headshot of Raoul Martinez

Raoul Martinez

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

I started playing with chisel-edged pens in college, imitating old English script. Soon thereafter, I acquired a set of metal-nibbed fountain pens.

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

The most important part of the letter is the white space (Melissa Titone)

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

It’s the meditative aspect of calligraphy that is so satisfying, that gives me pleasure. Also, the creative process is excitement.

What is your dream project?

I’ve been meaning to do some type of manuscript book of Allen Ginsberg’s poem Howl. Something that looks very distressed and brutal, like Rudolf Koch’s calligraphy.

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

I like to look at manuscripts that use the script I am studying. I’ve been lucky to have access to the Bancroft Library and SFPL’s Harrison collection, which are excellent resources for calligraphers.

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

Federico Fellini. I love his films because of their fast-paced, dreamlike quality.

Caravaggio. He was such a talented wildman.

Giulietta Masina, who acted in several of Fellini’s films including La Strada and Le notti di Cabiria, for which she won the Best Actress award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1957.

What do you aim to say with your work?

When choosing a quote to write out, I try to use something that has a lot of expression, anger, emotion.

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

That’s a very good question. I don’t feel comfortable in front of large numbers of people but enjoy calligraphy enough that my enthusiasm comes through.

Fraktur calligraphy by Raoul Martinez

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

I love hiking, another meditative activity. The beauty of nature is so comforting and healing.

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

I worked as a database administrator for several financial services companies; I guess that appealed to my mathematical, analytical side.

We see you love Fraktur. What place do you think it has in our modern culture?

Fraktur is a very dense, black script, and as such, is ideal for very forceful, emotional pieces. With its rhythm of black and white, it will always have a majestic, hypnotic beauty.

Your two main styles, Copperplate & Blackletter, seem diametrically opposed. What about these two styles speaks to you?

I love the elegant, flowing quality of Copperplate. Cursive handwriting has appealed to me for its decorative look since I was in elementary school, and copperplate reminds me of that. Both scripts are decorative in their own way, and go back pretty far for me.