Jack Standbridge

A little calligraphy update

The letters in the piece this week are something I can’t take credit for. I didn’t invent them, I didn’t design them, I didn’t create them. All I did was pen them, after a long time studying what they should look like. (All right, I took a few liberties, but that’s the gist of it.) These letters are traditional calligraphic Roman capitals, Capitalis Monumentalis, or Roman Square caps, as they are sometimes known.

One thing I can take credit for, however, is the composition and colour work. These timeless letters have existed for thousands of years, and have remained almost entirely unchanged. Since two thousand years ago, there have come into existence all sorts of weird and wonderful scripts that look strange and illegible to our modern eyes, so it’s nice to think that the script that those oddities stem from is in fact one of the most recognisable and frequently used scripts that there is. The Roman capitals that all modern Latin letters are based on can still be seen in their original forms in Rome, on things like the Trajan Column, a monument which is a source of inspiration to calligraphers the world over when studying these ancient letters. They were carved into stone just under two thousand years ago, and since, there they have remained for all to see. The stone has stood the test of time, and in the same way, so too have the letter forms themselves.

The study of Romans is something that can’t be done in an afternoon. It’s something that takes place slowly over the course of years. My journey in this area of study started relatively recently. I discovered a few resources on the topic when I first began lettering, read them over, gained a passing familiarity with the subject, and then thought there was nothing more to learn. Later, I found that these forms weren’t simply something that were used in lettering: they were actually produced through calligraphy. The letters I had been carefully drawing out could, in fact, be executed in single, swift and masterful strokes of the pen or brush. After a quick stroll through the woods of Italic study and the copse of learning Foundational, I quickly found my way to the massive and ancient forest that is understanding Roman letter forms. While I have not explored every valley and mountain that this forest covers, I have made several journeys through it from side to side, taking in as much as I can on each pass, and have become familiar enough with it to want to share with you this little piece.

There is so much I could say about this piece, and about Roman letters in general, but I will leave it at this to keep from getting bogged down in the details, and let the letter forms speak for themselves. Hopefully my little splash of colour will help add a little of my own personal style into these ancient characters.