Ghosts of Calligraphy & Type

Ghost of calligraphy and type with Carl Rohrs

Ghost of Calligraphy and Type

Cost: $460.00

Contemporary calligraphy is a combination of thought, touch, technique -- and inspiration. So, we’ll be exploring some of the specific, specialized techniques for making modern letterforms with flat pen, flat brush, pointed brush and ruling pen. At the same time there will be a thorough and loving introduction to the work of my favorite 20th Century calligraphers and script type designers. The class workbooks will virtually be a massive gathering of their unusual letters, the writing and sketches that led to some of the most distinctive type of the 20th century, which will supply us with a forest of inspiration for using the moves that will be covered.

We’ll be concentrating on the flat pen and the unusual effects that occur as the pen loses contact with the paper, bounce, angularity, compression and new ways of dealing with terminals, but will also squeeze in time with the flat brush and the incredible control and texture it offers. Then comes the pointed brush, the most fluid and expressive of tools, and we’ll focus on how to make pointed brush lettering LOOK like its tool and unlike any other writing, from perpendicular strokes to the swelling feather-shaped beauty of parallel strokes. Finally, a quick look at the ruling pen’s whole reason for writing, which is also about subtle paper contact, but approaches the paper with an attitude like a pointed brush. All of these techniques can be used to understand the road our inspiratuers used to get to their unique work.

We will be interpreting and stealing from the following gentlemen -- Ray DaBoll, Walter Brudi, Roger Excoffon, Albert Kapr, Rudolf Koch, Alfred Linz, Oldrich Menhart, Herbert Post, Helmut Salden, George Salter, Ernst Schneidler, Villu Toots, Georg Trump, Axel Bertram and more. Most of them were type designers, most of them were teachers, all of them were calligraphers of startling originality. Take it from someone who loves to be startled. These men came up with new ways of using hands centuries-old as well as their own completely original styles that have been hiding from you for 50 years and more -- some that retain the marvelous feeling of their time and some that look as fresh as today. We’ll combine things we like from their work with those modern calligraphy moves to expand our own repertoire of styles and flavor, and help us find our own unique paths to our writing and ultimately, perhaps to our own unique typefaces. What we want to do is use some of the most original and powerful writing from the nooks and crannies of the twentieth century to help us to discover our own vision and style in the twenty-first.

Meets Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Required Materials

  • Pilot Parallel Pen, 6mm size (blue cap) OR a folded brass pen, 1/4", 5/16” or 3/8”: Horizon (from or similar, plus any other pens you already have
  • Flat brush, 1/2” W&N 995, plus any other brushes you already have
  • A Pentel Color Brush, plus any other brushes you want to try or already have — Winsor & Newton Series 7 or similar brush (Asian, Lebenzon, etc.)
  • Optional: any kind of ruling pen
  • Non-waterproof ink
  • A tube or two of gouache
  • Large paper with a bit of texture — Strathmore Charcoal 300 Series (yellow cover) is great for pen and brush.
  • Optional: Graphic white-out (Pro–White or Dr. Martin's Bleedproof White) &/or light or bright colors of gouache and colored paper if you wish to write in reverse: Canson, Ingres or other laid surface charcoal suggested.
  • Pencil and/or colored pencils (Prismacolors are the best)
  • Ruler, any kind of flat palette, small water jar, and a rag or paper towels
  • $20 cash, payable to the instructor who will have 150+ page instructional books to guide you through class and beyond

The workbooks will be almost 200 pages of great lettering resources, with much of the material unavailable elsewhere.

The final day to register is Feb. 2nd., students enrolling after this date will pay a $15 late fee.

Course Code: 159672

Instructor(s): Carl Rohrs

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.