Friday, May 11, 2012

Yves Leterme, Here I Come!

I am looking forward to attending a workshop sponsored by the Memphis Calligraphy Guild and taught by Belgian calligrapher, Yves Leterme. I first saw Yves Leterme's work a few years ago in Louisville at Laurie Doctor and Steve Skaggs' "Five from Four" exhibit. The 'five' were five calligraphic artists (Monica Dengo, Maya Huber, Steve Skaggs, Laurie Doctor and Yves Leterme) and the 'four' referred to the four countries they are from.
As a means of explaining his work, here is Yves' artist statement from that show: My work has passed through some stages to arrive where it is today. Having spent a decade mastering and refining letterforms and classical scripts, I turned my attention towards composition and painting techniques. My early works show clear, legible texts on colorful, unusually structured backgrounds. I wanted to arrive at a happy marriage between abstract paintings and gestural or drawn lettering. Due to the gesso and the many layers of pigments involved in this technique, the backgrounds tended to have a rough texture, and this forced me to abandon the fine gestural and formal writing of nibs and to work instead with brush or pencil. Then, later on, not entirely satisfied with this combination of rude painting and fine calligraphy, I decided I had to show more daring in order to get the harmony between the elements I was looking for. Therefore, I deliberately alter characters to the point they become hardly legible or downright illegible. Very often now I prefer the awkwardness of rude letters to the elegant writing I used to do. There’s beauty in rudeness, but not all rudeness is beautiful. I find myself erasing lots of things because they don’t have the right clumsiness. However, I should add that although the text may not be readable, perhaps because of my philologist background I always choose my texts carefully. Very often the quotes reveal something about my vision on art and perfection. The work itself then is somewhat an illustration of the thoughts expressed in it.

One of my friends bought a few of his pieces (and I loved them!) when she took a workshop from him in Chicago a year or so ago, and I again saw some of his work in a Carmel Indiana gallery earlier this year. I did a couple of pieces using his 'style' of covering much of the background painting with a thin white coat of gesso, though I didn't attempt his gestural lettering style. This one won second place in Calligraphy at the Kentucky State Fair last year.

I ordered Yves' book, Thoughtful Gestures, to try to understand his style of working. His personal inscription is in Latin: Quid est enim dulcius otio litterato, which means, "What is more beautiful than letters?" Here is the cover of his book with the folded cover page opened out.
Here are a couple of pages from his book. I love his abstract style.
We will probably learn to do some of these gestural strokes.
We will probably do some of his backgrounds with gesso and letter on top and into them.
We may even do something like this whimsical airplane.
But I doubt we will do any body painting. Not on mine anyway - but if I looked like this...

A pdf of the Five From Four catalog is available here:


  1. love what you shared from the book! Just love the abstract look and feel. You are going to have a great time!

  2. Thanks, Bren. I am looking forward to it!

  3. You're going to have a great time in Memphis! I am also drawn to Yves' style of work. I'd love to see some of your pieces on your blog when you return.