Thursday, May 06, 2010

Vivacious Versals with Gemma Black
The students on the left and right hand side of the class for Gemma's Vivacious Versals.
I feel greatly privileged to have been able to attend Gemma Black’s workshop. Gemma is a skilled and generous teacher, who does not allow her international standing to become a barrier and relates to lesser calligraphers in a relaxed and encouraging way. The personal interest that she shows in each student is impressive. Every question is given serious consideration, without judgment on its value. And because Gemma is the person she is, her workshops are very enjoyable.
Learning about the historical background to versals, gave us the context we needed to develop an understanding of these letter forms. 
Before the workshop, I knew what versals looked like, but I would have been hard pressed to list their characteristics. I now know that versals are drawn letters, that they can vary in width (2, 3 or 4 strokes), they use the same weighting as Roman capitals, are generally 20 - 24 pen widths high, have a fine serif or a serif the same width as the letter and that they can be waisted, top heavy or bottom heavy.
In the workshop we learned how to draw versals using several exercises, including an inductive method in which we put together a versal alphabet based on one or two letters we had been shown. 
We were given many helpful of examples of versal forms used by a range of calligraphers. Once we were familiar with the basics, we moved on to Vivacious Versals, which were developed from the Gestural Capitals which were part of the first workshop. 
Treating ordinary pencils and coloured pencils as serious art media was something new for many of us.The huge plus of all this learning is that Versals are such a practical letter form. Through this workshop I have enjoyed meeting Gemma, greatly increased my knowledge and have gained a lettering style which will be very useful in my calligraphy work. 
Elaine Riddell

Examples of the workshop challenge from Peggy Robinson, Dale-Cormack Pearson, Tom Smith, and Jan Leonard.