The calligraphic letterforms of Alice Young are things of beauty. When I saw that she paired her letters with an unconventional material, words to describe the beauty of these pieces escaped me. I don’t think I wrote an email faster to ask an artist to talk about her work and process. Enjoy!
1. Your name and title/business name?
I work under my own name at www.aliceyoung.ca. My online classes (available through Skillshare) are under the name “Strong Lines”. I also have an Etsy store called “The Other Alice” (a nod to the legendary NYC-based calligrapher known simply as “Alice”).
2. Do you have a specialty or special style? How would you describe it.
Calligraphy is so personal that most calligraphers can recognize the work of other scribes. However, I don’t have one distinct style – I’m still exploring! Perhaps it would be better if I had a planned trajectory, but I really do “follow the muse”, or my current interest. I go from studying particular hands to working large and asemic (no semantic meaning) and back again. I don’t like to be tied down, and I expect I will always want to explore! I try to find a balance between respecting traditions and pushing the boundaries, just slightly.
Right now, I’m working with acrylic inks on kiln-dried wood. This feels more like graphic design (where you work within set parameters) because the grain of the wood already has a design established. Each piece has a story to tell and you want to find it. I’m really enjoying this process, and the pieces on wood add incredible warmth to any environment. I’ve fallen in love with wood and will probably be working on it for a while!
3. What’s your educational background, i.e., college, professional school, high school, apprenticeship, etc.?
I went to college for Graphic Design and I’m a GDC (Graphic Designers of Canada) Certified Graphic Designer. I was self-taught as a young calligrapher (using the Speedball Textbook) and over the years have taken workshops with many of world’s top calligraphers (Sheila Waters, Alice, Brody Nuenschwander, Denis Brown) and hope to study with many more. I am looking forward to a workshop next month with Yves Leterme. Calligraphy is something you can easily study for a lifetime – taking classes and teaching at the same time.
4. Preferred tool(s) and medium?
I work with many types of pens and occasionally, brushes. But far and away, my favorite tool is the Pilot Parallel pen. They are the focus of my online classes.
The other tool I love is cedar brushes. A local artist, Lorne Loomer, here on Vancouver Island teaches an amazing class where he teaches students to make your own brushes of cedar. They create irregular and unpredictable and quite wonderful marks.
Where or how do you recharge your creative battery (i.e., books, blogs, music, art, exercise, meditation, prayer, hobbies, interests, etc.?)
I must join the refrain of people who work all day on the computer, then go walk the dog and have their best ideas or a new angle to consider “pop” up. I’m fortunate to love where I live and much of the thought behind my work starts out as scribbles in a notebook on some outdoor ramble in a forest.
Music also has a huge impact on my work, and I choose my music very carefully when doing serious calligraphy projects or commissions. Calligraphy is a type of performance art – often you have just one shot – and I choose music to match the mood of the piece I am working on.
5. Tell us something about you that might surprise or delight us.
Currently, I’m very clear that I want the messages of the work I put out into the world to be positive.
Conversely, I’m deeply interested in studying anger, hatred and prejudice – my own and others’. Two years ago I adopted an aggressive (“reactive”) dog and began the journey of learning how to deal with him, starting with attending Reactive Dog Classes. Dogs are so transparent, and they reflect back to us our own energy and behaviour. He has been an incredible teacher, and is an ongoing study. I’m learning as much about myself and other humans as about him. It is absolutely illuminating and fascinating! I expect this experience will influence some future work.