This month, we celebrate the art of the well-scripted word. Members of the Philadelphia Calligraphers’ Society will showcase their lettering, painting and ink-drawn images with an exhibit opening Jan. 20 in our farmhouse gallery and running through Feb. 20.
Here, PCS member Meg Kennedy, a Wynnewood-based calligrapher and book artist, shares her love for the art form which, contrary to what some might have expected, is flourishing in an age where the keyboard often proves mightier than the pen.
What got you interested in calligraphy?
Back in the 1970s when calligraphy was the hottest “new” hobby, I received an Osmiroid calligraphy fountain pen for Christmas, with nibs for a lefty (I am in that estimable minority). Of course the booklet that came with it only showed right-handed illustrations, so I muddled through the alphabet, badly, until I was able to take a class. My first teacher, Fran Gazze Nimick, was ambidextrous (!) and able to handle the two lefties in a class of 25. And I just kept practicing…
What is your favorite font with which to work?
I LOVE italic, foundational, uncial, and gothic styles and it depends on what I’m working on that defines my favoritism. I also love to draw letters, so versals and modern illuminated styles (a la Sherri Kiesel) are a joy. Why are these my favorites? Probably because these are the skills at which I’m most comfortable so I don’t have to struggle with tools and writing surface but can just enjoy the process of getting letters onto paper. Lefties often have to push the pen (where a right-handed scribe would be pulling) so, especially at first, there are challenges in getting materials to cooperate. After a while — 40-plus years in my case — you get the hang of it!
What place does the art of lettering have in the digital age?
Calligraphy is an art form with historic precedent, cultural evolution and modern expression, and therefore has little to do with the digital world. It involves — actually mandates — hand work and the sophisticated combination of mental and emotional inspiration, hand-eye coordination, technical prowess and the courage to explore the beauty and power in the imperfection of human endeavor.
Letters have traced humanity’s development for millennia; how could half a century of computer type erase that or make it obsolete? Photography did not make painting obsolete. Typography did not wipe out calligraphy; it just redirected scribal energies toward less practical and more creative work. I’m confident in the permanence of this art form in whatever ways it’s practiced.
The Philadelphia Calligraphers’ Society exhibit opens with a reception from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 20. at the Scatter Joy Center for the Arts, 305 Horsham Road, Horsham. Featuring the work of almost two dozen artists from across the region, it will remain on view through Feb. 20.