While surfing the web not so long ago, I ran across a little gem of a drawing. At first glance, you may say that it's just a drawing of a cat and a mouse but take a closer look: the cat is literally made of the letters C-A-T and well, you can guess what letters of the alphabet make the mouse.
It took a little sleuthing to find the artist, Margaret Shepherd, who turned out to be a noted calligrapher and author of bestselling books on calligraphy and etiquette. When I asked her how she got started in calligraphy, she said "I got my start when I flunked Palmer Method* handwriting in third grade. I just knew even at that age that there had to be something better. In college I had a tutorial introduction to calligraphy, and after spending a semester on Roman, and the whole first month on the letter O, I was hooked."
[*Note: The Palmer Method of penmanship, developed by Austin Palmer in the early 1900s, focuses on cursive writing. The method fell out of favor and was later replaced by a movement to teach children manuscript or block letters]
Artist Statement by Margaret Shepherd, February 2010:
While the letters I use are often the simplest classic pen-written
forms, I arrange them in completely new ways. My calligraphy aims at
the area of the viewer’s brain right in the middle between reading
and seeing. I began by using long passages to build up woven textures,
full of pattern and color. Now I use short words to form shapes that
look like what the words mean--the letters c a t line up to look like
a cat, for instance. The viewer feels as though the image has been concealed
in the letters all along, and my art lets it be seen. My mantra is that
a letter can be anything--a hoof, a breast, a hat, or a whisker.
I have always tried to free calligraphy from its antiquarian tendencies;
I don’t rely on ornamental borders, medieval elements, or expensive
materials such as gold leaf to carry the image. I have always sought
a page where there is no image other than what is created by the letters.
In addition to exhibiting my work, I have written a number of books
for amateurs and students of calligraphy. This year I am writing Calligraphy
All Over the World, and discovering that colleagues everywhere are also
taking radical new approaches working to their own non-Roman scripts.
We each have our own unique style.
A letter can be anything!
based on e. e. cummings' poem "the little horse is newlY"
based on e. e. cumming's poem "here's a little mouse) and"
All drawings courtesy of Margaret Shepherd.
Books by Margaret Shepherd: