Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Teaching Lombardic Versals

I had a great 3 hour session with design and typography students at the University of the Sunshine Coast today.

In a highly digital age and environment, some lecturers are trying to offer a return to the hand so to speak; and Irene (a calligrapher) is hosting Back to Basics sessions.  My good friend Helen Irving ran a couple of sessions with them; and suggested they might invite me along as well.

Given the participants know a bit about typography and letters, but not how to make them, draw them or write them as calligraphers do, I decided to do some drawn letters - the fabulous Lombardic Versals.  I think they are fabulous because they are so flamboyant and offer a richness for decoration and expression.

I started by showing my 14-15th Century antiphonal page - on vellum.

I spoke about how these letters were no shrinking violets - they called attention to themselves and to the paragraph, verse or point that you needed to pay attention to. In the Australian vernacular they really said "look at moy, look at moy".

They are so intricately decorated. We spoke about how the decoration could be outside the letter (surrounding it), inside the counters of the letter, and within the letter form itself. There are good examples of all three options here.

We started the adventure by tracing the letters - to get a feel for some of the funny lumps and bumps within them. I had lots of resources for them to look at and get inspired by, including one of your illuminated Bs Gemma!

Then we wrote the letters by hand, and it suddenly became much harder.

The we set off to up scale them and make them decorative. A diversity of gorgeousness was the result.

They achieved a huge amount in the short time we had together, and everybody left feeling the time had really flown.  It is always good to share passion for hand lettering and writing so I was really pleased to be able to do that.

Thanks so much for inviting me USC.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks Ellen - they are lovely extravagant letters!

  2. Replies
    1. Indeed it was - always good to hang out with letter-lovers!

  3. I want to be a teenager again and meet you as my teacher. These are inspired and I want to do some too!!

    1. So funny of you Lesley! Some of the letters were inspirational and I loved their enthusiasm and decoration.


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