Instagram allows a wide variety of lettering artists to showcase their work, and we often enjoy perusing the images. Liz Bartucci’s Sunday Sketch Series that combines photo recreations with modern calligraphy caught our eye due to its originality. We enjoy seeing what she produces and thought our blog readers would as well, so we approached Liz about being featured. She graciously agreed and took time to share with us how she became interested in calligraphy, what products she can’t live without, and how the idea for the Sunday Sketch Series was born.
How did you get started in calligraphy?
When I was in high school a friend of mine told me I was going to make money with my handwriting. And she was right. I always had nice penmanship; I went to Catholic School where penmanship was taught and graded. I also emulated and copied my mom’s handwriting,but when I began to take it seriously – the money and demand soon followed. I was addressing envelopes for events and weddings. I have taken some formal classes, but I am primarily self-taught. My handwriting was a way of making extra money as I pursued my writing career. I always illustrated. My mom is a self-taught artist and told my sister and I – who studied art – that we couldn’t buy art for our walls, we had to make it. So that forced us to take our art seriously, and to ultimately make art we actually wanted to hang on our walls.
What is the primary type of calligraphy that you do?
I primarily do wedding work and commissioned pieces. I am a Modern Calligrapher. I use to feel badly that I couldn’t really do formal calligraphy like Copperplate and Spencerian, but I think you really have to play to your strengths and do what is in your wheelhouse, or it will not look organic and true.
Share with us how the idea for the Sunday Sketch Series began.
I started The Sunday Sketch Series for a couple of reasons. While I love what I do, when you get paid for what you illustrate and render, you lose the time and focus to do what you like. So I wanted to do something for myself at least once a week to keep that alive. I also wanted to force myself to keep a deadline to make the work less precious and make myself less perfectionistic. The series and self imposed deadline has forced me to embrace the imperfection of hand drawn art and lettering. The beauty is in its imperfection! The Series has gotten me commissions, fans and work. It proves that when you do what you love, the work will gravitate towards you. I also wanted to keep an online presence of my work without taking insipid ‘selfies’ or ‘footsies.’ So many artists use social media but I wanted to use it in a way that was purposeful and mindful. Though there have been an onslaught of requests, the art in the Series is not for sale – mainly because I do not own the rights to the reference photos. I am very careful and explicit in my descriptions to give credit to photographer.
The Good News is that I am launching a card line soon – “Alva Mae Evans” – that will feature both my calligraphy, hand lettering and illustration. These cards and prints WILL be for sale as I own many of the reference images and the others are from found photos I rescue from the bottom of vintage store bins.
Tell us what products are essential for you.
I cannot live without Paper and Ink Arts’ plethora of NIBS! You’d think with all the art stores in New York, that nibs would be easy to come by – they are not. So Paper and Ink Arts is my source. I tend to rely on the Tachikawa G Nib. I also love the Tachikawa holder T40 Holder as it helps with fatigue when doing large calligraphy orders. I also like the Brause Steno, Leonardt #30 and the Hunt #56 Nibs. As a calligrapher you are always in the business of finding the right marriage of ink, pen and paper/envelope so I’m always experimenting, hence, I always have different nibs on hand.
I use Moon Palace Sumi Ink for formal projects. I do use Higgins Eternal for washes and sketches. I go through Rhodia Pads and Pigma Micron Pens like water. I use the Taylor Speed Stir to mix gouache with Winsor & Newton Gum Arabic, but I also love the right out of the bottle ease of Dr. PH Martin’s Spectralite Liquid Acrylics.
You have plenty of choices for shopping. Why do you choose Paper and Ink Arts?
Again, Paper and Ink Arts allows me to purchase a wide variety of products that can be hard to come by.When the packages come from Paper and Ink Arts, you know a person lovingly separated and wrapped your products, their handwriting marking the names of nibs. There’s a personal touch there.
What recommendations would you make to someone just starting out with calligraphy?
I recommend taking classes. It’s become so incredibly easy to take classes online now. I recommend Molly Jacques’s and Bryn Chernoff’s online classes at Skillshare. There is also Melissa Esplin’s class, “I Still Love Calligraphy.” And of course, you must practice everyday. If you intend on making money as a calligrapher, you cannot practice on your client’s envelopes. This is not an easy art; it demands a bit of discipline. I see a lot of new calligraphers asking the same questions on boards and in person, and really the only answer to all these questions is this: You must practice and experiment. You want to be able to troubleshoot way before you have to work with clients. You also want to be able to come up with your own voice. Even if you follow and admire the greats like Molly Jacques, Molly Sue Thorpe, Kathy Millici, Mary Zepeda, Joi of Bein Fait Calligraphy and Janis Anzalone, et al., you still have to build your work up so that while it may incorporate the spirit of their work, it cannot copy it. You have to figure out what makes your letters special, and that takes some time.
I do have to say that this community is so incredibly generous. The pros are so open to giving advice and wisdom; it’s unlike any artistic community I know.
Where can our readers see more of your work?
Instagram (Sunday Sketch Series): Instagram.com/tuccicursive
Alva Mae Evans is coming soon! Announcements, updates will be announced on tuccicursive’s Instagram and Facebook feeds.