Scribe: Artist of the Written Word | John Stevens
Available at John Neal Booksellers
Many eager learners of calligraphy today do not think twice about spending a couple hundred dollars for an online or beginner’s workshop to gain access to coveted secrets of the craft and trade. But many do hesitate to spend even a fraction of that on a book. However, I believe anyone who loves the calligraphic arts and is serious about their pursuit of learning calligraphy should purchase SCRIBE: Artist of the Written Word by John Stevens. This is especially true for those considering calligraphy as a business.
Not only is SCRIBE bursting at the seams with the gorgeous and diverse work of the mega-talented John Stevens, but the book also contains some of the best narrative about the art form I have ever read. SCRIBE is not a “how-to” book but an impressive portfolio of John’s lifework, interspersed with savory paragraphs of expert knowledge regarding the principles, rather than the techniques, of calligraphy. John endeavors to elevate all forms of this expressive and functional art – no matter the style of calligraphy, the tool used, or a work’s purposeful use.
He jumps in by discussing the word “calligraphy” itself and the word’s inability to express everything that is encompassed by our art today or how it will be influenced in the future as a craft and art form. He implores us to not think in terms of dividing calligraphy by trends, styles, or genres, but rather to realize that quality is what really matters. He states, “thinking in terms of tools or styles is a mistaken idea, as it does not tell us anything about the quality of the form or the work….Comparing genres is different than looking at quality.”
And quality is something John knows. The book, itself a quality publication, is full of amazing contemporary and classic calligraphy: Roman, Italic, Copperplate, and Fraktur, as well as brush lettering, gestural lettering, calligrams, and more. Page after page, John’s work beholds both expertly executed design and true mastery of calligraphy as an art form. Each and every piece is a study of quality work and inspires contemplation of what makes it so successful. And the diversity of letterforms is truly astounding.
However, I am enthralled as much by the narrative as by John’s visual gallery. He gives such incredible insight into form, rhythm, movement, content, design, and implementing the use of calligraphy that I feel I should have paid tuition as well as the price of the book. He writes, “Simply possessing a nice hand such as Italic or Uncial is admirable, but is that the real goal? Practice and study are necessary, yet how to put it all together is the bigger topic…[C]alligraphers are striving toward more thoughtful connection to meaning and intention, beyond the merely beautiful or decorative.”
John speaks in-depth of cultivating an appreciation for the lettering arts and how to expand on the “make it simple” teaching of calligraphy. He states, “If we cultivated the appreciation of form, content, and design from the beginning, then we would move the conversation away from ‘perfect penmanship and pretty poems’ toward a more vibrant expression.” While he is not against beginning and basic classes, he explains in order to develop calligraphy, we need to be teaching at a higher level than where we currently are. His ideal in teaching is “to achieve a fine balance of visual language, letterform development, design with content, and mastery of tools.”
SCRIBE reveals invaluable descriptions of the exercises John uses when teaching the progression from fundamental forms to developing variations. While he embraces the form, beauty, and quality of traditional work such as Italic, he encourages us to move beyond specific historical scripts to create almost endless possibilities of exploration and variation. He also discusses the importance of learning design and how to use the space as effectively and powerfully as we can.
John shares many secrets about, well, everything. In addition to the process of learning, he devotes an entire chapter to the “Working Calligrapher,” which includes creating one-of-a-kind pieces and the intricacies of working with clients, as well as working as a designer, invitation work, product calligraphy, wood and stone lettering, logos, certificates, and how he began his business. He shares page after page of beautiful, inspiring examples of his work. He closes the book with information about Cheerio Calligraphy Retreats and his approach and ideals as a teacher.
Beyond the discussion of modern versus traditional, beyond a compilation of gifted work, this book dives deep into what makes beautiful and quality calligraphy, and how we can both carry on and elevate the craft. I highly recommend you invest both the money to buy it and the time to read it.
– – – – – – – – – -GIVEAWAY CLOSED- – – – – – – – –
John Neal Bookseller and Flourish Forum have teamed up to give away a free copy of SCRIBE: Artist of the Written Word by John Stevens. [GIVEAWAY CLOSED.] Don’t forget to follow @FlourishForum and @JohnNealBookseller on Instagram. The lucky recipient
will be was selected on Friday, November 6, 2015, after 11:59 pm.
P.S. SCRIBE: Artist of the Written Word would make a great holiday gift for you and for the letter lovers in your life!
—— UPDATE ———-
The lucky winner was: