Archives for category: Asemic

I recently posted a few images from an old chinese calligraphy workbook I bought earlier this year. I like the asemic qualities of oriental scripts and I was curious about the physical qualities too, particularly their papers and bindings. This one is bound with fabric cloth over wood covers – very faded and well-worn, suggesting that this was an oft-used book, or just that it may have been severely neglected.

The book is a concertina format and as such, has no spine board. This appears to by typical as there is also a small tab poking out from the bottom – apparently this is so that it can be easily identified when on a shelf with other books:

There is an air of faded elegance about it that becomes more attractive as you examine it closer.

The concertina binding is not particularly strong and this book has become separated into three pieces.

As previously mentioned, the book is a sort of concertina binding – but different from what I have generally known. The basic form is a simple zig zag on a long sheet:

But this is constructed with a slight difference:

The fore edges are glued together to form a more rigid page, and discourages opening out too far.

The paper is also curious.- it appears to be a composite of backing sheets, printed sheets and a sort of paper tape holding it all down…

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you may notice something familiar about these images. I made a composite image of the background textures for the cover of my first asemic book ‘Four Fools’ more images of which can be viewed here, and the book itself can be bought here and by clicking on the link in the left hand menu.

I bought a number of old chinese calligraphy workbooks earlier this year. I like the asemic qualities of oriental scripts and I was curious about the physical qualities too, particularly their papers and bindings. I was moving some books this evening and rediscovered these beneath a pile of others and was reminded of their minimal elegance and sparsity of ornament.


I will put together another post showing the other books too, as well as the covers and bindings later this month, but for now, just enjoy…

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you may notice something familiar about these images. I made a composite image of the background textures for the cover of my first asemic book ‘Four Fools’ more images of which can be viewed here, and the book itself can be bought here and by clicking on the link in the left hand menu.

Ladies and Gentleman of the internet, I am proud to present my first book; “Four Fools” is an asemic novel presented in a unique written form.

The book switches between calligraphic and typographic styles, and uses a specially designed typeface that has been developed for this project, of which some of the development can be viewed here.

This black and white 38 page book also features a range of intriguing  images, both hand drawn and computer generated, which, combined with the textual compositions, provides the reader with numerous opportunities to interpret the careful juxtapositions each page presents.

This is what I hope to be the first of a tetralogy of asemic books. You can buy a copy of this book and view more sample pages here. Please leave comments…

I have been experimenting with glazes and oxides recently. I rolled some tiles in krank clay just explore some finishes…

These are simply white glaze with black oxide brushed on over the top.

There is a lovely effect that can be seen on the image above, where the oxide has been drawn from the brush and created some areas of saturation at the top, and then a real textural effect as the oxides ‘thin out’ towards the end of the stroke.

I was also testing some imprints too. Inspired by the chinese tradition of the ‘chop’  I decided to see if I could achieve a similar effect with a bit of  typography…

These were all from an incomplete set of Cooper Black – an ampersand and a Pilcrow!

I have just been featured on THE NEW POST-LITERATE, a gallery of asemic writing by Michael Jacobson. I am quite excited about this as this site was one of the first places I found that helped me make sense of my secret obsession and recognise it as a legitimate form. Especially one that was being explored by others.

Go there now, and see some stuff of mine I haven’t posted here. Whilst you’re there, have a really good poke around – there are some excellent asemic writers and artists out there, like Dakota Crane,  Tony BurhouseGeorge McKim and Cecil Touchon.

I’ve been quietly beavering away (yes, beavering!) at my asemic writing these last few weeks. Just a little here and there between other things, or whenever the mood has taken me.

I have been using a number of the dip pens I bought recently and have been practicing my ‘script’ in preparation for a much larger scale piece I am planning for next year. I especially like the fine nibbed mapping pen and creating tiny figures:

I like the feel of this sort of ‘penmanship’ -and when I’m sat beneath my old anglepoise (another project waiting to happen) with all the pens, ink, papers, testers and wipes, I feel far removed from the CTRL+Z environment I spend most of my time in, and like to think of those scribes who laboured through their lives using such tools.

I am making simple compositions on small, pre-creased sheets of thin watercolour paper I had left over in an old book. and eventually will bind them in some way, but I don’t really have much in the way of planning or overall idea of how these will end up.

I am enjoying the setting up, the continual prepping of the pens, as well as doing just a little each time, setting aside a batch to dry overnight. It is a good thing to see in the morning…

This post is just to show of my latest eBay splurge; a collection of dip pens. I have been thinking about getting a dip pen for a while now, particularly to explore more asemic writing techniques. I had been to my local art supply store and looked around online, but the modern dip pens all seem to be aimed at ‘the hobby calligrapher’ or ‘Wiccan Spellwriter’ market, and I couldn’t bring myself to buy into either. Plus, they were are all largely without any character; not something I had really considered before, but seemed to be quite important as I was looking around. So I had a look on eBay and tentatively bid on a few old examples that I thought might lend themselves to my use. I bid on some silver pens, as well as ebony and bone, but all went for (unsurprisingly) more than I was willing to pay. Until this lot came up that is:

Eleven pens in total; seven wood, one plastic, two steel and one steel with a mother of pearl letter opener at the other end:

I don’t know much about pens although I understand that there is a collectors market and that some can be valuable. I doubt any of these are worth any more than I paid, but I think that I have added something interesting (and useful) to my kitbox.

The pens have a very unique quality in that they are the grandfather of all modern western pens, but on closer inspection there are other details that have a different sort of attraction. Some of the pens have manufacturers names or model numbers stamped into the nib-holder, like this one (shown twice at different angles)

The nibs themselves are also marked, and each has a small hole called a reservoir to hold a small amount of ink, this one is heart-shaped.

This one also has a decorative floral symbol as well as the manufacturers information.

There are a couple of very fine pointed nibs too, especially this one, which is significantly smaller than the rest. I believe that this is a ‘mapping pen’ and was intended for use in inscribing the finer details and text.

So, with a fresh bottle of Windsor & Newtons black indian ink, I tried them all out. Let me say here that I am no calligrapher – my own handwriting has been likened to ‘prescriptions written by a senile Doctor with palsy’ – so please, no comments on the quality – if it’s fine calligraphy that you want, look no further than Paul Antonio

I had a little go with each of the pens – there were a couple of  broad nips for calligraphy, and some that appeared to be better for writing, others for drawing etc. I have a couple of early favourites, but this one gave me a lot of satisfaction as I transcribed a few lines from Allen Ginsberg’s ‘Howl’ – I am a little infatuated by Ginsberg at the moment…

These next few examples are only around 15mm square – they have a vaguely Ralph Steadman/Gerald Scarfe quality…

Once I felt comfortable with the pens and their constant refilling (a few words at a time) I tried a little asemic writing. Oh boy, I am smitten:

I have written loads over the last few days, and am beginning to feel the pens are dictating the style. Also I am working on a much smaller scale with the mapping nips, mimicking the tiny ghubari scripts that are found in ancient copies of the Quran.

I have deliberately posted this image at a very large size – the original is just under 5cm in height.

I did this page about fifteen minutes before I started writing this post.

This last image shows all of the pen nibs at a larger size – I know that there are people out there who like to look at the details…

My asemic writing continues to develop apace whilst my arm gets better. I am in the middle of several projects right now, all of which need my right arm to be  fully mobile and pain free – I removed my sling to early and got back into things a little too energetically – I am now paying the price…

Following my rather sarcastic post featuring my ongoing explorations in asemic writing, I decided to take it a step further and see if there was any natural structures forming in my sketches, and to work it up into some format that could be converted into type. I began by selecting a small section that appeared to be visually quite consistent:

Taking the diagonal as my lead stroke, I drew up a simple grid using a fairly rakish 45° angle. I made a conscious decision at this point to accentuate the diagonal dynamic as I wanted to continue to development as I progressed from paper sketches to screen:

I’m using Adobe Illustrator CS4 for this (still thinking about CS5!) and placed in the original image and tidied it up in Livetrace. Using a standard line/brush combo, I created a symbol from several lines, sometimes joined, and sometimes not.

I spent some time creating continuous line loops. I originally drew circles and modified them to look as if they flowed, but realised that if I was to apply any calligraphic brush effects later this would cause problems with the line quality. So continuous lines it was…

After I had created the first line I got impatient to see how things would develop so quickly added a simple calligraphic stroke, reduced in down in order to create some scale, and reversed it out from a red background to get rid of the monotony of the black and white lines. This also has the effect of ‘bringing it to life’ – I find that I when I am working with lines, I need to change the colour schemes regularly as I stop to appraise the work, in order for me to step out of the production mode of thinking and view things a little more subjectively:

OK, I admit I was a little excited at this point. I was very encouraged by what I had produced so far, and whilst I could see one or two characters that required further work, I pressed on to complete the rest of the piece. When I had all the characters drawn in a basic line my workspace looked like this:

At the top in the yellow box are all of the ‘finished’ characters, below are all the lines, shapes I made whilst in production – a kit box of spare parts, additions and rejects. The artboard (bottom right) is A4.

I then identified the characters that needed some immediate attention:

The following images show some of the revised characters against their originals:

This one took a little while to pin down, but I think that number six is a more natural shape.

Having designed a couple of regular western typefaces over the years (nothing that I would like to share with you here though!) I am very aware of the amount of time it takes to everything right. I am in awe of those who do this for living, and feel lucky that I am working on an entirely fictional set of characters; I am able to make aesthetic judgements without stirring the wrath of the typographically offended!

These first revisions completed gave me another look at the full effect. This one is with a standard monoline:

Adding the calligraphic line really brings the script to life.

I am really surprised at how much difference the calligraphic strokes make and the effect that changing the characteristics of the brush make. I love the extreme line contrast here – I know it is a little too extreme, but I do like the effect:

This style is a little more consistent. The flat horizontal brush gives this a slightly Cyrillic feel and a more rhythmic flow across the lines.

As well as the Cyrillic reference, there are also echoes of other formal scripts too:

Above Cyrillic     Below Urdu


Above Sinhala       Below Kufic

There are approximately 30 characters so far drawn, and I am not sure whether I will keep them as ‘characters’ made up from a number of key stokes, or whether I will attempt split them into their component parts. There are some interesting stages to come as this develops; I need to look at kerning and alignment, as well as the quality of the lines and stresses, as well as all the optical adjustments that will eventually see each line move away from the original grid in order to look right.

Right now, after about six hours over two or three evenings, I a pretty pleased with what I have got so far. I created a new brush in the end that seemed to give an appropriate ‘medium weight’ whilst allowing a clear contrast between the thick and thin strokes. This, of course, may change again as I progress, and I intend to produce a semi-serif version once the sans is complete.

Another characteristic of the new brush is that it is not flat, but very slightly elliptical. This gives a pleasing softness to the shape of the end of each stroke, making it less masculine in appearance. The enlargement above shows this detail well, as well as the uncomfortable counter spaces that need more work…

The image above shows how the next stages will develop and refine the strokes. It shoul be a simple animation – if you can’t see the colour changes, just click on it. So I will post again when I have made lots and lots of adjustments.

For us academics it is the season for meetings. A good many of them follow each other in a steady stream of ‘importants, essentials, reflections and projections’ much as they do every year. They will, of course, feature all the best acronyms, abbreviations, buzzwords, jargon and newfangled managerial codswallop. 

I’m not complaining. It is a regular feature in modern education and we, as professionals, develop our own strategies to deal with much of the monotonous drudgery that the majority of these meetings are. Given that most of the important and essential information that can be gleaned from all of these meetings can be included in a Twitter-style email of around 140 characters, that leaves a fair amount of time for the mental gymnastics that provide the most rewarding return.

This can be demonstrated further in the following equation :

In light of the recent research findings published by Professor R. Soale of the Hugh Jars Foundation in the Netherlands, it is important to recognise the importance of diversionary awareness in the disenfranchised academic as a means of measuring the collective effectiveness of management initiatives. This was succinctly expressed by Prof. Soale (and concurred with by Dr. Jurr Kough of the Pointlessness Institute of Saffron Waldon) in June 2010 at the TotalWasteOfTime Conference as:

A full transcript of Prof. Soale’s paper can be seen below.

If you didn’t get to the TotalWasteOfTime Conference this year, or perhaps your tolerance for absorbing forgettable and tedious information, statistics, buzzwords and initiative is much higher than you previously expected, you can continue to view extracts from the good professor’s paper here..

But I’d like to sign off this post by featuring the most poignant part of  Professor Soale’s paper, which many of you will remember as particularly moving as it was the seventh PowerPoint presentation of the day:

Wise words, indeed.

Following my recent ‘outing’ as as an asemic writer, I would like to post this about an image I’ve had knocking around my WTF files for a few years. It is the sheet music to what can only be described as asemic music.

John Stump was an American music engraver and is largely only known for his ‘unplayable’ works that contain instructions to the musicians not to play softly or loudly and other practical notations, but more bizarre things such as ‘release the penguins!’ amongst other things:

If we view the visual quality of the sheet music (for those people who cannot read music, all musical notation will be asemic) we can recognise the visual language of musical notation in the layout and symbols; there are rhythms and patterns that we can understand as the instruction for sound, even if we cannot ‘hear’ it in our heads as we read (as someone who can read music – albeit very basically – I have some understanding of the complexity and contradictory nature of this composition.)

There is also another composition titled “String Quartet No. 556(b) for Strings In A Minor (Motoring Accident)” of which the above image is page 2. This is a little more deliberately visual in it’s arrangement, and I feel more effort has been put into the visual effect of the musical notation, but it loses some of the effect that the Faeries Aire has. It seems to be a little more visually forced to me. That is not  a critisism, just an observation – I include it here as a model of invention. Plus, I have always admired those who have dared to dance to their own tunes…

“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
— Friedrich Nietzsche

I just wanted to share this. There are some good links via the Wikipedia page, especially the Colarado Music Teachers Association attempt on Youtube and the excellent informative blog by Stump’s nephew. There’s even a Facebook page, but I won’t go that far.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 363 other followers