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Gurney Journey

This daily weblog by Dinotopia creator James Gurney is for illustrators, plein-air painters, sketchers, comic artists, animators, art students, and writers. You'll find practical studio tips, insights into the making of the Dinotopia books, and first-hand reports from art schools and museums.

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Micrographic Penmanship of Matthias Buchinger

Matthias Buchinger (1674–1739) was an expert at drawing and lettering precisely at a small scale.

Micrographic Penmanship of Matthias Buchinger

His lettering astonished his contemporaries with its complexity, control, and order. Some of the letters were so tiny as to be almost indistinguishable to the naked eye.

Micrographic Penmanship of Matthias Buchinger

He also "performed on more than a half-dozen musical instruments, some of his own invention. He exhibited trick shots with pistols, swords and bowling. He danced the hornpipe and deceived audiences with his skill in magic." 

Micrographic Penmanship of Matthias Buchinger

Even more remarkable was that he could accomplish all this with his unusual body: "Buchinger was just 29 inches tall, and born without legs or arms. He lived to the ripe old age of 65, survived three wives, wed a fourth and fathered 14 children."

Quotes are from the book Matthias Buchinger: The Greatest German Living, which features many examples of his artwork and tells his incredible life story, the result of exhaustive research by the author Ricky Jay.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5

(Continuing from Part 4)
J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5

These technological changes encouraged the growth of extravagant drawing-based alphabets, such as “Rustic” (above) and “Leaf Cipher-Letters.” Highly embellished initial capitals can be hand drawn with a pen or brush using inks of various colors or tinted shades. Some of the ornamental initial alphabets are presented with a variety of stylistic treatments, such as the “Ornamented French Script” or the “Ornamental Initials.”

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5

“Old English” remains the standard for formal settings, such as diplomas, but it is difficult to execute well, especially if speed is required. It succeeds best with a steady rhythm and even spacing using a square cut nib. Sometimes good results can be achieved by executing all the vertical strokes first, followed by the diamond shaped feet. A pointed pen adds the finishing touches, sharpening the corners and serifs and completing the hairline strokes on the capitals and on the lower case “a” and “r.”

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5

Two other forms of artistic writing, less familiar today, are engrossing and showcard writing. Engrossing was a particularly lavish type of decorative lettering used on resolutions, certificates, testimonials, memorials, and manifestos. The examples are by Patrick W. Costello (1866-1935), whose engrossing work was notable for being executed in limited tones of Payne’s gray or umber. Originals were as large as 22 x 28 inches, often illustrated with flags, portraits, flowers, or other pictorial devices. They reflect a culture that placed a premium on congratulatory or memorializing messages, usually presented publicly to formally recognize an individual achievement.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5

Bergling invited his colleague William H. Gordon to demonstrate show-card writing, a more casual advertising form. Painted signboards of the nineteenth century tended to use only upper case letters, but they were gradually replaced by signs made with both upper and lower case. The letters in Gordon’s alphabets are formed quickly and without much preliminary drawing, using specialized brushes with opaque water-based media. Practitioners in this field were called writers rather than letterers. Whether employing the brush or the pen, the student should start by thoroughly understanding the construction before attempting too much speed.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5By the time Bergling’s books appeared, typewriters had already been standardized and were coming into common use for business communications. Fountain pens and then ballpoint pens became established by mid century. The Golden Age of Ornamental Penwork was disappearing. Hopefully with the aid of this treasury, a new generation of designers can rediscover artistic lettering and adapt it to contemporary uses.
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Series on J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
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You can get a signed copy of Bergling's "Art Alphabets and Lettering" from my website store.
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Here's where you can get the Dover book on Amazon. You can also still find a vintage copy on Amazon.
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J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4

(Continuing the series on J.M. Bergling's classic sourcebook Art Alphabets and Lettering)

The Roman alphabets are the oldest and most universal The Italian Renaissance capitals, which in turn derive from those carved into Trajan’s Column in Rome, deserve careful study, as they are the basis for many subsequent variations.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4

Note the circular outside shapes of the C, G, O, and Q; the narrowness of the S; the nearly midline crossbars on the E, F, and H; and the serifs, the small spurs or feet at the top and bottom of ascenders. Achieving the nuances of classic Roman capitals is difficult with single stroke construction using a lettering brush or a broad pen, but some of the examples an attractive alphabet that can be constructed rapidly with a broad pen or flat tipped brush.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4Most traditional alphabets have a consistent distribution of thick and thin lines. Typically, letterforms are drawn with greater thickness on the vertical ascender, compared to the horizontal crossbar, a byproduct of pen technique. Novel effects can be achieved by using a constant thickness throughout the letter or by reversing the normal relationship of thick and thin lines, .

Being “modern” or “artistic” or “up to date” became an obsession in Bergling’s day. He revels in eccentric departures from the staid rhythms of traditional alphabets. He includes Art Nouveau features, such as curving ascenders, curlicue serifs, or crossbars placed high or low.

Thanks to his experience weaving letterforms into monograms, Bergling was especially adept at interlocking ascenders and descenders. Some of these ideas were revived by underground comic artists in the 1960s, such as R. Crumb, who took a strong interest in both the music and the phonograph sleeve design of Bergling’s era.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4Printing technology was rapidly changing at the threshold of the twentieth century. Photoengraving and photolithography allowed lettering to be printed directly from the original penwork. This opened up a range of possible effects, and liberated graphic design from the relatively labored and mechanical look of set type and hand engraving. The photomechanical processes also made reproduction possible at a size smaller than the original.
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Series on J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
----
You can get a signed copy of Bergling's "Art Alphabets and Lettering" from my website store.
----
Here's where you can get the Dover book on Amazon. You can also still find a vintage copy on Amazon.
___________________


J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3
Lettering project inspired by the Bergling book
For most of us, hand lettering is reserved for sentimental or ceremonial occasions, such as this announcement that I made for my son's graduation party.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3

(Continued from Part 2) But in the Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship, which lasted between about 1875-1915, every business person was expected to convey their integrity and confidence by means of their pen skills, culminating in a confidant, flourished signature. To achieve this kind of writing, penmanship instructors stressed the importance of good posture.
J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3
Correct and incorrect writing position
First the pen artist must take the proper position, either standing at a podium lectern or seated in a straight chair with both feet flat on the floor, the back held straight. The pen is held, not in the tight grip of most beginners, but rather in a relaxed hold, the arm resting lightly on the table on the large muscle below the elbow.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3
“Whole arm” or “off hand” capitals, with their elaborate looping flourishes, are made without penciling the letterforms in advance. Their flowing grace requires a great deal of practice. They are formed with broad movements of the arm, swinging easily from the shoulder. Fingers, wrist, and arm cooperate to create fluid movements. Each part of the flourish uses a smooth continuous stroke. By contrast, small letters should be rhythmically created with controlled finger movements.

Ideally these scripts should be executed on a smooth cotton rag paper over lightly ruled guidelines drawn with a hard pencil. The slant of the letters should be absolutely uniform. The slant can be ruled lightly with an adjustable triangle set to a fixed slope and resting on a T-square or parallel rule.

Most scripts require a slant of between 52 and 54 degrees from horizontal, or the 3/4 angle diagrammed below. An oblique pen holder angles the nib to the right, allowing a better wrist position.


J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3

In settings where script writing needs to be larger and more precisely considered, it can be constructed by drawing the letters first in outline, and then filling them in with a brush or pen. In general it is a good idea for the student to begin constructing letters larger and at a slow speed. With improving skill, the execution typically becomes smaller in scale and more rapid. It is advisable to try for accuracy and quality first, and then for speed.

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3

The pen-based script alphabets, with their German and French variants, derive from the models produced by engravers in the eighteenth century, requiring the artist to incise a series of fine lines into a copper plate with a sharpened steel tool called a burin. This copperplate engraver’s alphabet can also be constructed with the flexible steel pen nib. Each weighted or “shaded” stroke broadens on the pulling downstroke. Whichever tool is used, this thick-and-thin copperplate style is slow to execute, making it more suitable for headings and superscriptions than for everyday handwriting.

Bergling includes broad pen alphabets familiar to modern calligraphers, such as “Blackstone,”  “Mixed Roman Text,” and the single-stroke Roman and Italic alphabets. Informal round-tipped alphabets can be achieved with a Speedball “Style B” pen nib.
J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3
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Series on J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
----
You can get a signed copy of Bergling from my website store (with your name nicely lettered if you want. Send me an email after you order it explaining how you'd like the dedication.)
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Here's where you can get the Dover book on Amazon. You can also still find a vintage copy on Amazon.
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(Part 4 of this series tomorrow.)

J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)
J. M. Bergling was an authority in many different disciplines of lettering. As a boy he emigrated with his father from Sweden, working in California and Chicago, where he built his early reputation as an engraver for watch cases and jewelry. 



He became one of the foremost practitioners of the art of the monogram, a popular graphic form where an individual’s three initials are woven together into a clever artistic design. He produced three other design collections: Art Monograms and Lettering, Ornamental Designs and Illustrations, and Heraldic Designs and Engravings.



Art Alphabets and Lettering is his crowning achievement, culling the best specimens from his many years as a leading engraver and pen artist. To make room for more samples, Bergling eliminated the introductory text typically found in comparable books, such as the Ames’ Compendium of Practical and Ornamental Penmanship by Daniel T. Ames (1883) or Studies in Pen Art by William E. Dennis (1914). In such guidebooks, the text would have explained the theory and practice behind the alphabets. The modern reader might want to know at least the basics of the practical knowledge that Bergling took for granted.


For everyday penmanship, the steel dip pen had largely replaced the quill pen, which was made from a prepared primary flight feather of a goose or a turkey. However, the quill pen was—and still is—the preferred tool for certain kinds of elegant writing, and was the primary tool for letterers before the nineteenth century. Steel pen nibs in Bergling’s day were available in a range of degrees of flexibility, and many of them are still available today. The nibs fit into a pen holder, and were dipped into an inkwell of India ink, which was waterproof, or a water-soluble ink such as Higgins Eternal.


The collection begins with script alphabets, notable for their flowing, connected letters, such as “American Roundhand” and “Spencerian.” These models provide excellent guides for handwriting applications where a graceful elegance is required. The Spencerian alphabet was invented by Platt Rogers Spencer (1800-1864). It became standard in the United States between 1850 and 1925, after which it was replaced by the simpler Palmer method that still is taught in schools today. 

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Series on J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
----
------
Get a signed copy of Bergling from my website store (with your name nicely lettered if you want. Send me an email after you order it explaining how you'd like the dedication.)
----
Here's where you can get the Dover book on Amazon. You can also still find a vintage copy on Amazon.

J. M. Bergling and The Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 1

J. M. Bergling and The Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 1My first freelance work was as a calligrapher when I was in junior high school. I found clients by riding my bicycle to print shops and showing them my samples. I lettered a lot of wedding invitations and menus. My go-to source for alphabets and styles was an old book called Art Alphabets and Lettering that my Mom owned when she was young.

Recently, when I realized how rare that book was, and how it was out of print, I asked Dover Publications if they would consider republishing it. They agreed, on the condition that I would write the introduction. So here's the first installment of that introduction....

From the perspective of our own era of computer-generated typography, it is difficult to appreciate the ubiquity of handmade lettering a century ago. Writing made by hand appeared not only in personal letters and postcards, but also in business correspondence, architects’ plans, store windows, roadside billboards, theater lobbies, newspaper advertisements, college diplomas, engraved silverware, and even embroidered handkerchiefs.

J. M. Bergling and The Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 1

At the dawn of the twentieth century, the art of hand lettering reached flamboyant, exuberant heights. The period known as the “Golden Age of Ornamental Penmanship” was still in full flower when John Mauritz Bergling (1866-1933) first published Art Alphabets and Lettering in 1914. He expanded his so-called “Encyclopedia of Lettering” through three subsequent editions, culminating in this enlarged fourth edition of 1923.

J. M. Bergling and The Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 1Art Alphabets and Lettering has been one of the most sought-after of the many treasuries of designs and alphabets from that period, not only because of the high standards of Bergling’s examples, but because of the wide range of practical applications that he addressed. In Bergling’s day, the field of artistic writing spanned the work of many specialists: engravers, engrossers, architects, showcard writers, and commercial artists. He took care to consider the appropriate spirit for each kind of communication, ranging all the way from a sober commemoration of a retirement from an insurance company  to a playful poster for a college dance.
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Series on J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
----
Get a signed copy of Bergling from my website store (with your name nicely lettered if you want. Send me an email after you order it explaining how you'd like the dedication.)
----
Here's where you can get the Dover book on Amazon. You can also still find a vintage copy on Amazon.



The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) produced simple and recognizable poster designs that influenced many graphic artists in his time.

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

From the perspective of design impact, his work has remarkable graphic power, with organized values and strong silhouettes.

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

Hohlwein's work was part of a poster tradition known as "Plakatstil" (German for 'poster style') or "Sachplakat."

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

The posters were characterized by bold, flat colors, and playful lettering, a reaction to the subtlety and complexity of the Art Nouveau style.

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

Forms are simplified into a finite number of value steps. White shapes spill over into other white shapes, and the modeling of form leaves out any unnecessary detail.

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein

The Posters of Ludwig Hohlwein
Unfortunately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, he also produced Nazi posters, so his legacy is associated with that history.

However, during his time, Hohlwein's posters influenced many designers and artists in Germany, including Edmund Edel, Ernst Deutsch-Dryden, Hans Lindenstadt, Julius Klinger, Julius Gipkens, Paul Scheurich, Karl Schulpig and Hans Rudi Erdt, and they were admired by contemporary illustrators in the USA, including Edward Penfield and Coles Phillips.
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Websites:
Ludwig Hohlwein (1874-1949) on Wikipedia
Flickr collection of his posters
Search results on DuckDuckGo
BooksHohlwein Posters in Full Color
Ludwig Hohlwein, 1874-1949: Kunstgewerbe und Reklamekunst (German Edition)

Ambigram

An ambigram is a word or logo which reads the same when inverted.
Ambigram
Remarkably, the word itself can be made into an ambigram.

Ambigram

The cover to the DVD version of "Princess Bride" is also an ambigram.

Ambigram

John Langdon designed this one, which reads "Philosophy Art & Science" right side up or upside down.

Wikipedia about Ambigram
There's a nice collection online in "An Optical Illusion"
Micrographic Penmanship of Matthias BuchingerJ.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 5J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 4J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 3J.M. Bergling and the Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 2J. M. Bergling and The Golden Age of Penmanship, Part 1The Posters of Ludwig HohlweinAmbigramAdjustable Triangle

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