Lettering as Drawing: Outline and Overlap, ancient to modern

Saturday 13th July 2019, 10am – 5pm *and* Sunday 14th July 2019, 10am – 3pm
(Two day workshop)
Venue: Hastingleigh
Tutor: Margaret Morgan
Cost: £60 members, £70 non-members

Suitable for: All levels

Lettering as drawing is a topic suitable for all levels. It is the basis for a fascinating and exciting exploration of how letters can be changed from ancient to modern. Many modern artists have employed both spatial and conceptual ambiguity in their work – calligraphers can do this too! Un acknowledging where we have come from in terms of our calligraphic heritage, we can reconnect with those materials and techniques of the past in order to understand that rich tradition. We can also re-examine them to discover how to move our craft forwards, rather than forever looking back.  This will be an exciting exploration of drawn letterforms, starting with historical models of early versal shapes and outline capitals.  We will work through exploiting the overlapping forms,negative spaces, compression and extension and the use of texture and colour, towards the development of a modern and more personal approach.  Using these ideas with different tools and techniques can yield very individual unique forms.  You will be busy!

Margaret’s teaching ethos

My favoured workshop topics are mostly based on introducing ideas that are intended to stretch the students creative ideas and help open minds to wider, more imaginative possibilities.

I like to demonstrate ways of how these ideas may be experimented with, then encourage each person to develop their own solutions to set exercises. The result is then a product of the students own intellectual exploration, not a carbon copy of mine.

For me, calligraphy needs to be more than just visually attractive. It needs to have depth and involvement with the subject matter, so others can engage with and derive pleasure from looking at the finished work, as you would with a favourite painting, on more than just a superficial level.

Here, expressiveness is not an excuse for sloppiness of letterforms – almost the opposite. When there are no established rulesto follow, it requires some careful thought to work out your own parameters in order give the work a form of cohesiveness and integrity.

Intermediate and advanced students will derive most benefit, as they will already have a sound background in making good letterforms.

However, I have found that calligraphic beginners/improvers or artists from other disciplines have enjoyed the relative freedom these topics permit – they have fewer preconceptions of how lettering ‘should’ be

You will need: 

You won’t need an angled drawing board for this workshop. It’s easier to create drawn letters working on the flat, though you will need some sort of cushioned surface beneath your paper, eg. several sheets of newspaper (without folds, if possible), a large piece of felt or a leather skin.

The list below is not prescriptive, but a guide as to what we’ll be using over the two days.

  • Please bring what you have – your favourite tools and papers.


  • Cartridge paper : You’ll need a minimum of 10 A3 sheets, though more is better. (Most cost-efficient is to buy larger sheets, rather than A3 pads, and cut them down to size.)
  • EXTRA: If you have some sheets of various dark and/or mid-toned coloured papers, eg. Ingres or Canson Mi-teintes, please bring these too.

 Black ink:

  • Non-waterproof (but not fountain pen ink), eg. Higgins Eternal
  • Waterproof India ink, to be used slightly diluted for outline work

Selection of nibs:

  • Both square-edged and monoline (Brause Ornament 500 are my favourites).    
  • Small, medium & large sizes of both types of nib, with holders.
  • A flexible pointed nib and holder
  • Ruling pen, Cola or other folded-type pen and Automatic pens of various sizes


  • Long ruler
  • Ruler and graphic pencils: 2H, HB, 2B, 4B (or softer)
  • Water jars, rags or paper towels; palettes for mixing paint
  • Gouache: A selection of your favourite colours, including a bright red, yellow and blue
  • Dr Martin’s Opaque White – or similar (for use on dark coloured papers)
  • Selection of coloured pencils – plus chalk or oil pastels, if you have them
  • Thick, black Conté pencil (or similar) or charcoal
  • Soft eraser
  • Good quality sable brushes for painting; cheap ones for mixing paint and filling pen nibs
  • A3 Tracing paper (or layout paper) for quick modifications to your designs

There will be a multipage, spiral bound workbook to accompany the class. It contains all the exercises and projects for the 2 days, plus some extras, with many illustrations in both b/w and colour. Approx £6.50 pp tbc