Quill Skill Newsletter April 2009
An old saying states that 'those who can't do, teach'. With my track record first & foremost as an artist, thankfully nobody has suggested I fit that category. However some do ask me why I teach- after watching me demonstrate with apparent effortlessness, they ask how can I bear to look upon struggling efforts of my students? The following will answer that question and more.
Photographed by a student at a live workshop demonstration of fast expressive strokes to liven a fairly traditional style.
My first classes teaching calligraphy were when I was eighteen years old and still a student myself. I realized quickly that I needed to be able to answer questions regarding techniques I had developed intuitively but had never really thought about or tried to explain. Some artists actively avoid thinking in favor of unselfconscious doing. But in my experience I've found that an intellectual analysis complements what starts from an intuition; it deepens and expands my work. Developing this facility for analysis has been the greatest bonus for me derived from teaching. Beyond that, I get to travel all over the world to share my passion with appreciative audiences! It is also true that teaching fees help subsidize exploratory work that is generally unpaid. On top of that it's fun too!
The most requested workshop themes I offer on my website listings tend to be the most advanced themes- it's no wonder that students struggle with such topics. It took me many years of dedicated practice to develop the skills I teach; and it will take students a lot of practice after my courses at home to gain confidence with them, and be able to adapt them into their own calligraphy. In many cases students have taken a class more than once and the second time round invariably shows benefits from practice in between (if that practice has been disciplined and regular!). I also offer less advanced courses, but especially in these most advanced classes, I admire the patience of students just as much as they tell me they admire mine! I try to punctuate periods of practice with inspirational group demonstrations. I check each individuals progress and give individual advice. With a dash of humor thrown in at any opportunity, time passes all too quickly.
I'm recently home from Regensburg Germany where, having told students to be attentive to the sound of their nibs, biting the paper with dynamics of speed, I was later amused by the sounds of participants watching my demonstrations. Sharp intakes of air followed a dynamic accelerated stroke; (hopefully only in this sense my classes apparently suck!); sometimes I heard a whimper following a swordsman-like stroke. This was the class called Dangerous Lines combined with advanced manipulated italic, which was reviewed humorously after a previous course in Sydney Australia, and that review is online together with accompanying cartoon by reviewer Bob Howe at http://quillskill.com/workshops/bob_howe/bob_howe.htm
Dangerous Lines next in UK, April 26th-30th
Minnesota Conference USA: The Calligraphy Connection, June 20-27
Celtic Hybrid Script, as will be subject of one of my classes at Conference.
Alberta, Canada: Red Deer College Summer School of the Arts
Guild Workshops in US, July,October & November
Houston, TX, July 2-5, Houston Calligraphy Guild c/o The Art League 1953 Montrose Houston, Tex. 77006 713-621-9595. Workshop chair: Mary Lee Heald, email@example.com
Detroit, MI, October 15-18, Michigan Association of Calligraphers (MAC). Workshop chair: Jacqueline Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Austin TX, October 22-25, Capital City Scribes. Workshop chair: Loretta Gordon, MIKERETT2000@aol.com
Oklahoma City, OK, November 5-8, Sooner Scribes Calligraphy Guild, Workshop chair: Sue Ann Rodgers, email@example.com
Thanks for reading! I look forward to see some of you at a workshop somewhere this year!
Quill Skill News Mail: New Year 2009
Sincere Wishes: A Request for Collaboration!
The dandelion will be the subject of my first series of 2009 and I urge you to help me! This common weed may be a nuisance for gardeners but it's feathery seed head, the dandelion clock, has always captured the imagination of children.
"...in many northern Italian dialects, it is known as soffione, which translates to "blowing", and refers to the habit of blowing the seeds from the stalk. The same is valid for German, where "Pusteblume" (blowing flower) is a popular designation. Likewise, in Polish it is called "dmuchawiec" which comes from "dmuchać", "to blow" when in its seed state." Source: Wikipedia.
I would like to collect many wishes, and embody them in art. I am asking everyone- and YOU in particular- to please send me a short wish. The less-personal nature of this group mail gives you an easy means of opting out if you are hesitant, yet I really encourage you to consider participation. In fact, I'm depending on you! In releasing your wish to me, I'll wish it may come true for you.
I plan to engrave all wishes by hand into a new series of my glass art pieces. Some previous works were inadvertently reminiscent of a dandelion clock; and this image will be actively deployed in the new series. All wishes will be anonymous in my work and 90% will be illegible; since a hundred wishes may overlap each other in one work. The significance will be that the wishes are implicit, even if not clearly readable, and will be understood as real expressions of people with a worldwide demographic. I need your help since it would be simplistic and sad to write only my own wishes; and closer to Narcissus than Taraxacum. The art will be frozen, captured as a moment in time, but your breath that releases the wish will remain a free flowing 'seed'; alive in the air and independent of any thing I make. I take a deep breath myself as I type, and I release that breath; giving to the unknown yet excited by the prospect.
Please do send me your wish. I only request a single sentence of text. It may be in English or in your native language, if that can be written with the Roman alphabet. (For example Japanese may be represented phonetically with alphabet, and this would spare me the pretension of copying forms I do not know). Your wish may be serious or trivial; momentary or long held. You do not need to send an explanation or translation, I do not need to understand your wish, but my wish is that your's is sincere. If it has been written on your soul for a long time, then I encourage you to release it. On the other hand, if you find in coming days you spontaneously wish something in your mind; I invite you to write it down before you forget it; and email it to me later, when you have a spare moment. I will make use of all kinds of wish. The wish should be your own words and not a quotation; I am not seeking poetry, just authenticity. You may send me more than one wish; send as many or as few as you wish, and whenever you wish.
Type me an e-mail, and breathe your wish as you hit 'send' to let it go. I cannot make your wish come true but your participation just might make it more tangible for you.The calligraphers and scribes among you may thus find that even e-mail may be an expressive and meaningful communication by text.
Thank you for reading; I wish that this project stimulates many people in a small way. If you wish, please feel free to pass on my request to other individuals or groups who you think may be stimulated and not annoyed by this extra mail in our time of unmanageable spam.
Quill Skill Christmas Newsletter 2008
Best seasons greetings! My christmas card is here: http://quillskill.com/
New stuff for New Year:
DVD Movie generating excited feedback on Cyberscribes and Facebook from initial recipients.
Best wishes for a relaxing holiday season,
Quill Skill Newsletter December 2008
DVD Movie: The Music of Ink, is finally ready!
The movie documents the live performance and multimedia presentation I gave at the Letters Mingle Souls International Conference of Letter Arts in Chicago this July. Preparation took most of the first half of the year and now producing the DVD has taken me much of the rest of it. It has been a continually inspiring project that has kept me in my flow, (and flow is the implicit philosophy in this project). New info and images are now online; follow the link below. The deluxe collector's edition is extra special. It comes with five fine prints and a beautiful booklet with an illustrated article; the writing of which was enlightening for me. (A PDF of this article is on the standard edition DVD). Due to time pressures, and to avoid waiting for a commercial print run, I am hand assembling the initial run of this booklet from 11"x17" fine prints using the same archival inks and fine paper as my limited editions. Those who order the collector's edition before New Year will be assured of getting one of these signed artist edition booklets. Please consider supporting my endeavor which has involved months of unpaid work. The standard edition DVD makes a very affordable gift, but if you buy the deluxe edition you'll want to keep it for yourself!
Los Angeles Gallery Representation
I'm pleased to announce a new relationship with Gallery 13 in Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood, Los Angeles. The gallery is now showing an initial representation of a few of my layered glass art works, the first public showing of such work in California; and they also have some edition prints. I designed a new logo for the Gallery, which will soon be in use, if not already. For those of you in the LA area or who may be visiting, do check it out and feel free to say hi &/or comment to the friendly staff.
Gallery 13 ,Irish Fine Art, 8302a Melrose Ave., West Hollywood CA 90069
CLAS UK: New special edition magazine by Denis Brown & David McGrail
New Year will bring another special edition full color magazine from CLAS (Calligraphy & Letter Arts Society, the largest UK guild, www.clas.co.uk). CLAS have invited me with my friend David Mc Grail, graphic designer/calligrapher/illustrator; to design our third special edition for them. This is our chance to feature our own work and ideas without any of the normal editorial and advertising. The last edition we co-produced for CLAS in 2005 has been a top seller at my international events and is now sold out. You can guarantee your personal copy now of the 2009 edition by subscribing to CLAS, http://www.clas.co.uk/subscription.html
Other Publications and Articles.
Bound and Lettered has a color feature on Denis Brown in the new current issue.
Thanks for reading and best wishes for a relaxing holiday season,
Quill Skill Newsletter July 2008
Report on Denis Brown Live Performance at Letters Mingle Souls
Denis Brown, introduced as ''the Rock Star of Calligraphy', mark making behind backlit plexiglas sheets, 20 feet wide by 6 feet high. Sgraffito in alkyd paint formed the finale to Denis' performance to his own prerecorded music.
July 23rd 2008: A large crowd was gathering outside Pfeifer Hall, the theatre used for evening events at the international conference for Lettering Artists, this year held in Chicago. Karen was calling to me from back of house, "Can I let them in yet?"...No!! Pressure was on!
Minutes later I was back and seated in the front row ready to be introduced. Diane, our able MC never stuck for words, was making announcements and telling jokes and (I gradually realized) playing for time as she had not realized I had returned. Conference co-director Lisa Kivland sat beside me waving at her to no avail; Diane was in her flow. She got up on stage and introduced me: 'Welcome, everybody, to Denis Brown, the rock star of calligraphy!' (I figure nobody noticed that her clothes were tinted by alkyd, since she too had been assisting me backstage).
So began a performance that had involved months of preparation, mainly spent filming and editing movies that were projected onto a large and thus far unstained backdrop and also onto some of the large panels I was working. I composed and recorded most of the music myself also. What a project! The video looked great in a sharp hi-definition format of my own custom design, but still so much could go wrong in this first time presentation. Another credit is due- many thanks to Tom Kivland for building and setting up the supports for the stretched papers.
The performance was in two parts, first I dripped ink onto a 32 foot length of stretched watercolor paper, kindly donated along with other materials by Dick Blick. I guess many were surprised by the absence of letters in my work, but my concept related to calligraphy and the loss of it's historic function of transcription. Let's face it- that task is better performed now by anything from cell phone text messaging to barcodes! So now calligraphy may be more free- sometimes even free of the letter. Calligraphy is more special than functional anyway! In fact the first half of my performance was inspired by the barcode, which like calligraphy is a document made of a pattern of thick/thin and black/white. It's a concept that first emerged in my class 'Conceptual Calligraphy' at a previous International conference, (Connecticut 1999), and I've occasionally revisited and developed it. Basically the idea has been to reclaim the barcode as calligraphy by giving a human quality to it's rigid lines.
There's also a philosophy of allowing rather than controlling. Most calligraphers try to to control their letter-forms, but as with well behaved children, allowing is far better than having to always control. I allowed the ink to flow by it's own nature down soaked papers. I'm not sure how much was clear from seats further back in the theatre, but I wanted to play with a full range of tones from delicate gray/whites to intense black. Meanwhile new movies extended from the one still online at http://quillskill.com/extras/video.htm, were projected along with music which for me represents the 'music of ink'... embedded chants/voices of ancient scribes, the songs of whales, and I hope it also expresses the philosophy of FLOW expressed throughout the performance.
Following a brief interval (where those who went outside for a smoke may have seen me sprint across the road to my classroom where I had inadvertently left my only inkpot that was large enough to accommodate a 7" wide nib), the second half of the performance began. I played on the fact that to 'text' has become a verb, thanks to cell phones and SMS. What a joy for a calligrapher to be 'texted'! I projected calligraphy along with abbreviated 'txt' poetry as I wrote 'Text me" in huge letters before moving to the alkyd covered 20' plexiglas panel mentioned earlier. The plan was to use a sgraffito technique, scraping away paint to cut broad transparent strokes in the moist alkyd paint. It had worked beautifully in my test at home in my studio. A thickish layer of that paint typically takes a couple of days to dry so I thought I'd have plenty of time before I needed to make my marks. But sultry Chicago weather and hot stage lighting meant that by the time I got to the plexiglas panel, the paint had already began to dry! My first mark was to be a really broad stroke made with an 8" wide 'nib' made from masonite covered with felt. But the masonite split in half under pressure of my stroke and no mark appeared in the half dry alkyd paint! Working from behind the backlit panel, I realized I had to roller on mineral spirits to soften the paint. This caused the paint to drip and the whole result became a lot more painterly than my crisper calligraphic test. Not such a bad thing, I figure! And it only took a day or so before the paint stains all over my arm washed off... (actually similar for the play tattoo that my bud Georgia Deaver had calligraphed on my other arm only two days earlier at a serendipity event).
I had been anxious that the crowd had been fairly quiet during the performance and so was especially warmed by the standing ovation given at the end. Calligraphers are a kind and amiable bunch, really!
The work still continues with documentation and the editing of a special DVD movie, which is now available for pre-ordering. A collectors edition will be made with 5 fine prints and a free 8.5"x11"signed original section cut from one of the actual panels for those who pre-order. A standard DVD edition will also be made at cheaper cost. Pre-order online now by credit card for just US$10 down-payment. Full details at http://quillskill.com/LMS_2008/dvd_sales.htm
Thank you for taking time to read!
Quill Skill Newsletter March/April 2008
New Website category: Large Scale Calligraphy
I am approaching completion of my project to make a portfolio of large scale calligraphy, funded by the Irish Crafts Council's Annual Bursary Award 2006. You can browse a preliminary selection from the new "BIG" link in the Quill Skill website menu, or just click here:
Online Sales Gallery
Some new works have been added to my online sales gallery, which is freely available for viewing although I do not link it from the main menus so as to keep it "semi-private". http://quillskill.com/sales/sales.htm
Other Website News
I have improved the Video page on my site with thumbnail images to facilitate browsing and refined the design of some of the movies.
Detail of 'Inkfall'
NEWS re. I N K F A L L EDITION PRINT & MOVIE (as featured in my last Newsletter)
For those still reading, I'll offer a further association. From reading Christine Flint Sato's article "New Directions in Japanese Calligraphy" in a recent Letter Arts Review magazine, I learned the Japanese have a word for 'images in ink' that are derived from calligraphy but may not be based on characters, or abstract the characters beyond legibility. The word "Bokusho", (墨書), represents a precedent for what I have dubbed 'Reductionist Calligraphy' in my own work, including the inkfall print & movie and my conceptual sumi images. Thanks to Christine for that. Her own website of sumi paintings is http://sumiwork.com.
The Japanese have a huge culture of calligraphy as art (書道), so much more developed than ours in the West; yet her observations that the organized structures of this culture can and do limit possibilities for individual creativity poignantly reinforce my own observations of a double edged sword of Japanese overbearing respect for "Sensei' (teacher) and for precedent masters. On my last visit to Japan in Autumn, I also collected many illustrated books on sumi painting, and refined my appreciation of tone and tonal modulations in calligraphy.
Finally, a leading Italian underwear fashion company has enquired if I could make a similar ink movie for use as backdrops in their boutique window displays. Bokusho lingerie? We'll see what comes of that!
Quill Skill Newsletter Update January 2008
Thank you to all who viewed my online movie- the YouTube version has been exciting to watch grow, from nothing on New Years morning, to a number one rating in Ireland for New Years Day by nightfall! This is thanks to YOU! Thanks especially to those of you who signed up, posted comments and added a rating. These got it into the most popular listings in Ireland under a whole range of headings.
Let's go further, if we can. Calligraphy really needs broader visibility in forms that might inspire young people to get involved. My hope is that while this began with calligraphers and friends, that the ratings may have encouraged some others to have a look and think about taking up calligraphy. Today I uploaded another free movie to YouTube, though it's an older movie that I've previously used in my lectures and a longer version is on my CD-rom. Consider it a thank you for your support, but it also comes with another request to view, comment and rate; and so to help calligraphy become a little more visible to the world:
Did you know that you can send e-mail greeting cards of any YouTube video, and if you have a website or blog, you can embed YouTube movies in your own pages? YouTube.com has all the 'how to' info. Additionally, links to my site are always welcome.
Detail from the new print
NEW LIMITED EDITION- I N K F A L L
DOWNLOAD THE MUSIC at high quality, FREE
I've been accused of having 'too much fun' with this New Year break- I won't deny that!- now I must go do some real work....
All best wishes and thanks for your continued support,
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Quill Skill Newsletter New Year 2008
It's been a long time since my last newsletter- I was preoccupied with an exceptional amount of international travels for much of 2007, but finally have time to inform everyone of news.
Happy New Year: Online video greeting!
Watch this, get excited; and then please send all your calligraphy friends and other pen-pals the link! In my New Year greeting, I introduce a new concept of 'reductionist' calligraphy- which seeks to be meaningfully expressive without words, without expressive gestures, but simply by allowing ink to flow. It's got my own atmospheric soundtrack also. Turn your speakers on or get out your headphones, then follow the new link on the homepage:
New gigantic work with many enlarged details online
Enter quillskill.com and follow the 'new work' link under the 'calligraphy' menu. Or simply click here. Please refresh your page after it loads, if you have visited the site in recent months, since background style sheets will need updating for correct display.
Other Website News
I've recently refined the Quillskill website with a new homepage design (www.quillskill.com) and a cleaner menu system that will make it easier to find what you want, as well as explore a broader range of what is on offer. New works are scattered among older favorites on many of the category pages.
For convenience here are direct urls for recently added or re-designed pages, (though they will load without navigation bar and menus)
Recent Glass Art
A chance for inspiration without even having to bring tools! Just sit back and be inspired by state of the art presentations of inspiring work and underlying philosophy:
The page for the Art appreciation seminar has been updated with images at http://quillskill.com/workshops/artapprec.htm
National Crafts Competition- another first prize
Fitzwilliam Collection of Contemporary Calligraphy, Cambridge, UK
A notable new collection of contemporary calligraphy has been instigated in Cambridge UK, at the Fitzwilliam Museum, home of the Metz Pontifical and the Macclesfield Psalter, amongst other significant historical manuscripts. 'CLAS', the UK Calligraphy and Letter Arts Society, are been behind this initiative. Among a broad range of works(mostly donated by their makers), some of Denis Brown's earlier works have been donated to this collection by a private collector in the UK.
All best wishes for the coming year,
Quill Skill Newsletter July 2007
Australian tour completed... workshop review online
All workshops received great reviews, and one report in particular was so fun to read that I've asked permission to reproduce it in full- complete with a cartoon where I've been represented as a screaming Celtic initial 'D'! Thanks to author Bob Howe and to the Australian Society of Calligraphers for this frank yet hilarious account of one of my advanced themes, 'Dangerous Lines'. Read it at http://quillskill.com/workshops/bob_howe/bob_howe.htm
Sometimes I'm asked why I choose to do such long workshop tours, (it's true that this year in particular, I lose a lot of studio time). Apart from the chance to travel and the privilege of being an honored guest of international guilds, my teaching has significantly enhanced my own understanding of calligraphy. I'm one whose creativity stems from intuition rather than logic; but having to clearly explain my concepts to students has helped me rationalize what originated in unconscious impulses. I see this unification of left- and right-brained approaches as a more holistic appreciation. My teaching experience greatly benefits my artistic output, even though workshop tours do mean less production time in the studio.
Island Magic Conference, Vancouver Island.
Calligraphy Performance at Chicago Conference 2008
Breaking news! I have been asked to do a live calligraphy 'performance' as part of the 2008 international calligraphy conference in Chicago, Letters Mingle Souls. This is to be confirmed, but I have ben given the go-ahead to help start the hype ! It will be so much more than a demonstration- it will be a live presentation of large scale calligraphy in mixed media, performed to music, and with video over-projections of calligraphy synchronized to the music. I'll be working hard to make this highly entertaining as well as inspirational.
Quill Skill Newsletter April-May 2007
New series online. It's all about I N K !
Large-scale installation funded from CCoI Bursary award
The layered glass works I have done before this have been limited in scale due to weight and fragility of the glass. This installation is 8 feet tall by 5.5 feet wide. The enlarged scale has been facilitated by the adoption of plexiglas. It forms part of the ink series that has been my focus since New Year. But it contains a massive body of text that ironically was written without ink at all, (since it was engraved); yet a dark background of ink is needed to make the writing visible; yet even when visible, the writing remains illegible! It's a work full of paradoxes, interrogating the function of writing in the world now. Find full discussion and high quality images of this avant-garde conceptual calligraphy, at:
New limited edition print
Also part of the ink series introduced above, I have produced a new limited edition. Prints can be purchased online by credit card via paypal. Full details and large images at:
New Movie online
I'm pleased to be able to present a new movie of a live calligraphy 'performance' I gave in Indiana, USA, November 2006. The film was independently produced by Videographica and is now online at http://quillskill.com//FLV/studioarts.html. For the sake of overall impression, some parts have been sped up greatly, but other parts that may be thought of as real time are actually slowed down.... all for good creative effect by the producer, Nate Trimboli. (Note- unfortunately those without broadband may not be able to view this movie: quality proved to be too low at dial-up data-rates)
Denis Brown Interview from Argentina published online
The Argentinian Calligraphy website, caligrafiar.com.ar has published a recent interview with Denis Brown at:
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Quill Skill Newsletter
December 2006 / January 2007
New Year Greetings!
Ireland's President congratulates Denis Brown on Bursary Award
President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, welcomed and congratulated Crafts Council of Ireland Bursary winner, Denis Brown and second prize winner Joe Hogan, at the presidential residence, Áras an Uachtaráin, on December 13th at a small gathering. Denis Brown was awarded Euro14,000 to pursue his proposal to develop a portfolio of new work intended to attract architectural commissions.
Report on SOFA EXPO in Chicago in November
It was a privilege to exhibit at the major international SOFA expo in Chicago, November 9th- 12th, 2006. I was part of the Irish national Craft Gallery stand. It was the first time a national representation of the "best of irish" was presented at SOFA, by the National Craft Gallery and the Crafts Council of Ireland. My glass art was shown with 4 significant new works, which achieved a lot of close scrutiny (and plenty of 'ooh!'s), and my sales prices achieved record figures. Attendance at SOFA CHICAGO was estimated at 33,000 persons over the 3 days plus opening night.
New Work: glass-art slideshow online
2 month USA tour completed with many commendations
I spent September through November in USA, teaching workshops in many west coast locations & also in the mid-west. Highlights included being keynote speaker at Portland's AoCC (All of Oregon Calligraphy Conference), where I addressed over 200 enthusiastic participants who traveled from all around the state, and I projected my multi-media presentation onto three screens. Portland is famous as Lloyd Reynolds' home territory; although of course I previously knew the name and some writings of this legend of calligraphy's development in USA, I developed a better appreciation of his fundamental understanding and passion for the meaningfulness of calligraphy in a modern age. (It's easy to miss this aspect by judging only his calligraphy, which has been outshone by the better of subsequent generations). I thus took it as a compliment of very highest regard, that comments were made after my presentation, comparing my intellectual interrogation of the meanings in my own calligraphy to the ideals of Llyod Reynolds.
New Acquisitions of Denis Brown in Newberry Library Chicago, and San Francisco Public Library.
A suite of my limited edition prints have been purchased by the San Francisco Public Library. The collection can be accessed by the public after signing in at the Book Arts & Special Collections department on the 6th Floor, where the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering is administered and curated by Susie Taylor. This collection also holds some of my original calligraphy from the 1990's.
Australia & Japan tours 2007
I will be teaching workshops in many cities in Australia in April-May 2007. Workshop and contact details have been posted at http://www.cecilia-letteringart.com/ALL/denisbrown_2007.html, and fuller descriptions of the themes are available from http://quillskill.com/workshops/workshops.htm
In Autumn, preparations are getting underway for me to teach in Japan once again. Contact the main Japanese Guilds/Networks for further information.
Keynote speaker at Island Magic Conference, Vancouver 2007
I have been invited to give the keynote lecture , as well as teach a 5 day class at "Island Magic", the 27th International Conference for Calligraphers, July 21 - 28, 2007, http://islandmagic2007.com. Thirty other international faculty have been listed for this event, so come join the party! Although I have taught at most of the international conferences of the past 10 years, and presented lectures at a couple, this is my first to present a keynote at such an event. The location is by all accounts exquisite, and bookings are already filling. My class at this conference will be called "Developing Expression in Calligraphy" and will be an adaptation of the workshop described in detail at my website: http://quillskill.com/workshops/capsexpression/capsexpression.htm
Educational Calligraphy DVD/CD-ROM update
Despite outstanding interest and enquiry, I have to regretfully inform that no progress has been made in this exciting enterprise, simply due to other commitments. Frankly, I'm itching for the time to focus again on this project, as I'm confident I can significantly outstep the standard of current educational product for all levels of calligrapher, in terms of depth of analysis, logic of argument, and clarity of portrayal, in video as well as printed accompaniment. However, other projects and commitments will keep me from this work for the time being.
Wishing all of you best Christmas Greetings and a stimulating and exciting year in 2007!
New Video online!
A promotional movie for the proposed multimedia performance of music and calligraphy by Rohan de Saram (cello), with live visual art by Denis Brown (calligraphy/mixed media). See it at: http://quillskill.com/FLV/choose_mov.html
National Craft Award goes to Calligrapher
Denis Brown was awarded the Crafts Council of Ireland's annual bursary.
National Museum of Ireland acquire a Denis Brown
The National Museum of Ireland have acquired a work in glass for their permanent collection. The commission was based on an earlier piece which museum curators had seen on the Irish Crafts Council's 'Portfolio' CD-rom, and the new work now forms part of the National Craft Collection, co-funded by the Crafts Council of Ireland and the National Museum. The work will be considered for appropriate forthcoming exhibitions at the Museum's Collins Barracks location in Dublin, but in the meantime can be seen in the 'What's in Store' room, a storage room that is open to the public. See the new piece online at: http://www.quillskill.com/glass/redotter2.html
Letter Arts Review 2006
My work 'textin iz messin' has been selected as the cover image for Letter Arts Review magazine's Review 2006 to be published next year. But you can see it now and read full details at http://quillskill.com/expressive/txtin_messin.html The work playfully juxtaposes abbreviated text from ancient scribal traditions with modern SMS text messages.
New Workshop topics available
Shadowboxes: now available as an independent 2 day theme based on part of the 5 day Layering class: http://quillskill.com/workshops/layering/shadowbox.htm
Denis Brown at SOFA EXPO, Chicago
I will be exhibiting with the Irish Crafts Council at SOFA, the major international exposition of Sculpture Objects and Functional art, November 10th -12th 2006. A range of new works in layered glass will be exhibited and made available for sale. This will be a rare opportunity to see some of my larger works in the USA.
New Works & New Edition Print
I have a new limited edition artist print available, entitled Manual Digital. It plays on the original meaning of the word digital, as pertaining to the fingers. In this sense all handwritten calligraphy is digital.... manual digital, that is. Full info and images at: http://www.quillskill.com/prints/manualdigital.htm
2006 Lecture series
My 2006 multimedia presentation/lecture about my work, was launched in Germany in March, and subsequently at the CLAS AGM in London, which drew a record attendance at the prestigious British Library location. The presentation will be made in many US locations during my Fall tour.
Italic DVD- update
Unfortunately, I have had no time to develop the educational DVD on italic writing that I have previously announced. The project is shelved for now, but in due course I hope to find time to produce a range of educational products, teaching a selection of my workshop topics in an innovative and interactive DVD/CD-rom format.
February - March 2006
New Works uploaded this month
New works are now available for viewing and for sale. Many of these are smaller and more affordable works in layered glass, featuring 3 sheets of glass over a background image. Browse the online gallery of these small works at:
Calligraphy as Performance
A proposed multimedia performance of music and calligraphy by Rohan de Saram (cello), with live visual art by Denis Brown (calligraphy/mixed media). More details, plus a photo of me wielding a broom sized pen at: http://quillskill.com/calligraphy/performance.html
The page is also available from the "New Work" link in the QuillSkill menu frame (filed under >calligraphy>new work)
Interest in staging this event has already been expressed by the Scottish Sound Festival in Aberdeen in November, and we are keen to hear from others who may wish to stage or sponsor a performance. If you can help in any way please contact me.
China Review Article
The collaboration with Rohan de Saram has come from my first meeting with the maestro cellist at The Music of Ink event at the British Museum last summer, in which we each collaborated with a Chinese artist (but not with each other at that time). Helen Wang of the British Museum has reviewed that event in a recent edition of China Review with a few comments worth quoting. Chinese poet, Yang Lian spoke knowingly about traditions of poetry that certainly apply to our traditions of calligraphy also: When I first began to write poetry, one thing was crystal clear in my mind. If I could not find a creative link between the classical Chinese tradition and my own writing, then I would have to declare the tradition dead. There would be no "tradition", only a "past".
Helen Wang also reviewed the presentation I gave with Chinese artist Qu Lei Lei: Denis Brown and Qu Lei Lei are both visual artists. Their conversation considered some of the similarities and differences between Eastern and Western calligraphy. Denis is a Dublin based calligrapher who, after a rigorous training in Western calligraphy, is currently producing some of the most compelling calligraphy anywhere. For example, the barcode, which is a document legible to a computer, features in some recent work. He works with hard instruments: sharp pens on paper and vellum, and dentist's drill on layered glass. Likening the pen to a sword, he observed that within "swordsmanship" lies "wordsmanship". Qu Lei Lei is a London based artist, calligrapher and expert in tai chi. He is currently enjoying a solo exhibition of his work at the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford- the first by any Chinese artist. Lei Lei gave an overview of the history of Chinese painting and calligraphy, before talking about his own work.
To read the full article you must get a copy of the China Review, issue 33, but Helen finishes with a more optimistic view on traditions than her opening quote by Yang Lian ...it is inspiring to be able to step out of our everyday life, and see how artists from different backgrounds explore and understand concepts of the traditional, and how they work with and develop those ideas as they create their own very contemporary new work. In this way, they are not only maintaining a tradition, they are also refreshing and renewing that tradition.
I have updated my workshop schedule page, http://quillskill.com/workshops/workshop_sched.htm to list most of my bookings for 2006.
December 2005 - January 2006
This is the first newsletter since Autumn, as I have been away from home most of the time since then, teaching many workshops across the United States, and also briefly in Norway. Exhibition commitments since my return home a few weeks ago have left me no time for website updates, although I was producing new works at a rapid rate! ...one or even 2 works per day at the busiest periods. However at that rate, I had to revisit older themes rather than spend time on new developments, so I choose not to publish these works at this time.
Seasons Greetings to you all! Please see my Christmas card online at http://www.quillskill.com/xmas/card.html
It becomes more difficult as years go by to yet again find something different to offer as a Christmas card, yet I still feel it's worth the effort. This year the design has a root in the philosophy of German calligrapher, Hans Joachim Burgert, whose ideas I have been reviewing in the context of my class on 'Polyrhythmic Calligraphy', (a new offering added to my workshop list recently: http://quillskill.com/workshops/rhythm/polyrhythmic.htm). However my means and my goals have been very different from Burgert's, this time involving 'digital calligraphy'. For me, that term means HANDwritten by fingers, (ie. digits; and thus the original 'manual digital', from Latin- manus=hand), but then the writing is also disturbed and transformed by algorithm, which adds the arithmetic and computational meanings we normally associate with the term 'digital'.
Note for Windows XP, service pack 2 users only: This and many other pages of my site use dynamic content for added enjoyment. It involves programming what Microsoft describe with alarming warnings as "active content that may harm your computer". Of course I have no interest whatsoever to do anything other than enhance your computer experience, so please be assured it is absolutely safe to allow the active content from the Quillskill site to run, and to disregard Microsoft's extremist warnings. Personally, on my own PCs I disable these warnings completely. If you wish to do that, under Internet Explorer's "tools" menu select "internet options" then click the "advanced" tab and scroll down to the security list. Click to place a tick in the 2nd box down: "Allow active content to run in files on my computer". While you are there I'd also recommend checking first box for "Allow active content to run from CD's to run on my computer" since if you ever use a professionally designed CD ROM it will almost certainly have active content. Then scroll up a little to the "Multimedia" list and un-check the first box for "Enable automatic Image Resizing". This feature shrinks all images larger than your screen to fit, with a significant loss in quality as well as size. I and other designers deliberately offer enlarged images that allow the user to scroll around to view details at high quality. (This aspect relates to the Quillskill website, and more again to the Denis Brown CD-Rom: http://quillskill.com/DBCD/cd-r.htm).
My little disclaimer: It is true that some active content, particularly from dubious and/or illegal websites, may be designed to harm your computer or generate spam advertising, but reputable sites have more respect for their visitors. Nonetheless, PC users should invest in antivirus and antispam software. Macintosh users are largely free of these concerns, so far.
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday period, and may the New Year bring many opportunities and successes for each of us!
Here's some brief news of a few projects squeezed in between a busy schedule mostly taken up by workshop preparations and teaching.
Proposed TV Documentary about Denis Brown
Midas Productions, http://www.midasproductions.ie, are currently preparing a show reel to accompany a proposal to Irish national TV company, RTE. The proposed one hour documentary has a working title of 'The Swordsman from Dundrum' (!), referring to the town where I grew up and to the swordsmanship analogies I use for gestural/expressive writing. I produced titling for this proposal which you can see at:
Other New works recently posted:
Teaching trips for workshops in Australia, UK, and USA have taken up most of my time recently, hence this is the first newsletter since June. Thanks to those who have written the excellent reviews from some of these workshops which were posted to the Cyberscribes group, http://www.calligraph.com/cyberscribes. Educational aspects of calligraphy become an increasingly important part of my work, and I find this helps me clarify and concentrate my intentions while making and explaining my own art.
New Work produced for Legacies 2005
Now is the time of the annual US calligraphy conference, this year in Dallas TX ; Legacies 2005. Just this week I've produced a work for the faculty exhibition at Legacies, and this is posted as my "New Work" for the coming month. See it at http://www.quillskill.com/sales/crab_col.htm. Make sure to click the image to load a larger than life size image that reveals a lot more of the fine details. (PC Internet Explorer v.6 users will find that their browser will automatically shrink large images to fit the screen, however in instances like this on thee Quill Skill site, this is NOT what you want... if individually re-sizing images to the full size becomes tiresome, you can turn off Automatic image resizing permanently: from the "tools" menu select "Internet Options", then click the "Advanced" tab and scroll down to "Multimedia" and un-check the box for "Enable Automatic Image Resizing")
Denis Brown CD-ROM update
I'm pleased to announce the release of version 2.5 of my CD-Rom, sWordsmanship, The Calligraphic Art of Denis Brown. The new version includes various works from 2005 among the chapters; a new chapter, 'The Barcode Series', (works inspired by the idea that barcodes could be seen as digital manuscripts); and a new illustrated feature 'Contemporary Calligraphy' in the Essays section, (this will also be published in the CLAS August special edition mentioned below). Finally two new video clips have been added, previewing work in progress from my forthcoming Italic Masterclass DVD. The cost remains the same, at US$40 including postage worldwide. If you haven't already got an earlier version, these updates make the new version better value than ever. Order online at http://www.quillskill.com/DBCD/cd-r.htm with credit card payment accepted via the PayPal system.
Ink on the screen
This four page review is unusual in that it is from outside of the sheltered calligraphic arena and sits within the broader field of the Arts. In a well considered review, the author thinks it paradoxical to find a calligrapher communicating via CD-rom, in a digital age when 'a new chapter in writing is being inaugurated, a chapter whose contents include the radical reduction of fingers holding and directing pens and pencils for the shaping of words'.
However, he continues '...far from stepping into a profession to maintain a tradition, and perhaps because he was growing up and living in the fast changing eighties Ireland, Brown has partially turned calligraphy inside out, taking it in whole new directions.
After a discussion of the content, the author comments on the nature of hypertext and digital communication in conclusion. He laments the lack of tactile qualities in that are inherent in hand made works: 'images disappear into the democratic flatness of the computerised rendering'. Of course, this kind of dialogue is not new to digital reproduction. Even in printed form, we continually lament that subtleties of original works fail to be reproduced; as always there is no substitute for viewing original works 'in the flesh'. Beyond this again even manuscript writing has been acutely criticized at various points in history, most notably by Socrates, since it loses the self-presence of the spoken word. Ironically however, we could not know of Socrates' views, if his disciple Plato had not written it down for posterity, in 'The Phaedo'. Essentially, what we are involved in as humans is the art of communication, and our tools & media include e-mail as well as ink, writing as well as speech, and personality as well as empathy. I would not like to be without any of these, and for me personally, a digital image projected in luminous pixels on my 23" Apple flat panel screen can, on occasion, get my juices flowing as much as gold on vellum. (Technically, 'illumination' in this context of a liquid crystal display or LCD, is more directly descriptive than in the context of medieval manuscripts, where light is reflected but not generated and color mixing is subtractive rather than additive).
Nonetheless, the reviewer certainly managed to get a feel for the original art reproduced on my CD-ROM, since his final words, after mentioning the 'great promises held out for electronic pens, and for "tablet" screens', are :'Denis Brown's CD-ROM, while taking us on a tour of some ground breaking experiments in interfacing the two worlds, is a vivid reminder of how great and remaining the distance is between electronicing hand originated writing and the art and skill of calligraphy'.
Review by Oliver Lowenstein, Fourth Door Review, Number 7, The Blue Pollen Issue. Info at http://www.fourthdoor.co.uk/
CLAS August Special Edition
Members of the UK Calligraphy & Lettering Arts Society, CLAS, will soon receive the August special edition guest designed by David McGrail and myself, and featuring a variety of our work and articles. This full color special edition will not be available from other sources, the only way to get a copy is to become a member. (This is a condition deriving from CLAS' status as a registered charity). Membership details at http://www.clas.co.uk/
Traveling to teach workshops has taken up much of my time in the past month, however I have posted one new work relating to my Barcode series, using my own words & involving a development of my layering process. I have to admit I'm really proud of it, since it involves a new dynamic for me regarding "fluency" of ink flow.
The concept derives from observance that the ubiquitous barcode has a relationship to the manuscript book of the middle ages. Both are made of patterns of black & white lines and are legible documents, (the former to a digital scanner). The barcode can almost be seen as a digital calligraphy, although devoid of any spiritual dimension! My pattern of black & white stripes here takes inspiration from the barcode yet aims to bring a sense of spirituality and aesthetics to what is normally cold and commercial.
See it and read more at http://www.quillskill.com/sales/musicofink.htm
My class on "Layered Calligraphy" at Legacies, this year's conference in Dallas TX is fully booked with a wait list, however, those of you who are keen on this topic, (& there appear to be many!), may still have a chance if you are quick about it- I teach the same topic at Camp Cheerio in North Carolina in Fall. (Editor's note, June 10th: This workshop is now also full with a short wait list.) Details at http://www.calligraphycentre.com/fall2005.html. Enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond beauty: Contemporary calligraphy scratching out a new image
In the past, calligraphy has meant "beautiful writing."
In the hands of contemporary practitioners such as Denis Brown, however, it's an art form that combines visual images with text. The text can be legible or not, depending upon the calligrapher's vision for the work.
"It's almost like a painting, where letters are the brush strokes," Brown says of calligraphy by telephone from a lecture tour-stop in St. Louis. "For me, it has to do with being expressive."
Brown's expressive style has been called "calligraphy with attitude," and he'll give a lecture about it Thursday at Studio Arts Classes in South Bend.
"My writing includes a lot of speed and changes of dynamics," he says of his style. "You can write a word to mean different things. You can write to be angry or peaceful."
His work, Brown says, combines visual art with text, but meaning may not be obvious.
"You may have to go into how (the words) interact with the image as presented," he says. "The actual message of the text may not be the semantic message I present. I may present a semantic message to disagree with the meaning, (just) as you can question a position in an argument."
These and other techniques are conscious attempts by Brown to "make calligraphy contemporary" in his practice of it.
"I've also been inspired by bar codes and rhythmic patterns of music that I program into a computer," he says. "Calligraphy is another example of rhythmic patterns."
Most people learn calligraphy by copying historical styles, Brown says, their enthusiasm fuelled by the realization that it takes "just a few strokes" of the pen to make a full calligraphic letter.
"There's a fascination with shape there, and then decorating them with particular styles of illumination," he says. "It was only later that I became aware of contemporary forms of calligraphy, making it into an art form rather than just copying letter styles."
Born in 1968 in Dublin, Brown discovered calligraphy when he entered high school and took an art class from a teacher who incorporated it into the course's lessons.
"Being in Ireland, we have a great heritage with that," he says.
"The Book of Kells," the most celebrated of its works, remains on public display at Trinity College in Dublin and was a prime influence on Brown as a young calligrapher.
"At the time I was a schoolboy, there was no charge, and I could see it any time," he says. "It was part of my teenage visits to the city center. I used to play video games after that."
Written around the year 800 by several monks associated with the monasteries at Iona and Kells, the 680-page book reproduces the four Gospels of the New Testament in text and fabulous, metaphorical illustrations.
"It's still what I feel is the most outstanding work of art of all time in history," Brown says. "It expresses its time, and it expresses the personalities of the individuals who made it, and it does so in a technically unbelievable way."
As unlikely as it seems, Brown says he sees a connection between Irish illumination and the video games he'd play after studying Trinity's medieval manuscripts.
"Looking back, I see similarities between the graphics of early video games, 'Space Invaders' or 'Galaxy' or 'Pac Man,' and not 'The Book of Kells' but earlier Irish manuscripts, more primitive in their use of two-dimensional forms and patterns of dots," he says.
On Wednesday, Brown will give a lecture about "The Book of Kells" at the Medieval Institute in the Hesburgh Library at the University of Notre Dame.
"I will be showing and explaining some pages of 'The Book of Kells,' the decorations, but particularly the writing and showing some of my more traditional works that are inspired by that culture," he says.
In one, "Pangur Ban," Brown takes a ninth century poem by a monk that compares the monk's hunt for words with his cat's hunt for mice and gives it a modern spin: The cat, with computer mouse in paw, plays "Pac Man" on a computer screen while the monk writes in a manuscript. http://www.quillskill.com/trad/pangur.htm
Last month I announced that newsletters may be sporadic since my time will be predominantly invested in production of my film,"Italic with Attitude- A Calligraphy Master class". Nonetheless I have a couple of new small works to show this month. Both are an extension of my layered "shadowbox" style; they feature writing on glass that casts shadows onto a background paper.
The first of the two links below features my own words. I wrote them as part of what may be the most ironic collaboration to date that I have had with English poet Catherine Byron. If an artist and poet collaborate, one expects the poet to write a text and the artist to make an image. We have conformed to such expectation in the past, as evidenced in some other works on the QuillSkill site. However, this time the convention is turned on its head, as I was inspired to write a poem after Catherine sent me a visual image! See the work plus Catherine's photograph that inspired it, and read the full story at: http://www.quillskill.com/sales/crab.htm Interestingly, Catherine has since sent me a poem she wrote, influenced by an earlier verbal concept of my own, (Aqueous Humour, Vitreous Temper), so I figure that we are even!
You can see and read about the second new work at:
Both feature cursive "polyrhythmic" calligraphy, and a new finesse of line has been achieved in the writing on glass simply by the discovery of an alternative brand of glass paint. It works rather better than the one I struggled with previously! I just wish you could see them in their 3-D "flesh'. Nonetheless it gives me great satisfaction to be able to publish new works practically as soon as the ink is dry!
By contrast, the latest issue of "Letter Arts Review", the Review 2004 annual, has recently been delivered and features among the entries a work of mine that was fairly new when submitted, but has been online at QuillSkill for well over a year, (with clearer pictures and with the full story, which seems to have been censored in LAR, since the artist's description they requested has been omitted in publication). Rather disappointing, but you can still get the bigger picture at: http://www.quillskill.com/glass/redotter.html
(No offence intended to John or Rose of Letter Arts Review- it's still the world's best magazine in the field- and highly recommended) http://www.johnnealbooks.com/lar/
My time in the past month has been spent filming and editing video for my DVD project, now with the working title "Italic with Attitude- A Calligraphy Masterclass". The work is exciting but slow, given the attention to detail I'm putting into it, plus the fact that I'm on a learning curve. To give you an idea- I spent a whole day illustrating a beautiful clock-face with fine flourishes. It spends just 4 seconds on screen! In the movie, it ticks in time to rhythmic beats (that I have yet to program and record), before it turns into footage of the earth rotating! (It's from a sequence explaining rhythm in writing, which is introduced with a mention of rhythmic cycles in nature regarding time of day and planetary motion). You can see a still image of my clock-face here.
In a more functional sense I'm very pleased with the quality of close writing shots that I can achieve- you'll get to see practically what I see, but enlarged to fill your TV screen. It's much larger than life and, I think, a lot more revealing than watching a live demonstration amongst a crowd of students around my table at a workshop. The clips I've filmed to date have enabled me to observe my own movements without having to also concentrate on writing. This has been informative and revealing and no doubt will help refine my ability to explain complex techniques when I teach.
I'd like to say thanks to Trish Meyer of CyberMotion, www.cybmotion.com for her generous and expert advice on movie production and motion graphics.
It now seems clear that 2006 will be the DVD publication date, due to the amount of work to be done and due to a busy schedule of other work this year. More news and previews will be made available on the Quill Skill site in due course prior to publication.
Because of the DVD production work, I'm afraid I have no new art work to publish this month, (apart from the clock-face illustration mentioned above). This scenario is likely to continue, so it will be impractical for me to send out monthly news mails, but will notify you instead only as additions are made to the site. Please continue to visit Quillskill.com, the site has grown considerably in the past months and there's a lot to explore.
Special edition CLAS magazine