Painting Letters with Paul Herrera

   In addition to the lettercarving workshop with Nick Benson that I previously wrote about, the Lettering Arts Trust also sponsored a workshop with the great Paul Herrera which focused on painting Roman capitals with a chisel-ended brush, which I was also lucky enough to take part in.

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     Paul was the last assistant of Father Edward Catich, a Catholic priest and lettercarver who originated the theory that the letter serif grew out of the early Roman stonecarver’s use of a chisel-ended brush to paint on the letters they carved - which he published in the aptly named Origin of the Serif.

   The workshop began with Paul explaining Father Catich’s theory of the serif, we were then set to practicing the the indivual strokes that make up each letter. Eventually, we worked our way up to constructing letters.

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   Personally, I found this workshop both extremely interesting and extremely challenging. Unlike pen calligraphy, which depends on maintaining a fixed angle with the nib throughout the creation of a letter, the angle of the brush in brush calligraphy changes from stroke to stroke - sometimes even within a single stroke. The pressure put on the brush also has to be carefully manipulated as it determines the weight of the line.

   I’m not used to having to consider so many different vectors at once, so I found brush calligraphy a bit tricky. That being said, the letterforms Paul taught us were truly incredible - both formal and timeless but also very human.

   I am going to persevere with brush lettering and try my hardest to master Father Catich’s Roman letterforms as they are just too good to pass up!

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