A traditionalist’s non-traditional approach to making letters: Mike Gold

When I was a new member of the lettering team at American Greetings I worked under a mentor who oversaw my professional lettering development. That mentor was Mike Gold. He’s a deliberate and thoughtful artist. When he produces a lettering composition every brushstroke and pen mark exists for a reason. His compositions are masterful renderings between the lights and darks of the marks and medium. His letters are light, energetic, and playful. Recently he released a book, Lines to Live By: Thoughts on being a 21st-century calligrapher. Mike shares his work and experience as a lettering artist who knows when and how to break the rules of lettering and composition.

Mike Gold explains why he wrote Lines to Live By: Thoughts on being a 21st-century calligrapher, “The book is my take on being a non-traditional calligrapher in the 21st century. I describe some of the rules I follow in doing contemporary lettering art, most of which are the opposite of what I learned studying calligraphy and lettering. Although I work as a commercial lettering artist, my heart is in creating more abstract works that are meant to be experienced first, rather than read. The book has 44 examples of my work, most in full color.”


Mike Gold shared his artist statement:

“My work is calligraphically inspired and covers a range from abstract to representational, but is certainly not traditional calligraphy. I am influenced by the Asian art traditions and take a Buddhist approach to my work, where process is more important than product, spontaneity and working in the moment are key, and there is not an attachment to words, even when they are readable. I see letters as design elements with which to play with form and line and shape on a page. My intent is to make calligraphic art that will be experienced and seen before it is read. This does not mean words are insignificant. As in Buddhist practice, words are often the finger that points the way. In my work, words are often the inspiration and vehicle to shape my art play and exploration, even if the result is unreadable.

“For thousands of years, prior to the invention of the printing press and now computers, calligraphers had a function to fill and often didn’t explore the possibilities of the art form. Today we have the same options as musicians, who can work alone or collaborate, who can compose pieces with words and without, who can make music that sounds beautiful or disturbs, who can create music that is familiar or like nothing we’ve heard before. In writing about her artistic ambition, modern American painter Lee Krasner wrote, “If the alphabet is A to Z, I want to move with it all the way, not only from A to C. For me, all the doors are open…” My joy is exploring the corridors of calligraphy that have been less traveled, the path where words and letters are used to paint more of an image than a communication.”


To purchase the book Lines to Live By: Thoughts on being a 21st-century calligrapher by Mike Gold visit the John Neal Bookseller website.

Mike’s interview from 2010