Tutorials

Tutorials are instructive comments on various aspects of the practice of calligraphy, lettering and typography. They are based on my experiences as a designer and as a teacher.

The Rchive no. 7—the Industrial R (Sans serif division)

Hercules Seating Company, 25–45 Park Place, Manhattan, New York. Photographed 15 February 2013.
The Hercules Seating Company appears to be closed. That does not bode well for its lovely mid-century sans serif sign. The letters are typical of the interwar sans that inspired Hoefler & Frere-Jones’ wildly popular Gotham typeface. What is different about the Hercules Seating Company letters from the many other examples of “Gotham” sans serifs found throughout the five boroughs is the rounded faceting that is more …
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The Rchive no. 8—the Industrial R (Serif division)

The Oltarsh Building, 418 Broadway, Manhattan, New York City. Detail. Photographed 3 February 2008.
The Oltarsh Building was built by David M. Oltarsh as the Major Theatre in 1927. It is a three-story brick building with capital letters spelling out “THE OLTARSH BUILDING” affixed to the facade between the third story and the roof.
This R has the same industrial proportions as the one in The Rchive no. 7. But now there is a contrast of thick/thin to the strokes coupled …
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Legacy of Letters 2013 profile—Tony Di Spigna

Tony Di Spigna has been creating gems of Spencerian script—his term for drawn lettering derived from roundhand and other forms of pointed-pen writing—for over forty years. He learned the skill from Tom Carnase while working for Herb Lubalin & Associates, though I believe he has surpassed his mentor. There are two things that have always impressed me the most about Tony’s Spencerian script: 1. the gracefulness and naturalness of his curves; and 2. his ability to make compositions that hold …
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The Rchive no. 4—more neon

Neon R from RESTAURANT (Tom’s Restaurant, 2880 Broadway, New York City), 1957.
This lovely neon R is the second one from Tom’s Restaurant in Morningside Heights, made famous by the sitcom Seinfeld. It can be found on p. 116 of New York Neon by Tom Rinaldi (mentioned in The Rchive no. 3) as well as on his neon blog. Rinaldi says that it was originally manufactured for the Columbia Restaurant, but does not indicate when …
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The Rchive no. 3—Neon

Neon R from LIQUORS (Riverside Liquor, 2746 Broadway, New York City), 1955
It has been far too long since I added an image to the Rchive. This neon R from the Manhattan Valley neighborhood of New York City dates from 1955 according to the authoritative New York Neon by Thomas Rinaldi (W.W. Norton & Company, 2012; p. 104). Liquor stores are one of the best places to see neon signs. But most are predictable: sans …
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Blue Pencil no. 19—Lettering by Andrew Haslam

Lettering: A Reference Manual of Techniques
Andrew Haslam
with photographs by Daniel Alexander
London: Laurance King Publishing, 2011
produced by Central Saint Martins Book Creation
design and diagrams by Andrew Haslam
jacket design by Jason Ribeiro based on an idea by Andrew Haslam
senior editor: Peter Jones
picture research: Suzanne Doolin and Andrew Haslam
copy editor: Melanie Walker
240 pp.
hardcover with jacket
8.25 x 10.625
full color photographs
Jacket for Lettering; design by Jason Ribeiro based on an idea by Andrew Haslam
This dissection of Lettering includes an assessment of each of the …
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Tutorial no. 7—Making a g

I was invited by Bill Moran to take part in Wayzgoose 2011 at the Hamilton Wood Type Museum in Two Rivers, Wisconsin this past weekend. I demonstrated calligraphy on Friday and provided an introduction to Western writing with the broad-edged pen to participants on Saturday. During my Friday demonstration I began making a series of lowercase gs and Laura Lewis managed to capture a small part of my writing on video. Although it is only a snippet it does manage …
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Tutorial no. 6—Tight but not touching kerning

This tutorial was sparked by “The Kerning Game,” my review of Kern Type in Imprint. The 1970s were the heyday of what Hermann Zapf disparagingly called “sexy spacing” but what trade typographers called TNT (“tight but not touching”) typography. The designer who led this revolution was Herb Lubalin (1918-1981). Although the notion of “tight but not touching” typography is associated with the acceptance of phototypography in the 1960s and 1970s Lubalin’s exploration of the style began during his tenure …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic addendum

The posts on The Basics of Italic became very convoluted once I tried to verbally describe the ductus of each letter. My 1993 ACI sheets did not include basic ductus information for some reason. (Maybe because the audience were calligraphers and I assumed they could figure out the rudiments of making letters from models.) But that assumption won’t fly with readers of this blog who have no experience with writing with broad-edged tools. So I am making available here as …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 4

The Basics of Italic: SwashesThis post, the last of The Basics of Italic, shows the rudiments of creating swash Italic letters. Most swash letters are ascenders or descenders since swashes need room to breathe and the most commonly available free space is in the margins and between lines. Swashes on ascending strokes, both vertical and diagonal, are shown in Row 1. b d f h k l—The swash replaces the entry stroke at the top of these letters (with …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 3

The Basics of Italic: Entry/Exit Strokes The previous two posts paved the way to making a “serif-less” Italic with the broad-edged pen. By “serif-less” I meant that the letters were missing entry (entrata) and exit (uscita) strokes. In calligraphy, Italic letters, other than some capitals, do not traditionally have serifs. But entry and exit strokes function in a similar way visually. They are both visual aids and physical/kinetic ones. Entry strokes allow the pen to more easily begin a …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 2

The Basics of Italic: Stress
These tutorials on the basics of Italic began with a monoline skeletal letter to establish the basic forms. But Cancellaresca corsiva, the original Renaissance name for Italic, is traditionally made with a broad-edged pen. The broad-edged pen creates thicks and thins (stress) as it moves through space in different directions. This gives the letters much of their magic. (A good theoretical analysis of the effects of the broad-edged pen versus those of the flexible pointed pen …
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Tutorial no. 5—Calligraphy: The Basics of Italic 1

The Basics of Italic: Skeletal Forms The four images that comprise The Basics of Italic are scans of photocopied sheets I designed in 1993 for inclusion in the newsletter of the Associazione Calligrafica Italiana in Milano, Italy. That is why the notes are written in Italian. I will provide an English translation for each sheet as it is posted. The first sheet shows the skeletal forms of Italic as a means of comparing and contrasting it with …
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The Rchive no. 2

Imperial R written with broad-edged brush by Father E.M. Catich (unretouched), 1961Father E.M. Catich, a former Chicago signwriter who taught art at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, devoted much of his life to explicating the manner in which Roman Imperial Capitals (Capitalis Monumentalis) were created. In Letters Redrawn from the Trajan Inscription in Rome (Davenport, Iowa: Catfish Press, 1961) he outlined each of the letters from the Trajan Inscription, based on the many rubbings he had made of …
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The Rchive no. 1

Inscription of Epaphroditus (Museo Nazionale di Roma), 1st c. This R is taken from the inscription to Epaphroditus, a freedman who served Emperor Nero, in the courtyard of the Museo Nazionale in Rome. It is the first in a planned series of showings of the letter R. The R is the most complex capital letter. In its classical, inscriptional form it consists of a vertical stroke (the stem), a short horizontal stroke (the link between the stem, the …
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Tutorial no. 2 addendum no. 2 Comments—Sure and Faust

Johnny (Alex Morgan), Demo and ecs,
I don’t usually post comments on Blue Pencil without filtering or editing them first, but I think these testaments about Faust and Sure are deserving of being put up as is. Thanks to all of you for clearing up my misidentification of the star as an A and for explaining that SURE and FAUST are two different graffiti writers. I am sorry to hear that Sure was killed in Afghanistan.
Thank you for reading Blue Pencil …
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