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Letters mingle souls logo bw2Letters Mingle Souls, the 28th International Conference for Lettering Artists, was held July 19 - 26, 2008. Hundreds of artists from around the world met in Naperville, IL (a suburb of Chicago) to “rekindle old friendships, forge new relationships, share ideas and learn new skills.” Members who attended were asked to share their thoughts and/or experiences about the conference in general or their class(es) in particular. Here’s what some of them had to say. Our thanks to Diane Reiter for compiling the following.

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The people in front of the SDFC banner are all members of SDFC. Susan Richardson and Trish Malin didn't make the photo op.  (It was a last minute thing, as in the morning before the conference folks were taking down the banners and we were looking for SDFC members at breakfast.)  From left to right they are: front row:  Diane Reiter, Sylvia Kowal, and Helen Lebowitz; back row: Kristi Darwick, Linda Hirsh, and Elizabeth Kenney.

Sylvia Kowal took a five-day class with JULIAN WATERS Roman Miniscules.

Our class of 14 members were concentrating on the lower case  Roman letters. We looked at some historical samples to adapt them to a contemporary approach. The skeletal Romans were “dressed up” with the addition of serifs (rolled or slab variations) and we varied the slant and weights of the letters. He stressed that this was a process, we were reinventing and loosening up on the serifs. We used the skeletons as the muscles of the letters and the serifs as the skins. He gave us 48 handouts and we were able to letter at what ever size we were comfortable with.  I came out with over a dozen variations with a pen, and some with a ruling pen!

Diane Reiter:

Naperville was fine.  We had a few nice days, a few rainy days, and a few hot and humid days. Guess that's summer in the midwest!  :) My classes at conference this year were both with Michael Jacobs, a 3-D Kind of Guy from Seattle, WA.  The first part of the week was Creative Correspondence, where we made a number of structures that became mailable art.  The other class was "Offbeat Books" which focused on making a variety of book/booklets.  Both classes involved at lot of measuring, cutting and folding.  All of the handouts were helpful and in some cases printed twice so we'd have something to work with in class and the second copy for when we returned home.  There were lots of samples to give us a clear idea of the projects and to get the creative juices flowing.  An added bonus was that the basic supply list for both classes was the same, which meant less to pack!  By the end of the week I had quite a collection of really cool stuff waiting for further embellishement, additional "surprises" and/or lots of calligraphy.

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Susan Richardson:

This year's International Conference of Lettering Artists was held in Naperville, Illinois, about 45 minutes outside of Chicago. As I was told by at least three people during the week, Naperville was just selected as the best place to live in the U.S. I'm not sure who made this selection, but I can see why they did.  Naperville is an absolutely charming town that looks like it came straight out of a Disney movie. The conference was held at North Central College which is in the historic district of Naperville, built largely during the mid to late 1800s. Charming homes with front porches filled with potted plants and wicker furniture, buildings with lush green and flowery gardens, and a canopy of trees provided an evocative setting for the conference. The town center was just a short walk away giving us the modern benefits of Starbuck's and Borders Books among other retail offerings.

I took Brody Neuenschwander's weeklong class called Developing Meaning.  We began the class when Brody asked each student to write (in simple handwriting) about an experience we have had in the past year or so from six perspectives. He gave us the perspectives, walked us through an experience from his own life to illustrate the concept and sent us off to our desks to write for about an hour or more. I found the writing stirred up a lot of emotions which served well for the next step in our process of creating a book. We took at least three sheets of large paper such as Arches test wove and wrote in gestural, semi legible or not legible ink. One side of each sheet was devoted to one of the perspectives of our experience. We then cut/tore our large sheets to become the leaves of our book.

Throughout the rest of the week, Brody gave us assignments and exercises to add to the book. These provided fascinating and contrasting elements that gave the book deeper meaning and richer visual interest.  The last assignment was to add as much or as little of the text we had created on the first morning to flow as a ribbon through the book.

The week ended with a classroom full of beautiful, moving, and meaning-full books. I felt my book took me beyond anything I've created so far in wedding verbal and visual meaning and feeling.   The process we used in creating the books and discussing our assignments with classmates as well as Brody, led to a powerful sense of camaraderie and community among the members of the class.

The week was filled with an inspiring array of exhibits, demonstrations, mini-workshops and performance art. I had a rich and satisfying experience.

Diane also included the following for our frog-loving members.

There were lots of frogs scattered all around downtown Naperville, IL. Each was decorated differently, but the basic form was the same. Folks submitted a request and an idea to decorate blank form.  Limited money awarded to buy supplies.  After public display, items are auctioned off to raise funds. Frogs are close to 3 feet tall. Don't know how much longer they'll be on display. 

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 Helen Lebowitz:

At this year’s International Conference for Lettering Artists which took place August 19 – 26 in Naperville, IL, I participated in Georgia Deaver’s workshop entitled Pastel Drawing and Painting. It was a week-long workshop beginning Sunday and ending Friday morning with a break for the conference planned tours on Tuesday afternoon.  I was joined by 13 other classmates in what turned out to be one of the only well air-conditioned classrooms of a junior high school. It quickly became apparent that I was an amateur among professionals as several participants were accomplished artists. One thing we all had in common though was an eagerness to learn to use a new medium. We also had a wonderfully gifted and supportive teacher.

The first day Georgia discussed and displayed the many different types of soft pastels (we did not use oil pastels) available, both commercially manufactured and handmade. They range from very soft “like butter” to hard such as “Nupastels” which are good for fine detail work. She then distributed several samples of papers and discussed the qualities of each and how to use them to their best advantage. Along with pastels and papers we were introduced to several tools to be used for blending or smudging colors.

Georgia had prepared a series of drawing/painting technique exercises for us. She explained the difference between “pastel drawing” and “pastel painting”.  In a painting one covers the entire paper with color before continuing, and in a drawing one lets the background paper show through. She usually demonstrated about two techniques at a time, then asked us to try them on our own using the papers of our choice. She had brought several pieces of fruit and vegetables with her (all the way from San Francisco), so we spent much of the first two days drawing our peaches, pears, cherries and eggplants using dots, smudging, feathering, hatching, scumbling, etc. An example of the assignments we were given was to draw using only 3 colors, a dark, medium and light; do a picture using only black white and grey;  use 2 complementary colors; try an abstract, etc.

The results were amazing to me! Things looked great; the colors were beautiful and the various textures of the papers added a touch of professionalism to everything. Georgia supplied us with lots of photos taken from calendars and magazines and encouraged us to adapt these to our exercises. As a final exercise she talked about how to add text to our pictures and showed us the technique of “Greeking” (sort of place-keeping of strokes where text would go later) and to use tracing paper to help us place text on a finished picture. I found this the most challenging, but in the end I did come up with a rough draft that will work out (I hope) eventually.

I don’t think we realized how much we had done until we started to display our work at “Show and Share” on Friday afternoon. We hardly had enough wall space for everything!

I think I can speak for everyone in the class when I say that it was a most enjoyable and productive week. I’m glad I discovered what a versatile medium pastels are and what a kind and accomplished teacher Georgia Deaver is. I hope someday to get a chance to study with her again.

 Elizabeth Kenney:

Attending my very first International Conference, I had the pleasure to study under two Master Penman.  Classes were held to under 15 participants  per class and this gave us the opportunity to have one-to-one time with the instructor.

The first half of the week I took a course titled, Copperplate:  Beyond the Basics with Mike Kecseg. The goal of this class was to become familiar, proficient and in-control of the pointed pen. This was quite a lot to accomplish and we worked hard and had a lot of fun in the process. Mike emphasized the following:

  1. Copperplate looks the best when everything is exactly the same, therefore, USE guidelines!
  2. This is a constructed hand and is made stroke by stroke and not letter by letter or word by word.  It is a mental exercise to make each stroke and one should work slowly and deliberately.
  3. Copperplate is a very traditional hand.  Get confident and then break out and expand what you can do with the pointed pen.

Indeed, we did. We studied traditional letterform, being careful to make our guidelines and then we expanded and learned to change slant, spacing, size, proportion, weight and texture to achieve new and unique looks. The look is still "copperplate",  but in an updated and modern way. As we began to feel comfortable with the exploration of new looks, it was time to wrap-up, pack-up and move on to the next session.

Pat Blair packed a lot of information into our class titled, From Pen.....To Paper......To Print. She is the Chief Calligrapher at The White House in Washington, D.C. and she brought many samples for us to examine and admire.

We began this course with the conception of an idea and took it all the way to the printer and in the process we studied layout, design, and the mechanics of preparing the piece for the printer. After our thumbnail sketch, calligraphy, and old fashioned paste-up with rubber cement, we took our piece to the "Graphic Studio" in our classroom and our “Printer”, Pat Blair, then took us through the process of digital technology.

Now we listened and learned by what others in the class were experiencing. Pat used Photoshop for us to finalize our projects and we watched as each of us tackled how to digitally touch-up, change layout, and finalize color choices for our work. We each enthusiatically  came away with a mostly finished piece of work and all agreed that this could have easily been a five-day course instead of half-week.

I highly recommend both Mike Kecseg and Pat Blair to become guest instructors in San Diego for SDFC. Both are very interested in  performing a workshop in San Diego. Note to Yvonne:  Pat is available in Fall 2009.  We should grab her quickly!!!!!

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