Annapolis, MD — Last June, Tina Byland of What's Up? publications in Annapolis contacted me to do onsite calligraphy at historic St. John's College. The campus was chosen as the site for their Fall weddings issue. Playing with the classroom theme, Tina requested a few romantic literary quotes to be lettered on the chalkboard. I hadn't touched a chalkboard since 8th grade math, but I figured with a sketch in hand, how different could chalk be from a calligraphy pen or marker.
Indeed it's very different. New chalk pieces come in cylindrical shapes and are more challenging to produce the fine lines and dramatic shades associated with script calligraphy. After doing a little research, I set out to sharpen new chalk pieces with an X-acto knife and a pencil sharpener, while watching The Flight of the Conchords. I worked out a few different sketches and felt ready to wing it.
The next day I met Tina, her adorable son Max, and her photographer Tony Lewis. We walked over to the historic McDowell Hall to see the classroom and my chalkboard. The building itself was beautiful, lots of natural wood, large windows, and brass classroom numbers on the doors. We discussed the game plan and Tina and Tony left me to do my thing.
Overall, I had a lot of fun doing the chalkboard. I saw it as being very similar to the envelopes that I do where I fill in all the negative space of the paper surface. In fact, it was the perfect training. Doing all those envelopes helped me strike the right balance between the words (which among themselves required equal visual weight) and the leftover space for flourishing. I was well aware that the flourishes should enhance, and not dominate the overall piece. After a while, I got the hang of drawing in the letters to achieve those thicks that the chalk couldn't create in one stroke. Adding highlights of color also helped to flesh out the letters and give them dimension. After doing the big guy, the little chalkboards seemed like no big deal.
Special thanks go to Tina, Tony, and especially Gregory Shook from St. John's College, who referred me to Tina. I look forward to seeing the final photos of the shoot.