BY THE TIME this book is published most of the
people represented in this second section will be
practising as professional letterers. One of them has in
fact been doing so for some years, but has kindly lent
examples of her early work.
This intermediate work is captured at a decisive
moment. It shows some of the decisions that have to
be made both about training and about letterforms.
There are a number of ways of reaching
professional level and would-be letterers must choose
their own route. Their choice can be influenced by the
availability of courses or apprenticeships, by economic
factors or by personal inclination. Some people may
have the self-discipline to work by themselves while
others need constant guidance.
At this intermediate stage, you are potentially open
to the influences of other people's strongly personal
letterforms or techniques; your own teacher's perhaps,
or some other past or present master. In this section
you can see how some students are set to study well-
known letterers' personal styles, and how others have
fallen under the spell of one or other of these great
masters. This is all to the good, and perhaps a
necessary part of development, as long as the skill and
knowledge gained are used towards building up your
own individuality and techniques.
This part of the book shows how Timothy
Donaldson has reached a very high standard entirely
on his own. He has never had a formal lettering lesson
in his life but has searched out the best books available
to guide him. Patrick Knowles, on the other hand, has
had a long art-school training. He had a good start to
lettering during his three-year graphics course, and
was encouraged to carry on for another year and do
an ma. Fiona Winkler did a Foundation Course at Art
School and was lucky enough to find a craft
apprenticeship. She continues with her training in
letterforms at evening classes.
Timothy, who already gets plenty of commissions,
could do with some constructive criticism and a really
good master class. Patrick needs a lot of work
experience. Fiona knows just how fortunate she is.
Judith had a later start and took a longer part-time
course to fit in with family commitments, while Bettina
found a new career and an ideal training quite by
My own training was yet another mixture; two
years' full time at art school followed by a studio
apprenticeship and three years part time continuing
training as a classical scribe. Somehow, between the
commercial pressures and the traditional pen-written
bias of the calligraphy, a deep study of Roman letters
got missed out. My lettering has always suffered as a
result, my capital letters most of all.
However much formal training you have had, you
will need a different approach when you start in a
workshop or studio, where you will have to come to
terms with commercial pressures. I am a great believer
in not leaving this too late. So, unless you have an
outstanding teacher work-based experience can prove
just as effective as a lengthy training. In either case it
is up to you to be self-critical and not let your
A letterer needs determination, discrimination and
almost fanatical dedication to the craft to get to the
top. Unless you like the challenge of working to a brief
it is not much good thinking of a career in any branch
of lettering. You need to be a businessman, sometimes
an opportunist and certainly an optimist to get
through the lean patches.
Use this part of the book to help you think of your
training and the approach to professional work. The
techniques shown here carry you on to the next stage,
and point the way ahead.