New Asemic Work

I have just had some new asemic pieces published on the Italian website UTSANGA. There are several other asemic artists featured in this issue too, and you’ll find even more in past issues.

It is definitely an interesting place to explore with a rich mix of multinational content which bills itself as “… a magazine of critical languages and research, look at the dynamics and challenges of the global literary scene, the mingling of languages, the different facets of language research.”

Go there, stay a while, and tell them I said Hi.


Asemically Inspired

Inspired by the intriguing experimental marks by the French author Raymond Queneau I have begun preparing myself for the final book in the Four Fools tetralogy. Pens, brushes and ink at the ready as well as a good supply of coffee and it’s time to limber up…
LESTARET-asemic-6LESTARET-asemic-2 LESTARET-asemic-4I have already made the decision to make the final book entirely hand drawn – no digital compositions or fancy new fonts this time, this last book was to be a bit more of a manuscript, possibly a prequel the first three books. Time will tell, but for now I’ll leave you with these asemic exercises…
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Ladies and Gentlemen of the Worldwide Internetland, I am proud to present the third book in my asemic novel series;


Those who read this blog regularly will know that this book features entirely an entirely new script, created specifically for this book and with stages of its development shared on this blog.

This book aims to build upon the notional narratives already begun in Four Fools (2011) and Pabulum (2012), directing to the reader beyond the confines of the written word and into the realms of their own philological dexterity.
The book features an array of calligraphic glyphs and print compositions amongst more conventional compositions, along with some unusual applications and striking juxtapositions.

Underovary is published through those fine folks over at Blurb, along with Four Fools and Pabulum.


Further Fools

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After many months of feverish activity, the third installment of my asemic novel is nearing completion. It has been hard work. Difficult sometimes but not unenjoyable though. This book has emerged, blossomed and bloomed during a very difficult period in my life, which has brought many other creative endeavours to an abrupt halt. For this reason it feels that bit more special to me.

I have posted a few pieces on the early stages of development of the new script for this book and shown far more of the process that I had done previously. This has generated some very positive feedback along the way and has, at times, been a valuable source of motivation during periods of doubt, depression or general creative malaise. Thank you.

The contents are done. Final pagination is underway. The technical process of putting a book together has begun – I have a title and a cover too. This stage can feel very indulgent at times. As a graphic designer I am not afraid to let anyone know that I get a good kick out of the technical aspect of the production stage, but with this one I feel that there is a greater impulse to ‘get things right’ in regard to the juxtaposition of content. In this I am very aware that every decision I make can potentially jeopardise the balance previously established and threaten both the totality of the book and its place as the third piece of a planned four.

I am regularly frustrated with myself when I am indecisive or stubborn in my design decisions, and employ a variety of reflective though processes to analyse the consequences of each step. This approach is sometimes more problematic than helpful, particularly in times when personal confidence is compromised. That said, I am not always afraid to trust my judgments, even when previous analysis suggest that I may well be wrong. Experience? Intuition? Instinct? Yes to all three.

This when the objective/subjective argument kicks in; can I be an effective creator and editor at the same time? Well, yes – to a point – the years of experience in design decision making and teaching have allowed me to develop the ability to stand outside of my own preferences in order to make judgements in a variety of situations. And then there is the ‘no’ part – it is impossible to achieve total detachment from yourself. So how does this work?

When it comes to personally led work, it is easy to indulge oneself completely. Self publishing (which used to be called vanity publishing) is, in itself, an indulgence – I don’t fool myself that it is anything other than this. It is, however, a practical method of producing specialist books ‘on demand’ to very limited audiences though, and quite cheap too, which is not something that can be overlooked. These books, for me, are initiated by my own personal vision of what I wish them to be, but once the content has been completed, I can really begin to think about the work on a whole new level; what would I want to see if I were the purchaser?

This approach allows me to explore the content I have produced in a different way than the process I used to create it and juxtapose imagery out of the synch in which it was developed. This inevitably leads to new ideas, developments within the artwork, and occasionally a very harsh cull. There is a heck of a lot of material that never makes it to the book. These are sometime discarded, but often resurface in other projects at other times. But now I’m rambling!

I guess I just wanted to let you know that the new book is almost ready and I’m really proud of it. Not long now.


New Asemic Work

A while ago I was invited to submit some new asemic pieces by Marco Giovenale who was guest curating a new section in – an online publication “at the intersections of music with writing, performance and visual arts.”

At the time, I had been giving the new asemic script a lot of attention and thought that some other explorations would be a useful way to step back from the systematic development process and go back to a more intuitive approach. This resulted in nine new calligraphic works, five of which are being published exclusively at

There are a couple more new pieces on foffof too:

and another two on i’m an artist man:


New Asemic Script #4

The script has been developed to a point where I can begin putting it into use, and I have been busy doing just that, with about half of the pages already completed for the new book.

I am now at a point where I need to expand on the script more, and explore some new avenues and structures. I had decided to see if the glyphs could be ‘unscripted’ and transformed into something more mechanical.

I began by losing all the curves and creating an angled geometric version:

This reminds me of decorated Ndebele houses, Navajo textiles and square Kufic script

I converted three lines to see how the various shapes translated and couldn’t help myself in applying them to a stone panel. Not really, just a little ‘photoshoppery’ to break up the line work I suppose:


I have not abandoned the hand drawn script script either. I recently purchased an automatic pen nib with a 15mm wide stroke and have been going freestyle with some loose gouache and ink…
I have also been working on some other, less restricted asemic artworks too, which will be published elsewhere a little later this year…
I also wanted to see if the script translated well to a geometric line that included circles and was very encouraged by the results:

So I spent a little time experimenting with slab serifs…

which put me in mind of an old favourite typeface from my college years; Lubalin Graph.

Designed by the legendary Herb Lubalin in 1974, I was fascinated by the inventiveness of the tight-spaced ligatures – something that I believe has never been digitized with the standard font!

If only my efforts were as well crafted! The slab serifs became turgid at smaller sizes (not shown), but the monoline version held up well. The next stage is to try some more…



New Asemic Script #3

Quite a while has passed since I recorded my progress. This has been ongoing for some time now – I am not posting as regularly as I should. Having established a number of forms in a favourable calligraphic line, I chose to explore other line qualities in order to see if the forms ‘held up’ to treatments they weren’t designed to handle, and to see if anything interesting happened. Although I apply a more thorough methodology to my work, I am not afraid of opening other doors to see what’s behind.


I decided to create my own lines rather than use the software presets – remember I’m using Adobe Illustrator here – my lines are in red above their applications. So I opened some doors and was largely appreciative of how most forms retained their basic dynamic, but was not overly excited by the results. Always worth a look though.


Now it’s time for a small digression. I would like to admit here that I have not always been an advocate of the ‘see what happens’ school of design as many of my old students will attest. Having been trained as a designer before the Apple revolution, I was schooled in the ‘thinking things through, sketching things out, mocking things up’ methodology, which was ultimately aimed at properly refining the idea – not the imagery, but was inevitably used as an economical measure – to avoid expensive mistakes and changes late in the process. Computers have pretty much done away with this. I can’t begin to tell you how disheartened I have been by seeing students trying out every font in alphabetical order, rather than making an informed or even intuitive decision. (Deep breath…)

As I have matured I have finally acknowledged the convenience that the ‘modern’ (good grief, I feel old at 45!) digital design process and can really appreciate what just happened just now. It was not that long ago that the production of this stage would have been so time consuming and costly that you would have been publicly humiliated for even suggesting it in a studio environment.

Now, before anyone gets the chance to butt in (the joys of blogging!) I wish to make it very clear that this type of process is no substitute for thinking, deciding and committing to a process, going on to refine and develop to the end. Having already formulated my approach, tried and tested my choices and decisions, I can now appreciate the convenience the software allows.

NOTE TO STUDENTS: Never let the dog take you out for a walk…

Phew! Glad I got that off my chest. I hope you managed to get some popcorn and a comfort break before the main feature resumed.

Back to the calligraphic line. Having created a handful of glyphs I began to compose lines, adding new forms and ligatures in response to the new structures emerging. At this point I noticed a number of Arabic inspired forms emerging which pleased me greatly. I was particularly interested in the possibilities of cross-line ligatures:


Well, there’s only one way to deal with an itch and that is to scratch; some careful maneuvering allowed several other lines drop or reach up:

This was a crucial stage. I had grown a little ‘glyph-blind’ and really couldn’t judge whether this had worked as I had hoped it would, so I decided to take it elsewhere and look at it a different way, by digitally applying it to an old manuscript page, adding borders and some inter-line noodling:


The verdict? Well, like the curate’s egg; good it parts. I think the main body of the script works – there is still some refinement to go – but the vertical ligatures are awkward, ugly even. But the inter-line noodling was also interesting…


I was regularly getting samples off-screen to check scale and composition, and couldn’t resist printing a sample off onto handmade paper:


On revisiting the glyphs to remove the undesirable ligatures, I began to look at the details – in particular where lines meet or converge. This was also an opportunity to tidy things up a little by converting the lines to paths and manually making adjustments to make more visually pleasing union points:


So it was back a few steps, lose the ligatures, and close up the lines. This, I think is much more elegant:


After this time consuming and ‘oh-so pernickety’ stage, it was time to see a block of text:


Remember that noodling in between the lines earlier? That was created just to add something that would suggest a small sub-script, or even something similar to Jewish micrography. It was created from a number of smaller strokes, some taken directly from the main script, and others drawn using a graphics tablet. I decided to have a look at that in isolation from the main script and was generally quite pleased. I thought it looked a little less formal, so grouped lines together to suggest verses.


Asemic poetry? Poetry translated into asemic script? Or a just a streamlined shorthand? I think this has further mileage – a linear script is almost entirely dependent upon the subtlety of its curves, dips and peaks…