When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?
In my sophomore year in high school, circa 1966. It was a B-Speedball and we started with monoline Romans. We then went to the C- Speedball and worked on Italic. I thought that I had died and gone to heaven. I had been trying to make signs for my Dad’s business with my brother’s model paints (Testor enamel) and a brush from Woolworth’s. The pen made the thick and thin lines! Amazing!
What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?
Lettering advice, I think from Sheila Waters; “watch the ink come off the tip of the pen”. In life e.e.cummings – “to be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you everybody else”.
Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?
Words. I am so inspired by the rhythm and wisdom of words! And the shapes and the textures they make!
What is your dream project?
To write a book on Abstract Painting that includes abstract mark making and writing.
A colorful spread from Jacqueline Sullivan’s journal
What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project.
I work intuitively which means there really isn’t any specific research. That said, I am constantly “feeding myself” – looking at other’s work on Social Media, in books and at museums. I take a lot of notes and photos. I also keep an Art Journal where I have quotations written and paintings, collages and color studies done – I will look there for inspiration.
Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.
Chihuly – not so much his glass as his sketches and mark making. I have a book called “Chihuly on Paper” that is very inspiring.
Georgia O’Keefe – She fought her way through the male dominated field of painters in her time and made her living by painting.
Franz Kline – The energy in his brushwork is amazing and he achieves very interesting compositions with just a few marks.
What do you aim to say with your work?
I just want the viewer to enjoy it!
Cold wax mark-making pieces by Jacqueline Sullivan
Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?
I LOVE seeing the creative light bulb come on in someone’s eyes! Having a regular creative practice has gotten me through a lot of life’s challenges and I would like to inspire others to use that tool! When teaching, I try to make certain that I get around to each student individually several times during the class and help them one on one. Every student arrives in a different place and I think that it is important to meet them at this place.
What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?
Snuggling with Phoebe, my sweet Havanese dog.
What jobs have you done besides being an artist?
Managed a pet department. Sold advertising. Advertising censor for a major metropolitan newspaper. Picture framing. Worked in a local fabric store. Merchandised greeting cards. Education director at JoAnn Fabrics.
Your work seems very emotional. Do you need to be in a certain frame of mind to approach your easel?
No, I just need to start. I activate the surface, getting rid of the white, then, if it is going to be a calligraphic piece, I will start writing words, both with a calligraphy pen and a monoline tool. The words will “set the tone” for the rest of the piece.
The beginning of a diptych canvas
Second layer of writing
The final piece
Process of a piece by Jacqueline Sullivan
As a mixed-media artist, what has been the most challenging combination of mediums you have tried?
The most challenging has been combining formal calligraphy with my abstract acrylic painting. I wanted to be able to write on a stretched canvas with a metal pen. When I discovered Super Matte Medium and was able to make my acrylic paints dry with a very flat finish I was finally able to write anywhere on the painting without sanding or using pumice, etc.