I’m still alive

I know, my last posting was sometime in May last year, so it looks like I forgot all about this blog – correction: for a long time, I did forget I had a blog. In the unlikely event that you were eagerly waiting for an update on my whereabouts, please accept my apologies.

So what did I do between May 2012 and January 2013 that is worth mentioning. In chronological order:

1. there was a concert of my musical hero Elvis Costello in Brussels on May 31 that was – need it be said?- too good to be true.

2. I taught a small class in Santa Fe, organized by Trish Meyer. I enjoyed the hospitality of Trish and Patty Hammarstedt while I was there, met up with a FB acquaintance and wonderful paintress Alexandra Eldridge and of course visited a few galeries on Canyon Road, so I got to know more about the art scene in SF, which is regarded as the second most important of the US.

3. Then I flew to Portland, Oregon for the annual conference. Always nice to catch up with my colleagues from overseas. This year was special: four of the seven European teachers in the Faculty were Brugeans – somehow, I always like to mention this. It was a very good edition: lots of things to see, lots of presentations to attend, delightful students – a very intense week.

4. August 3 : Andrea Voets, the harpist I collaborated with, gave the premiere of ‘Latin Lovers’ in Ostend. More performances are booked for this year – it’s going well.

5. I taught for the Clas Festival in Malvern (UK) in the third week of August. I remember it was a wonderful setting and the students were, as usual, very eager and cooperative. I stayed a day longer to visit a.o. the Worcester Cathedral.  

6. In September I had an American tour, bringing me first in Miami, where I stayed with Monica Marquez en Gina Taller. Again the best hosts one can imagine – truly, so far I’ve always been extremely lucky with the people I stay with. I had five days in between teaching where I could enjoy the Miami way of life.

7. From Miami, I flew to Greensboro, North Carolina, to participate in a workshop with no less person than John Stevens at Cheerio. What can I say ? This privileged life is such that one starts feeling guilty about it. Wonderful people, all of them, Joyce Teta is a treasure, John a great teacher, Martyn a splendid cook, … if you haven’t experienced Cheerio as a calligrapher, your life cannot be complete.

8. After Cheerio, my destination was Kansas City. I spent two, three days there teaching for the lettering staff of Hallmark. Had the opportunity also to see some of its inside – graphic designers everywhere and creativity literally dripping from the walls.

9. Finally Atlanta, the home of the late Martin Luther King. Two days teaching, restaurants, relaxing, a bit of sightseeing and informative talks along the way with my host about the American way of life.

10. In October I started renting a studio space in the center of Bruges, which allows me to work a bit dirtier than I normally do. Also, there’s nothing there to distract me from my work – no computer, no kids, no wife, no books, just me, my tools and my ipod.

11. For a couple of weeks, I worked on canvas and wooden panels. For me it proves a lot more difficult than working on paper. I spent hours adding, obliterating and feeling dissatisfied most of the time. Maybe it would help if I knew what I wanted 😉

12. Next to that, I practised daily my Trajans with the flat brush. It is an old love of mine, that got resuscitated in John’s workshop. I’m making progress, but it’s not an easy thing. It still baffles me that John can make a flawless alphabet ‘just like that’. I keep on practising, just for the joy of it,… and to become a better calligrapher also, of course.

13. In between the struggles with canvas and the Trajans, there were a few (but much less than in the old days) commissions: a.o. two logo’s that drove me into a direction that I would normally not follow myself, but afterwards I’m glad they did.

14. The first days of December I participated at a fair in Damme (close to where I live) where I had the opportunity to show what calligraphy can be and what I do to a wide range of people. I kept saying to myself I should do this more often. After months of maddening solitude in my studio, I finally got some feedback. One can get so used to (or in my case: bored by) what you do, but for the outsider, it still looks like magic I felt all those years ago. Talking to the public made me look at my own work with fresh eyes. Hmm, maybe not that bad after all…Anyhow, some nice contacts and commissions came out of it.

15. Back in the studio however, doubts came creeping in again (no surprise there, it happens to me all the time ) but this time I suddenly felt drained of all energy. I questioned every single stroke, every single idea, every single colour in my work – it paralyzed me completely – many times I just wanted to throw it all away and return to my school job, for I hated my work, I hated calligraphy (which is not the right attitude when you’re teaching it). Doom and gloom all over the place – happens to all creative people, I’m told, but could I really call myself ‘creative’ ? No way.

16. Things pass, however, and no Prozac was needed to put myself back on track. I closed the gesso-pot for a while and returned to lettering. At least three different persons, unknown to me, had asked me, out of the blue, if I could please show more letters again. They had followed me closely (without me being aware of it) and deplored the fact that I was straying away from calligraphy such as we know it.

17. So the last couple of days, I’m happy to say that I found joy again in my work – there are even some workable ‘ideas’ (now, thàt was a long time ago) being tossed around in my head, working their way out onto the paper.

So far the update of what I did. In the months to come, there are workshops scheduled in Flanders and abroad, some commissions for wallpainting and other stuff, but there’s still time enough for making new work.


Cheers. P.S. Oh, I did renew some of my pages on my site, especially the gallery has become more user-friendly… I hope.


6 Responses to “I’m still alive”

  1. Dear Yves,
    what a year, joining all these famous events and meeting those wonderful people all around the world (nearly). Congratulation!

    Thank you also for your honest report about your inner thoughts. I truly know what you thought and felt. Once I really feel like a letter artist. The other moment, I’m nothing but a doubtful girl, that doesn’t know what she is doing there.

    Yves, lets keep on going with all our doubts and fears. That will bring us to a new dimension – however.

    All the best, Sigrid

  2. Sandra Sandilands Says:

    Thank you so much, Yves – your words mean much to all calligraphers and give us heart! We all go through what you have described, and if someone as great as you can go through what (I suspect) most of us are feeling, it gives us the spirit to keep on!
    In gratitude,
    Sandra Sandilands, a lowly Adult Ed tutor from Birmingham UK

  3. thanks for your candid post – I love when artists talk honestly – it reminds us all that they are human 😉 — and in art it is the human element that is the most interesting and electrifying — perfection is for machines and superabundant over confidence is for adolescent boys with automobiles and a death wish…..

    just so long as you keep making you are winning xx

    • Marion Greene Says:

      I too loved Yves’ post. And I like your response, “Just so long as you keep making you are winning” – one to be remembered in the tough times. All the best, Marion

  4. Jean Formo Says:

    Hi Yves,
    Thanks for sharing your angst….something I think many of us have felt at different times in our lettering adventures. When those feelings have happened to me, it all seemed to add up to overwork – saying yes to every job (not that there were THAT many!), and teaching assignment, until finally one can have little time for one’s own artistic journey. And the boredom element can be a precursor to a new artistic direction in one’s work…the transition seems to get started with the voice of the inner critic. I liken it to a bridge we may have to cross to get to the new direction. Fortunately, that joyless time does not last, and when we get to the new thing in our work, our joy surfaces once again. Looking forward to your time in Minnesota this April! Cheers, Jean Formo

  5. Just discovered your work from Les Soeurs Anglaises site!
    Wonderful, and do not give up the lettering! It is what makes it so individual:)

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