Calligraphy: from Traditional to Funky

November 17, 2008


Visual journal keepers tend to do at least some writing along with their sketching. I'm not a calligrapher but I love looking at beautifully written script. I enjoy colorful, rich, and textured layouts of text, text, text, all handwritten with flair and gusto. Because of this I keep my eyes open for interesting books about calligraphy.

The other day at Barnes and Noble I came across Lisa Engelbrecht's Modern Mark Making: From Classic Calligraphy to Hip Hand-Lettering. Even though I have no intention of mastering the art of calligraphy I had to buy this book. It is filled with stunningly beautiful and visually intriguing samples by the author and other calligraphers. (Traci Bautista, Glen Epstein, Teesha Moore, and Stephen Rapp are just some of the talented letter artists whose work appears in this book.)

Engelbrecht begins with an introduction to materials and the basics needed to pen basic italic script. She has chapters on doing a variety of alphabets with a pointed pen, a brush, how to switch from functional to funky, working on fabric, and more. The book has something for everyone interested in creating artwork based on calligraphy, enhancing their journal work, or simply creating invitations and addressing envelopes.

I found the author's text to be clear and straightforward. Practice alphabets are reproduced in a large size, with crisp, clear details you can practice towards. Artist examples are vibrant and inspiring. Engelbrecht also talks about homemade, innovative tools and I always like to see that because it's a mark of someone who is making art out of sheer creative impulse without allowing tools (or rules) to limit her work.

The book says, here's what you need to know, now experiment, play, be inspired by these pieces but go find your own lettering voice. So if you like the art of calligraphy and want to start learning it, or if you simply love colorful calligraphic artworks, check this book out. (My only quibble with the book is that it is one of those ring-bound books within a hard cover. I know people like those books because they open flat and they can set them on their work table and use them as a reference. All of that is true. I just don't like that binding. For most readers of this book, the one aspect I object to will be one which they love.)

  1. Reply

    Nice review of a very nice book. I’ve bought it but not read through it yet, but it’s yummy to look at and I adore the cover (coz’ it’s pink!). I bought it just like you, not to learn but to be inspired by the images inside.

    Love your blog by the way and just added it to my Link Love list as I found it via Danny Gregory’s blog! 🙂

  2. Reply


    My worlds are colliding. I took a class from Lisa last year at International Quilt Festival in Houston where she taught us Lettering on Canvas for art quilts. She is lovely and a wonderful, organized teacher.

  3. Reply

    Why THANK YOU! I ve just returned from a trip to Boston-a bit thrashed and my friend Traci Bautista forwarded this review to me! Wow! I really am so glad you liked my book and you got my point exactly-Calligraphy doesnt have to be about rules. This is such a great welcome home present and reminds me why this is all worth it. Continue writing and I will definitely be bookmarking your blog!

    • Roz
    • November 18, 2008

    Lisa, thank you for writing. You have written a lovely and energizing book. I also found a short you-tube film of you, an advertisement I think, of a DVD class. You were working through some wonderful layering techniques. I’ve been encouraging people to seek you out there as well. The end result can only be people following their interest in calligraphy and that will mean more lovely journal pages and fabric art for all of us to look at. Thanks for sharing such wonderful examples in your book.

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