Cora Pearl Headshot

Cora Pearl

When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?

I was 11 years old! I found Fred Eager’s book, The Italic Way to Beautiful Handwriting, in a bookstore in New York City where I grew up, and it blew my mind. I fell in love with lettering immediately and have not stopped doing calligraphy since then.

What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?

When I was in college, I went to a workshop taught by the musician, Michael Hedges. He told the students that he learned this piece of life changing wisdom from his father: Never be afraid to ask a question. That idea was profound to me, and I took it to heart. This advice has helped me grow so much as a person, artist, and teacher. I’m grateful that I heard this relatively early on in my life.

Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?

I love the feeling of watching beautiful letters coming from the pen in my hand. I happily focus on tiny details and I really enjoy the satisfaction of getting a little better at it the more I do it. I also appreciate the way calligraphy elevates words.

What is your dream project?

My dream project would be to receive a grant to set aside a year for exploring artistic ideas and further developing my voice as an artist, documenting the process along the way, and then putting together my discoveries in a show and/or book of some kind.

What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project.

I draw a lot of inspiration from seeing visual examples of different aspects of the project at hand. I usually start with seeking sources of inspiration, especially if ideas are not coming right away.

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

These days I feel enchanted and inspired by Devon Rodriguez (a young portrait artist who draws people on the New York City subway), and Frederick Brosen (a brilliant watercolor artist). My third inspiration is Georgia O’Keeffe, who has been on my list for many years.

What do you aim to say with your work?

I don’t have a particular message, but some keywords that generally describe my artistic intentions include Love, Truth, Depth, Humor, and Beauty.

Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?

I have been drawn to teaching since I was a little girl. I consider teaching an art form and feel that it is an honor to be in a position to teach people things—particularly art! On the personal level, I enjoy how many parts of my skill set are engaged through teaching and I love getting to know students and helping them inhabit their creative lives more fully and with more self-kindness. My teaching style is holistic—I care about the whole person and believe that the best learning environment is one in which students feel safe, cared about, listened to, and inspired. For me, creating a classroom culture where students feel these things is at the foundation of all the work we do together and is the basis for every class I teach.

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

Getting very cozy and comfortable on my couch and enjoying watching movies, reading books, daydreaming, meditating, and relaxing with my husband and cats as the day unfolds. Does that count as a pastime??

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

Jobs that I have done besides being an artist and teacher of lettering arts include: home educator, professional organizer, teacher of English language to Japanese students, and childbirth educator/birth doula.

You do a wide variety of styles: Classical letterforms, monoline, folded pen, Ben Shahn, etc. Do you approach them all the same way, or does each style create a unique problem to be solved?

I approach all lettering the same way. Regardless of the tool, style, or project, I do my best to first do whatever is needed to put myself in the lettering mindset, then I focus deeply, slow down, and set my intention to do the best work I am capable of doing in any given moment. I keep my focus on growth, learning, inspiration, and the joy of seeing beautiful letters come out of my pen. I see lettering as all one thing.

In your portfolio, you have work in several different languages. Do you speak/read them all? If not, how do you make sure that your writing has the correct meaning?

I am fluent in Japanese and have also studied Spanish and Italian. Any pieces that I have done in another language have been commission work, so I trust that the client has made sure that the meaning is correct, especially because they are the ones familiar with the language of the piece. I’ve never double checked the meaning of text that has been sent to me in another language.