Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
My love of lettering began with my dad. My dad was a draftsman, and as a very young kid I always admired his lettering. When he wrote, whether it be printing or cursive, it was simply beautiful. He saw that I loved lettering and gave me a very old Speedball Handbook that he had. I treasured that Speedball book, loose pages and all. I went to technical high school and majored in industrial drafting. After high school I went on to college and received my BA in Art and Design from California State University at Los Angeles. After leaving college, I was a draftsman for several years for a furniture company and then at Walt Disney Imagineering, during the time that EPCOT was being designed. In my early time at Disney I decided to go back to college to work on a Masters Degree in Art in Art & Design, which I received in 1982. When I started back at Cal State LA in the masters program, I saw an advertisement for a lecture that was going to be in the student union building with the guest speaker being none other than Donald Jackson, scribe to the queen. I did not even know who Donald Jackson was at that time but I thought I would check it out. It turned out to be an amazing evening which turned out to be my introduction into calligraphy. I have had the opportunity to be a part of many divisions within Disney during my 31 year career with them. My love of lettering has paid off while being a principal graphic designer for the company for the last 27 years of my 31, creating many hand lettered pieces and working with typography on a daily basis.
What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
My greatest area of expertise is creating letter forms mechanically or with tools and putting them into nicely arranged compositions.
With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences?
I had the opportunity to take a few workshops during the years from Lefty Fontenrose, Marsha Brady, Carl Rohrs, Tom Kemp, Georgia Deaver, Lothar Hoffman, Peter Thornton, Thomas Ingmire, Kaz Tanahashi, Yves Leterme, Jovica Veljovic, Ewan Clayton, Marylin Reeves, Glenn Epstein, Gottfried Pott and most recently Joe Vitolo, Michael Sull, Kathy Milici, Pat Blair, and Rick Muffler to name a few. I know I may have forgotten someone. If I have, please forgive me. My personal favorites are Gottfried Pott and Glenn Epstein. In 1996 I attended my very first International Lettering Conference in Seattle at The University of Puget Sound. I was very nervous because I did not really have that much knowledge of calligraphy at the time and saw that in the catalog it said intermediate and advanced. I thought about it and decided to sign up with Gottfried. It was a life changing week with this master of lettering. He so inspired me, and I did turn out some decent work considering my nervousness. I have been fortunate to take Gottfried a couple of times and own several original Gottfried Pott pieces. I cannot forget the very first workshop I attended which was a ruling pen workshop lead by Glenn Epstein. He taught me the most valuable thing ever and that was that you do not have to be so neat. If you catch me sometime somewhere ask me to share the story. It is too long for here. Let’s just say that Glenn broke the spell I had on being very neat when I worked and his, “you have to let your hair down” comment has always stuck with me. Yves Leterme and Luca Barcelona have also been influences to me.
What products can you not live without?
Pentel Colorbrushes, The Zig Cocoiro marker and my Montblanc 149 that has a custom ground nib by Ward Dunham and my Namiki retractible fountain pens. I just started pointed pen lettering a while back and love my Jake Weidmann oblique holder with some choice nibs with MvCaffery’s inks. And lastly my ruling and folded pens (Jim Chins among them) and my custom made cola pens.
What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
To take workshops from those whose work inspires you and to look at the work of calligraphers from around the world. I consider the new John Stevens book one of the greatest books that everyone should have in their collection.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
That I am a magician member of the most famous and private club in the world of magic, the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California. This December marks my 38 year with the Castle. I am also a drummer who played in a few rock and roll bands in the 70’s and late 80’s.
When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?
I love spending time with my lovely wife and children, son-in-law and daughter-in-law, practicing and performing magic, riding my motorcycle, taking photos and visiting the Happiest Place on Earth.
See more of Louis’s work on his website and Tumblr.