Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pointed Pen

There was a lively discussion on cyberscribes (around September 24,2006) about the history of pointed pen calligraphy and its merit. Some accused Edward Johnston of denouncing the pointed pen genre of the 1800's as atrocious and thus being directly responsible for its demise in the twentieth century. You could almost hear the pointed pen supporters sharpening their vintage nibs in preparation of doing battle to protect pointed pen's reputation.

There are lots--or at least several--pointed pen styles. The two with which I am most familiar are Copperplate and Spencerian. Copperplate is actually an engraving term. Spencerian is a style in which only the capital letters are given any weight; the small letters are entirely composed of hairlines. There are other interesting terms too: Zanerian, for one. I just love that word.

When John Stevens taught a workshop in Atlanta years ago he refused to used the term 'copperplate,' feigning ignorance of the word. He would only call the style pointed pen. He used a pointed brush to letter the most beautiful lettering, which we in the class really wanted to call 'copperplate.' (I have that piece.)

On the IAMPETH website there is part of a piece by Brian Walker that has a contemporary feel to it. Look at Mike Kecseg's piece too, especially at the lettering around the seal at the bottom. (see his website too.)

But otherwise I have to agree with someone on cyberscribes who said these sort of reproduction certificates have a frozen-in-time look. It is probably politically incorrect to say this; some find this sort of blanket statement an indictment of their work. I can understand doing such a certificate once, just to see if you can, but to do nothing but the same thing over and over without exploring new avenues of growth and exploration would be the death of me.

However, nothing is black and white! I greatly admire the work of many pointed penmen and women. I have come to know many in Atlanta who excel at pointed pen work. It quite takes my breath away to see the beautiful envelopes they do. (I wish people would attempt more pointed pen artwork though.) And I wish I could do what Mike Kecseg does; he has taken this letterform to a new level.

As for websites, Paul Antonio's stands out as one I visit frequently. He is quite hard-working, dedicated and has a thorough education and understanding of what he does, something that not many of us can claim.

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