden (when they don’t get blight!!!) are tasteless, almost as bad as the waterbombs they sell in the supermarket.

    Good luck with the garden this year, Eoin. cheers.

  5. lisa evola Says:

    I love your calligraphic art pages at the bottom. The loose style is beautiful and shows a freedom that only comes from the love of something. I hope you do more art journaling….it is beautiful!


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