Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson

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Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson

Category: Crafts
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: A beautifully produced book taking us through calligraphy from nursery slopes to advanced calligraphy as art. Pages of inspiration to which we just add practice and application and then? And then magic happens!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 96 Date: September 2015
Publisher: Ivy Press
ISBN: 978-178240279

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George Thomson is an honorary research fellow at Glasgow University College of Arts, specialising in lettering, calligraphy and typography but don't let his apparently high-falluting expertise put you off. In this book he's produced a guide to and course in calligraphy for all levels. Assuming no knowledge he provides us with armfuls of inspiration and uses our new found skills, taking us through the steps towards impressive lettering.

As a history fanatic I've marvelled for decades over the superlative illuminated manuscripts from the middle ages. Although I'd not aspired to those giddy heights myself, I've yearned to be able to do passable calligraphy for the occasions when posh writing would be nice – greeting card inserts, certificates etc. Reading George's lessons gives us the impression that this is do-able so I eagerly jumped in.

The book is divided into four parts and so we start with 1: The Basics. Here, alongside the obvious (e.g. the materials which are encouragingly inexpensive) we're shown things we may not have thought about, like the letters' spacing and rhythm. Although, actually, having had such considerations included when we first learnt to write back in the dark depths of long-ago primary school, it makes sense that we need to be conscious of them as we now learn to write differently.

Part 2 is the bit we've been waiting for. Moving On is when we put our newly acquired calligraphy pen to paper. As we've come to expect from the superlative Ivy Press, the picture/diagram/wordage ratios are attractive and uncrowded. The styles of calligraphy are clearly set out as alphabets, the individual strokes for each letter numbered in the easily-followed sequence we need to use in order to replicate them.

George then goes on to inspire us, showing us ways of utilising our lessons in Part 3 (Projects), from the wedding invitation to more unusual ideas like calligraphy pictures. Yes, an unexpected delight indeed: calligraphy as art in a different way from illuminating a letter or two at the beginning of a sentence. Here, all the writing itself becomes part of a picture. This leads us into Part 4, a usefully comprehensive reference source.

So the proof of the pudding in this case is in the writing. How did I get on? My calligraphy went from zero to looks-ok-on-a-certificate after a couple of weeks of practising half an hour a day. Little tips like how to hold the pen helped immensely – it's all in the nib angle. Yes, some will say that the basic styles and instructions in the book are similar to those on the flimsy instruction sheet that comes with some calligraphy pens. But I'd counter that with the fact that George brings these into a more robust, beautiful setting, adding value with the chapters on application and inspiration.

This is well worth the money not only for being useful but also for its spectator appeal. I found myself looking through it for pure enjoyment whenever I had time to spare. It certainly gave me the inspiration and encouragement to work towards the projects that George tells us are possible with more practice. I've not reached the illuminated manuscript stage yet but thanks to Professor Thomson, I'm not going to rule it out. (Calligraphy… rule out… geddit? Ok, I'll get my coat!)

(Thank you so much to Ivy Press for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: If you'd like to more of Ivy Press' superlatively produced books, we also highly recommend Practical Landscape Painting: Materials, Techniques & Projects by David Hollis.

Buy Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Practical Calligraphy: Materials, Techniques & Projects by George Thomson at Amazon.com.


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