Calligrapher’s Corner:Consulting with the Experts, Volume 10: Randall Hasson
- Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy.
My familiarity with lettering began as a high school student where our art teacher had a semester set aside in which we studied calligraphy. The interest continued as a student at Long Beach City College in California. I was looking for a job and found an opening in the “Art Department” there – and what the Art Department ended up being was a place where all the professors would come to ask for someone to make a sign for their class. The studio was run by an old sign guy named Jim Ennis who probably had forgotten more about lettering than I’ll ever know. I remember using a Speedball D nib pretty much exclusively during my two years there instead of a traditional flat broad edged nib – that D series oval was a traditional pen for lettering posters with the basic Roman forms and helped me get a sense of proportion in various lettering styles.
This “first piece” from 1993, above, was done one evening as a Valentine’s day present while my wife was asleep. It was done directly with no prior layout, a calligraphic felt pen and colored pencil, and was done obviously without an understanding of counters, interior spacing, letter spacing, and flourishing.
All this was put in the past as I began a family and a career in sales. About 15 years into the insurance industry, the economy went into a recession in the early 90’s and for three years in a row I had 10% more production and 10% less income. I was frustrated and needed a creative outlet. I had picked up that old standby, the Speedball Textbook, and done a couple of calligraphic pieces, and then I decided I’d “teach calligraphy” at our local Michaels Art Supply because teaching would make me have to learn more.
The need to learn more came very quickly and I began searching for a class that I could take on gilding. It was then that I was directed to Marsha Brady at Cerritos College in CA. After a very brief conversation with her, I knew I was in for an education. I cancelled my teaching at Michaels, and began to make the hour and a half drive twice a week to take her classes and complete her 2 year course which encompassed all of the fundamental concepts and materials of calligraphy as well as layout, design and book arts. As with many others in the class, I re-took the program for two more years of “directed studies” to begin to work with concepts in areas of interest to me personally including the incorporation of artwork and calligraphy together.
My introduction to the Calligraphy community at large began with my attendance of my first International Lettering Arts conference “Discoveries” in San Diego CA, 1998. There I was privileged to be a main-stage presenter along with Lisa Engelbrecht on the “I Madonnari” street painting project we did the previous summer in Santa Barbara, CA. I was asked to do another presentation on “The Urban Art Trail” of San Diego at the next year’s conference “PenUltima” in Lethbridge Canada, and have since taught or lectured at approximately 15 International or regional conferences.
From the year 2000 until 2014, the Randall M. Hasson Gallery operated in the Del Mar area of San Diego CA and subsequently in Santa Fe NM near the internationally famous Canyon Road arts area.I believe my “career” in calligraphy really began with my first calligraphic painting called “Family Blessings”. My brother and sister –in-law bought a house. As the house was being built and before the drywall was up, they wrote their favorite scriptures inside the walls of each room as their way of “blessing” the home. Those scriptures became my text and my first project using acrylic paints in large format canvas. It also developed my interest in symbolism and always being conscious of the “why” of what I am doing in a painting, which is a great part of my methodology in teaching.
- What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise?
With respect to our Calligraphic community I believe it would the application of calligraphy combined with image through the medium of acrylic paints and inks. More specifically, through my own experimentation I have developed methods of creating the appearance of texture while maintaining an essentially flat surface on which to write, and the ability to use text in layers.
These methods are combined with a study of composition and symbolism in my traditional Calligraphic painting classes, and have naturally evolved into methods of creating textures with acrylic paints and inks on heavy watercolor papers such as those contained in the “Mahara Journals” which I have recently designed for Paper and Ink Arts to bring to market.
Working with these Journals has led to new areas of study including the development of personalized letterforms through the de-construction of alphabets we don’t recognize, which turns the calligrapher into a designer and emphasizes the awareness of letterform construction, rhythm, spacing, weight and direction in creating texture.
In another direction a collaborative study project with a Poet illustrating his poetry in sequential art. Sequential art in book form involves being aware of the viewer as they experience the text through pace, rhythm, emphasis, imagery and the use of white space in composition.
- With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences?
Marsha Brady, through the program that she and her husband Larry developed at Cerritos College, was obviously my primary influence. From that program I was introduced to and able to study with many varied masters of the calligraphic art including Glen Epstein, Jean Larcher, Peter Thornton, Ewan Clayton, Denis Brown, Georgia Deaver, Martin Jackson, Gottfried Pott, Carl Rohrs, Suzanne Moore, Michael Sull, Michael Clark and Thomas ingmire.
Each of these instructors had their own specific influence on my calligraphy, but Denis Brown, Peter Thornton and Michael Clark were in the right place at the right time with analogies that really clicked at that moment in honing my calligraphy and much of my abstract journal work today owes greatly to the influence of Thomas Ingmire. I am also greatly inspired by artists of the past like Old Masters Da Vinci and Vermeer as well as 20th century illustrators like Andrew Loomis and Ernest Watson from whom I have learned much about essentials of the human form and perspective.
- What products can you not live without?
Certainly acrylics which are primary to my work (I am an Educator for the Golden line of products), and acrylic inks like the FW brand. I daily use parallel pens, and the ever expanding and improving lines of markers such as Zig and Sakura are vital to the thinking process in my journal work and for working with ideas for paintings. Obviously, the new Mahara Journals, which I recently designed, are extremely important to me.
There is an interesting story to my work in Journals, but suffice it to say I had been working with and teaching in journals like these when the supply dried up and the supplier decided no longer to import them. By this time, I had developed classes around them, and wasn’t satisfied with the types of journal currently available. Through research and a little tenacity, I was able to contact the exporter of the original journals I was so drawn to, and over a year period design and develop the journal. Paper and Ink Arts then became the necessary distribution link to bring these fabulous books to market.
- What advice would you give a new calligrapher?
“It is not the time, it is the miles” is a phrase that sticks in my head (probably from Carl Rohrs) in reference to becoming experienced in calligraphy. This speaks of drawing table time to me, and working to develop skills – sticking with it until you have enough knowledge to actually know what questions to ask the masters. It is at this point, when you no longer have to think about materials or basic structure, where letterforms can be refined and innovation can take place.
- What is something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I don’t snore no matter what my grandson says. There is no proof, only vicious allegations.
- When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing?
I love to cook.