Calligrapher’s Corner:Consulting with the Experts, Volume 7: Timothy Botts
1. Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy. I discovered the Speedball lettering book in our art room in sixth grade when I began working on a circus poster and copied letters from there. But it wasn’t until my freshman year in college when I discovered calligraphy and found myself in Arnold Bank’s calligraphy class, required of all art majors!
2. What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise? I was fortunate to get a graphic design degree from Carnegie-Mellon University which gave me the basic tools for expressing the meaning of words and arranging them with images. I always tell students: one-half of calligraphy is learning to make beautiful letters. The second half is learning how to arrange them on the page–which is design.
3. With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences? In addition to Arnold Bank, my primary mentor in calligraphy, I was inspired by the work of Corita Kent and Ben Shahn, both of whom worked with sacred words in very child-like non-traditional ways. I was also fortunate to live in Japan for three years and was influenced by the art of brush writing, asymmetry, their daring use of space, and simplicity.
4. What products can you not live without? The primaries of gouache, Holbein pearl gold, sumi ink in the short round green bottle, Fabriano Artistico soft press paper, Brause nibs, a large Japanese pointed brush, and several sizes of broad-edged brushes…I also love the magic of art masking fluid!
5. What advice would you give a new calligrapher? Make sure you are practicing from good models such as Sheila Waters and Charles Pearce. Volunteer to do calligraphy free of charge for causes that you believe in and to bless other people. Keep a sketchbook–I have fifteen that represent 45 years of work.
6. What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? My wife and I have thirteen grandchildren, with some of them already doing calligraphy.
7. When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing? I enjoy riding my bicycle–especially along Chicago’s lakefront, playing the piano, and gardening.