Keynote from US Calligraphy Conference 2012

Uploaded by THEREALQUILLSKILL on 07.07.2012

It's a pleasure to be here and I hope you'll have
an inspiring week.
We are here at the 31st international conference,
31 years since the first one
and we are here in many ways to celebrate calligraphy
and this is a chance for me to "recycle" this catalog design from
an exhibition last year
But this talk is not about my work, this talk is about your work
and our work together.
31 years since the first conference ... many of the...
students then have gone on to become
well-known teachers...
this is actually even slightly before the first conference in 1979
Hermann Zapf is the master,
Julian Waters is one of the students.
An interesting photo, Julian sent me this
Everyone's focused on Hermann Zapf's hands and what he is showing them
but Julian is
looking right into his eye,
looking a little deeper ....
He's got his arms folded
in total respect, Julian has told me
I asked him, for another publication
if I could say he used to be Herman Zapf's protégé, and he says "no, I still am"
but he's clearly got a vision in his eye there and he is here this week
along with the rest of us.
So, the message in these first couple of photos is
We've all been students too; don't be afraid to engage with us.
You want to have an engaging teacher;
teachers like to have engaging students. Here was engaging student ...
There's three well-known calligraphers here now. This photograph ... I'm not sure,
maybe in the 80's sometime?
The master is the one being pointed at by the student: Friedrich Neugebauer
from Austria visiting San Francisco.
The translator at the workshop
is Alan Blackman on the left
and Georgia Deaver
is asking him a polite question
so Georgia sent me this photo. Georgia is not teaching this conference
but she's been an inspiration to me and others, for many years
and she's taught at some conferences
I asked her what was going on here and she says "Oh, I don't know Denis
but I'm sure i was raising hell!"
and I thought, you know... look at the eye contact there
It's engaging ....
What what were they thinking about? What were they talking about? I asked Georgia
could she remember the context; and she couldn't, but she e-mailed
Alan Blackman
and Alan Blackman e-mailed back and I got forwarded the e-mail
and his answer was ...
a load of baloney... he made it up
and mixed it in with some truth
We are all creative people, so I thought I'll make up my own baloney
to go with this photograph
because ... look at the...
There's calligraphy on the wall behind the heads of these people
It's almost like
cartoon balloons ... you know...
That's what they're saying!
Alan Blackman is saying "I am so unhappy with you, Georgia, to question
the great master
who's come from Austria!"
There is a smile on Friedrich Neugebauer's face,
but he's also saying "I'm so unhappy that I don't speak English...
I can't understand this engaging conversation"
Georgia's balloon is all blurred
We have to make that one up
She's pointing...
look at those dots on the collar of
She's saying "I'm a decorative person,
come on Alan, let's put a few more dots on him, he looks good
Let's join the dots!"
So, that's the light hearted side,
you can enjoy these classes not just for inspiration
but for a bit of fun, as well.
but this is actually a piece of work from Georgia Deaver from her earlier days
I think this was 1985, it was a particular piece that I
saw reproduced in the very first issue of the very first guild magazine
I got when I was 16 years old. I was commissioned to do a Gospel book
for my calligraphy teacher and as a bonus payment
he signed me up
as a lay-member of the Society of Scribes and Illumimators, and this was
in color in the center spread. Sheila Waters' "Roundel of the Seasons" was there too
and it was inspiring, you know...
and Georgia's work here; to see these
amazing free flourishes combined with more traditional work was great
Georgia's been doing professional work for many years; this is another one
of her simpler early commissions. One of her simpler jobs
Wedding invitations
Of all the job she's done this is maybe less flourished
but this is a kind of special job because it was for another Jobs
Steve Jobs' wedding invitations were done by Georgia in 1991
Every one written by hand, put in a handmade envelope
and I'm making a link here,
because we are here in Reed College; there's a legacy of calligraphy
which has already been spoken about
Steve Jobs studied calligraphy here and stayed on for months
after dropping out of college
Steve Jobs
the inventor of the Macintosh Computer
CEO of Apple and Pixar, who died last year
he learned calligraphy here, where you are going to be engaging with calligraphy
I'll let him talk about it in a short video
Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country.
Throughout the campus
every poster, every label on every drawer was beautifully hand calligraphed.
BecauseI had dropped out and didn't have to
take the normal classes I decided to take a calligraphy class
to learn how to do this.
I learned about serif
and sans-serif
about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations
about what makes great typography great.
It was beautiful
artistically subtle
in a way that science can't capture and I found it fascinating
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life
but 10 years later, when we were
designing the first Macintosh computer
it all came back to me
and we designed it all into the Mac
it was the first computer with beautiful typography
If I had never dropped in on that simple course in college
the Mac would never have had multiple typefaces or proportionately spaced fonts
and since Windows just copied the Mac
it's likely that no personal computer would have them
So, who knows?
Yes, he stayed on for several months after dropping out
sleeping on friends bedroom floors. Who knows...
Steve Jobs could have slept on the floor of the bedroom you're sleeping in.
He took Reed College so seriously, not because of academic studies,
that he named his son "Reed"
Don't ask how I got this personal message
from Steve Jobs, but it's quite a touching message
if you read the words
As you most likely know, he died of cancer last year
He did get to see his son Reed graduate.
This is the man who taught
Steve Jobs and many, many others
calligraphy here at Reed College since 1969
He took over
the job of
Lloyd Reynolds who was the, as you know now
was the man who started it all here
I'd heard of Lloyd Reynolds when I was a student back in England,
but I never really connected with what an important man he was, until
I visited Portland and got to hang around with people who knew him
'cause clearly he was...
Calligraphy was not the end of it
Calligraphy was merely the departure point, it seems
for a man like Lloyd Reynolds
he seems to have been a humanist
It's not the calligraphy, it's what the calligraphy is for
What is the calligraphy for?
He wrote it here: "Calligraphy for People" and people are more important
than the calligraphy in the way he's written it.
What are you going to DO with the calligraphy you learn to make?
What is it for?
Oh, Lloyd Reynolds was also a master of doing serif's
without looking at the paper!
This is actually a photograph of the dance teacher at
Reed College in the sixties: Jenny Hunter Groat
who is an octogenarian now, but she still likes to say
she dances on paper. She calls herself an abstract expressionist
painter more than a calligrapher these days
but she connected with calligraphy through Lloyd Reynolds' classes ...
I've never met Lloyd Reynolds but met people like
Meri Taylor and Carol, who told me stories and I haven't even met
Jenny Hunter Groat but we've had long
FaceBook discussions.
This is a magazine design I did to introduce her work to
an English calligraphy guild
Her painting on the left; my job was to unify it with the image
it's an early image of her dance in...
in the 1950's I think, on the right.
The only mark I've made on the page
is the question mark
bottom right ... it's clear I needed to integrate the black and white with the
red and purple, so this was just a piece of artwork I happened to have on file
and I brought it in there, but it's not just about
the design of the colors, the shape of that mark
is paraphrasing
the shape of the gesture in the dance
See the clockwise movement: around then down
Jenny was impressed that I picked up on that, but not just that.
If you look closely into the painting
almost, well I won't say all, but many of the brush-strokes
are actually repetitions of that "upwards, around and then down".
If you look up this painting closely it's clear this is the work of
a right-handed person
Left-handed calligraphers tend to still follow the right-handed way.
I think if I was a left-handed calligrapher,
I'd have to reinvent a new calligraphy
Abstract painters don't have that hangup. I'm sure if an abstract painter was making
these gestures
they'd come from the spine outwards and around, and back to the body
which shows this is a right-handed mark making.
Jenny was fascinated with the depths of the way I was looking
at just designing these things. As a dancer she knew about gesture
and she'd she claims that it was Lloyd Reynolds who found the connection
for her between dance and calligraphy.
She told me that she tells her students, or told her students in calligraphy
about writing letters: "Write it with your whole body,
write it with your toenails!"
and you can see in this image
how active her toes are in this
which is quite a part of the gesture.
So, how does this type of person connect with
Steve Jobs, again.
A man of technology, a man of business, a man of the digital world.
So, I already told you they have that connection in
calligraphy classes here in Reed College
But there's more connections and I have another little video featuring
a story from Steve Jobs
which will show you that maybe the digital world isn't
so far away from the artistic world
In 1984 they visited the home of Yoko Ono for the 9th birthday party of Sean
her son with John Lennon. Jobs took along a birthday gift
that fascinated not only Sean
but the whole star-studded guest list.
Steve opened it up
pulled out what was one of those first Macintoshes off the assembly line
set it up on the floor, Sean was down on the floor with him
Steve turned it on, put Mac-paint in there. Took him about 2 seconds to show Sean how to deal with it
and Sean pretty soon was drawing pictures
Later Steve told me it was one of the first times he'd watched a child with a Mac
Eventually I became aware that there were some people who had come into the room, and I looked over my shoulder
and there was Andy Warhol
So there was this great moment that I'll never forget
Andy Warhol
gets down on his hands and knees with Sean on the one side, Steve on the other
I remember that Warhol would pick up the mouse and instead of lining it along the floor ...
he would pick it up and try to figure out how to make it work and Steve very patiently would lower his hand down and say "no, got to push it along"
so Any fooled around with it and he was completely mesmerized
When he zoned in on something the rest of the world disappeared and that was what it was like watching Warhol in front of a Mac for the first time
& then he got this big smile on his face & he looked up and said "I drew a circle!"
So, I thought i was just a sweet story about ... you know ...
Computers are digital things but they engage human beings
and they certainly helped develop my calligraphy
It's technology you know, here is is a man
thirty thousand years ago
reaching forward to make his mark
using the technology he could think of at the time
30,000 years... he's managed to communicate his spirit
through gesture
reaching out, to make his mark
The technology here seems to have been blowing pigment through a straw
you know, learn not to suck!
This is a close-up of
my left thumb
The latin for finger is "digit"
That's how we have the word "digital"
I guess the link is Roman numerals
numbers which are signed by hand: One
Two fingers: two
a V for five; may be a whole hand like this; the X for ten, maybe a gesture like this
This is a photograph of my hands, with calligraphy written by those hands
projected back
on those hands
Digital projections onto my digits
For me, calligraphy is about playing with words
My father was always the the visual artist of the family but my mother...
She was Irish Scrabble Champion a couple of times. She always liked word games.
A "manual", it's a book. "Manus" is the latin for the word hand
"Manual" and "Digital"
are so connected
in that sense
Computers are binary of course We are PENTADACTYLES
5 digit beings
And this is an illuminated manuscript
if it wasn't for the projected light, you wouldn't see anything
and the image has been digitally edited
so handwritten calligraphy
being taken into the digital world
The actual prints on hand-painted paper
Here is another digital image
with a human connection
This is a photograph taken after the Fukishima
nuclear disaster in
Northeast Japan last March
and here we can see two people who are
very connected
through this disaster
Two very different beings
The soldier very connected with a sense of purpose at that moment
and the man
in a situation of chaos
he is calm.
and he's got cool shoes, he's saying ...
"I'm really glad I got these shoes, there's photographers about"
Calligraphy is about rhythm
patterns of repetition. Nature is full of rhythm and full of life
sometimes it's dangerous...
...always it's beautiful
the Fukishima disaster again there's some amazing photographs
I found
like this one
Patterns of repetition
which caused chaos
There is a link here, but i'll come back to it
You might notice there are some spiral images in the top left here
that have a similar pattern but
I'm showing you this... changing theme a little bit, before I come back
This is a close-up of an Irish manuscript made in Switzerland in St. Gall
where there's an Irish monastery
in the ninth century
but this particular manuscript is not most remarkable for its illumination
its illumination is
find and interesting and so is its script
but the scribe of this manuscript reached out to make his mark in a different way
he wrote notes in the margins
he did things ... he wrote texts he wasn't asked to write
he made up poems and wrote them in the margins ... in the ninth century
OK, you've got his main text in the lower lines, the one right next
to the top margin
is his marginal note
or marginal poem. I'm going to read it out to you in Irish because it's in Irish
"Is acher in gaith in-nocht,
fu-fuasna fairggae findfolt:
ni agor reimm mora minn
dond laechraid lainn ua Lothlind."
"Lothlind": the Northlands ... this is a poem about Viking invasions
the remarkable thing ... I'll read it to you in English actually
Bitter and wild is the wind tonight, Tossing the tresses of the sea to white
On such a night as this I feel at ease
Fierce northmen only course the quiet seas.
I've connected with this text early on, as you can see
I didn't even know what at the time but I think it was a response to
being bullied at school child
for me, and I've made a connection more recently
with the most remarkable of Irish manuscripts, the Book of Kells
One of the remarkable things for me about this manuscript is, it's so calm
full of energy, but full of peace
yet made in a time of chaos
The island of Iona was attacked by Vikings several times and the monks fled
back to the mothership of
a place called Kells, which is
in County Meath in Ireland
Gemma Black is gonna be talking about the Book of Kells, an introduction
on Tuesday evening, so I will skip on to...
actually this is a detail of a work which is very similar to the one I have
in the faculty show, which repeats this same poem. I've written it dozens of times
before I started to figure out the personal interactions
Originally scribes are commissioned to write other people's texts
and I showed you this scribe in that manuscript
cheated, he put his own words in there. He actually became creative
with the words
So, here we have an image which has
the different aspects; like that aspect of the inspiration from these
horrific photographs from
Fukishima and Northeastern Japan combined with that image of
peace, in the...
the Celtic spiral.
What does calligraphy mean to you?
I mentioned that
Lloyd Reynolds quotation; he wrote "Calligraphy for People"
What are you going to do with your calligraphy? What have you got to say with it?
It's important to think about this
as much as
practicing the forms and the shapes, the composition, the expression, the line.
We are here to celebrate calligraphy
I'm here to go back through my slides... No- no ...
I'm just finishing off now people, it's OK, you get to go to bed soon
How you celebrate calligraphy may not be how I celebrate calligraphy.
We're here to share
we are here to reach forward
and make our mark
This is another photograph of
me with my calligraphy projected...
Thank you very much
I've been told to invite everyone to the social
It's in Meri Taylor's bedroom
or in the student union, You choose!
I can't find my room!
Thank you so much, sleep well, come up refreshed in the morning and come play with us!