Creating Calligraphically-based Designs on the Computer

For a number of years, my calligraphic work was entirely done with traditional methods, i. e., pen, paper, ink and paints. But I use the computer a lot in my professional career, and about ten years ago I started to play around with computer drawing programs. At first they seemed to have little relevance for my calligraphic work (partly because of my ignorance, and partly because of the level of sophistication of the software available at that time). But as new generations of software and tools became available, and as I became more aware of the range of available software and how it could be used, it started to dawn on me that many of the laborious steps in traditional calligraphy could be made much easier on the computer, without losing the individuality and spontenaity of the hand work.

When I tell people I use the computer in my design work, though, I find that many of them don't understand what I'm talking about. They assume that I must mean that the computer somehow "does" the work for me, and lessens the skill required. I think it actually increases the skill required - it just adds new dimensions of skills, just as we have to learn new skills in order to do lettering with a new tool like brush or a ruling pen.

To illustrate what I mean, let's look at the steps involved in creating the "Butterfly" piece shown in the Gallery.

Step 1: Monoline Lettering

"Butterfly" was done in an experimental lettering style, based on a very loose version of monoline Romans, with eccentricities like the Uncial "E". I have seen some similar alphabets, but I was not working from a model - I was just sketching something that pleased my eye. In the scan above, I've shown the first word of the quote as I originally sketched it, using a plain old traditional pencil on ordinary copy paper. The original concept was that the varying size, shape, and fluttering path of the letters would suggest the fluttering flight of the butterfly.

Step 2: Complete the outline

Still sketcing with a pencil, I began to thicken the letters by completing the outline. At this point, the letters began to take on some "pen-like" qualities, such as angled terminations, and slight curves and flares, as you might get from pen twisting, double strokes, or perhaps by lettering with a very flexible broad-edged nib.

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