Writing as an Art Form


For four years now I've been doing various calligraphy works for my last church Old North Abbey in Knoxville, TN. When I first started going there about five years ago, there were maybe 40 or so regular attendees, only four of them children. Now the number of attendees is probably closer to 200 with kids swarming around. But from the first, even with small numbers and rented meeting spaces, the priests and at least one couple in the church have been very interested in using the artists in their midst and promoting their work amongst the congregation. I am very grateful and wish there were more churches aware of and using the visual arts, just as they find ways to use the musicians in their midst. Another church that stands out in this way is Immanuel Presbyterian in Warrenville, IL. Redeemer Church of NYC is also very interested in art and culture, though I've not visited enough to know to what extent they incorporate art into their services or other events throughout the year. But without further ado, here are the latest two pieces for ONA...

body text

The main body of text is written in Uncial Script (c.4th-8th centuries), in waterproof ink, and is the "covenant statement" that Old North Abbey members sign on a yearly basis. The wording changed slightly after the first two years I did the piece, so I haven't been able recently to reprint the text instead of rewriting it; but the layout is the same for all four years.


title text

illuminated drop cap

previous illuminated 'O's

Also written in Uncial, the title is colored with red Mission watercolor (in the past I've used Dr. Ph. Martin's Radient Concentrated Water Color) and iridescent bright gold Liquitex ink. Peter has gold leaf, which I've never had the oomph to try when I'm getting good results with acrylic or gouache; but gold leafing will be a process to learn in this new year.


Each year of this project I've changed the illumination of the drop cap and the color scheme of it and of the title text. The first year I did a dogwood blossom within the O (since it was springtime in Knoxville) and green lettering. The second year I did a descending dove in blue (incorporating the O in a design based on the current bulletin cover) and blue lettering. Last year I did a sheep, shepherd's crook, and landscape within the O (Aaron was preaching on the Great Shepherd and had named his son Shepherd) and purple lettering. This year's red was the obvious next choice. In talking about the project before I started, the image of a cross was suggested, becoming a stylized version of a Jerusalem Cross in my finished work. Peter noted that the Jerusalem Cross signifies the five wounds of Christ and is well suited then to the color red.

baptismal certificate

ONA also commissioned me a couple of years ago to create a unique-to-them baptismal certificate that could be reprinted as needed. After printing I go back in and retouch the gold rays, dove, and dots around "Old North Abbey" and fill in the dates and the name of the person (in this case a child) being baptized.

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