Michael Harvey’s Teaching Notebooks 1983–1995, part 5
PORTLAND 1991 : Calligraphy Northwest : Drawing Away from Calligraphy / Stencil Lettering / Masterclass in Letter Design
Apparently Michael taught three classes—an unusually high number—at Calligraphy Northwest, the 11th annual calligraphy conference, which took place in Portland, Oregon. “Drawing Away from Calligraphy” was another of his attempts to get calligraphers to broaden their horizons and to lessen their dependence on broad-edged tools.
A stencil workshop was a natural for Michael. He liked stencils for two reasons: the possibilities they offered for fresh letterforms, and the possibilities they offered for the multiplication of lettering designs.
Three kinds of breaks in stencil letters: sans serif—breaks where practical; roman—breaks where thins occur; and script—breaks that follow pen lifts.
“Remember that calligraphy contrasts well with stencil letters.”
The masterclass seems to have been a precursor to Michael’s subsequent teaching at the University of Reading.
What is fascinating about this lone set of notes for the masterclass is the chart on the left-hand page in which Michael compares ﬁve interpretations of the classical Roman capital. The Trajan/Catich letter is the Imperial Roman capital as epitomized by the inscription at the base of the Trajan Column whose form Father Edward M. Catich argued was determined by the actions of a flexible, broad-edged brush. Giovanni Francesco Cresci was a 16th century writing master whose interpretation of the Trajan letters was unusually sensitive, although some letters like M deviated signiﬁcantly from the model. Unlike his Renaissance predecessors, he did not attempt to create the letters using a compass and set square. Walter Kaech was a 20th century Swiss letterer and teacher—one of his students was Adrian Frutiger—whose book Rhythm and Proportion in Lettering (1956) argued against the Trajan letter as the ideal Roman capital. He preferred 1st century examples of the Capitalis Monumentalis. Reynolds Stone, Harvey’s mentor, followed in the footsteps of Eric Gill when it came to interpreting the Roman capital. His letters were informed by engraving rather than writing, by the graver and the knife instead of the brush or pen. Finally, Hermann Zapf’s Roman capitals are determined by the broad pen, but with the addition of pressure and manipulation.
PISA 1991 : Drawing Letters
This was Michael’s ﬁrst European workshop. I think it was sponsored by the Associazione Calligraﬁa Italiana, based in Milano.
Michael routinely divided up letters into four basic categories: Sans serif, Classical, Typographic and Calligraphic. The geometric diagram at the top of the left-hand page is his variation on a common approach to organizing the letters of the alphabet based on width proportions. There are a number of aspects of his grouping that deviate from those found in books by calligraphers: A and V are separated from H, N, et al; E, F and L are separated from B, P, et al.; and K is placed with B, P, et al. This reflects Michael’s background as a letterer, lettercarver and type designer.
BUDAPEST 1992 : ATypI : Look, No Hands!
This talk by Michael about how his work as a type designer had changed with the introduction of the Macintosh was one of the most memorable that he ever gave. His emphasis was on how digital type tools had freed him from having to laboriously draw, redraw and retouch letters by hand using a wide array of tools: T-squares, straightedges, adjustable triangles, French curves, lightboxes, pencils of varying kinds, technical pens, brushes, white paint, erasers, and so on. He thought he had also been freed from endless stacks of paper, but as any type designer today knows, that is not true.
Note the diskette in the illustration.
What was ironic about Michael’s talk was that it was an entirely illustrated using the manual tools which he was glad to be rid of. I think his early training as a draughtsman made him both receptive to and quickly adept at designing digitally.
This spread, and the following one, are about the use of interpolation to design intermediate weights of a typeface family. The ‘scary’ E below is an indication that interpolation does not always go smoothly and the designer needs to intervene to guarantee a good result.
CAMBRIDGE 1992 : Lettering
I don’t know who hired Michael for this workshop since I am unaware of any local calligraphy society based in Cambridge. It couldn’t have been CLAS (Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society) since it was not organized until 1994.
Although the themes of the workshop are familiar, Michael continues to sketch them out in new ways.
OXFORD 1993 : Freehand Lettering
This workshop was sponsored by Oxford Scribes, the largest regional calligraphy society in Great Britain.