Diane von Arx Anderson
When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?
It was a Speedball pen and probably 7th grade, I don’t recall that I was aware of the word calligraphy at that time, it was just a lettering tool to help my grade school teachers with some posters.
What is the best advice you ever received, (lettering or otherwise)?
Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?
Lettering gives me joy, it might be the musical instrument I enjoy practicing and playing.
What is your dream project?
My dream project is working with interesting and meaningful text, collaborating with an author or a client who I enjoy, having free license to create and having no deadline.
What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project?
The extent of my ‘research’ greatly depends upon the type of project—is it aesthetic, functional?
What do you aim to say with your work?
The challenge for me is to connect with the meaning of the text and in some expressive way visually enhance the words so the viewer knows something of the content, even before reading it. If I have an aim or a purpose, I can say that I strive to present the viewer with something visually pleasing and interesting in the end product.
Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?
I have had some remarkable and generous teachers, some who were not actually ‘teachers’ at all but who for a number of reasons made a great and lasting impact on me and my life as a lettering artist. I hope that in some way I am able to share some of what I have learned along the journey. I am a visual learner, ‘see it, do it’, and use that in my teaching as well. I’ll tell you what I’m going to tell you, then I will show you, then I’ll tell you what I showed you.
Flourished calligraphy by Diane von Arx Anderson
What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?
I enjoy travel and keeping connected with friends. I can be found on the pickle ball courts or a golf course, not excelling in either but enjoying the ride.
What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
When I was young, babysitting, helping as a farm hand for neighbors. When in art school, I was an au pair for a family with six children. After art school, the remainder of my career has been as an artist doing production work in a package design studio and then as a lettering artist.
What did I learn while working on The Saint John’s Bible?
I learned to push myself beyond what I thought were the limits of my artistic capabilities but also learned that ‘perfection was not an option’, it was always a goal but not necessarily a realistic outcome.
You’ve been teaching since 1973. Have you noticed a difference in how students approach their work, or in what they want to learn.
Yes, and in retrospect, let me say that I was teaching WAY before I probably should have! One of the greatest differences in calligraphy learners now, compared to when I first began taking workshops is that we would spend a great deal of time working on historical letterforms before we were encouraged to adapt, change, alter, ‘do our own thing’. I feel students now are eager to get to the ‘fun’ stuff, which may also be the easy stuff, without the necessary practice on the letterforms. There are also many tangent disciplines that enhance our lettering, but perhaps sometimes push the letterforms to the supportive role rather than the ‘main show’.
Versals by Diane von Arx Anderson