Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Interview with artist
Tina Warren

Originally from Liverpool, Tina Warren completed her schooling in Durban, South Africa. After leaving a career in the City of London she studied at Reigate School of Art and Design, Surrey. In 1997 she gained an HND with Distinction in Calligraphy, Heraldic Art and Illumination. She was awarded the Scriveners Company “Prize for achievement” by Donald Jackson MVO.
She is a member of CLAS, The Copperplate Special Interest Group, Cinque Port Scribes, Lindfield Scribes and Sussex Scribes. She is actively involved with The Edward Johnston Foundation in Ditchling, Sussex. Past member of SSI, North Downs Calligraphers, Letter Exchange and Guild of Glass Engravers.
Tina works freelance from her studio in Nutley, East Sussex. She is a CLAS (Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society) accredited tutor as well as PTTLLS qualified to teach in Adult Education. Tina teaches her own group classes and workshops in Uckfield, Crowborough and Lewes in East Sussex. 
Tina Warren is an Ambassador for St Cuthberts Mill

Pointed pen on Saunders Waterford paper
by Tina Warren

Interview with Tina Warren / Alphabition Calligraphy - 7th March, 2016
Tell me about when you decided to go “pro”. When did you decide to dedicate yourself to your art. Give us an example of what that meant to you. (What pushed your artwork from amateur level to professional?)
Whilst working as an IT Business Analyst, twice a week I would rush home to attend Adult Ed ceramic lessons. I enjoyed the creative process. In 1993 my husband and I took an 18 month sabbatical to backpack around the world. On return I knew I did not want to return to work in the City. By pure chance we lived near Reigate School of Art and Design in Surrey and whilst admiring the work in the Diploma Show I started chatting to “a chap” about the dream of attending Art College. That “chap” was Head of RSAD!  After looking at my hastily thrown together portfolio I was offered a place on the HND for Calligraphy, Architectural Lettering and Heraldic Art (one of the last places in Europe to teach this). I had no idea if I could make a living from it but as I was in my mid 30's I gave it my all. I had tremendous support from my husband and tutors as they knew it was a planned career change for me. I left with a Distinction – something I am still proud of as I had never picked up a calligraphy pen or 000 paintbrush prior to 1995! Clients who came to my Diploma Show are still clients today and word of mouth meant I started to make a living from it.

Please state which St Cuthberts Mill papers you use and why?
I have been using St. Cuthbert's papers from my very first days at Reigate Art College (this was their water colour paper of choice). If I am not working on manuscript calfskin vellum (which is very expensive) then my “go to” paper I suggest to clients is Saunders Waterford 190 HP. The paper has just enough “tooth” to accept a metal nib allowing for the finest hairlines with a broad edge or pointed nib. I also use it for artwork where I may be doing illumination, heraldic art or gilding with gold.
For my more expressive and gestural calligraphy I may use a heavier weight Saunders Waterford NOT or Bockingford NOT to take advantage of the textured surface. Some of the pens I use for this type of calligraphy are less traditional and may be folded nibs (some made from cola cans) and some nibs making multiple registration marks eg. 5 lines. The tools “skip” along the textured surface and the end result is more spontaneous and less predictable - exactly what I want with sprays of ink being very desirable with this less formal work!

'Lest We Forget' on Saunders Waterford paper by Tina Warren

How does the use of these papers enhance your work?  
I have every confidence in recommending St Cuthbert's papers to prospective clients for commissions. I have also used Saunders Waterford for screen prints of my work.

Is there an artist you admire, did they inspire you to be an artist yourself?
The “father” of modern day western calligraphy is considered to be Edward Johnston. I am fortunate to live near Ditchling where Johnston and Eric Gill lived for some time. Calligraphy and lettering artists who have inspired me include Donald Jackson, Anne Hechle and Sheila Waters. Their use of colour and attention to fine detail, as well as their design skills, are still inspiring me today. Contemporary lettering artists who inspire include John Stevens and Brody Neuenswander who continue to push boundaries with their expressive and gestural lettering. My daughter recently made an interesting observation -  most members of the public would be able to name at least one famous artist – but very few would be able to name any calligrapher or lettering artist (despite Edward Johnston's Underground Roundel we are all familiar with!).

Do you remember the first painting you did that you were really proud of?
It was a broadsheet college project of Liverpool (where I was born) – finished on Saunders Waterford HP circa 1996. The calligraphy is not great (my first attempt at using Italic) but I'm still pleased with the heraldic artwork. The one piece I am most proud of is a full Letters Patent sampler I produced for my HND Diploma Show. Alongside a fair bit of heraldic artwork, it also has an illuminated border with raised gilding, shell gold, drawn lettering and Copperplate calligraphy. I produced it with the support of (the then) York Herald, Sir Henry Paston-Bedingfeld. I think he thought I was slightly unhinged to attempt it as I had to produce quite a lot of other artwork to showcase my skills for my Diploma Show. I went up to see him at the College of Arms on a regular basis to ensure authenticity. To accompany the Letters Patent I also produced a Library Painting of the same Arms on stretched vellum as well as artwork for reproduction in the form of an Ex Libris book plate bearing the same arms.

'The pen is mightier than the sword' 
on Saunders Waterford paper by Tina Warren

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Calligraphy and lettering art commissions are incredibly rewarding - words are personal, special and emotional. It is not unheard of for clients to blink back tears when they collect work. The emotional response is amazing and I feel very privileged to share in that moment. The possibilities with words, and how to arrange and portray them, are endless.
A common feedback comment from classes and workshops is that they should be offered on the NHS as folk find them quite therapeutic!
The architect of The Shard, Renzo Piano, turned his initial drawing of the Shard into a print which was given to Her Majesty The Queen to commemorate her visit. I was asked to write the calligraphy that accompanied the print. I am delighted she has some of my work!

What are you working on right now?
I have long standing clients so there is always regular work I am preparing for them, along with church Books of Remembrance, corporate and civil documents, commissions for words of special meaning, weddings, dinners etc. I am also a calligraphy tutor and preparation for my 3 weekly classes and monthly all day workshops is always ongoing. I am also preparing some pieces for the Garden Show in Firle where I will be demonstrating and selling my work in the Georgian Riding Stable, 22 April – 24 April 2016.

What’s the one painting you’ve painted that you will always keep?
I think it has to be the Letters Patent as it showcases quite a few of the skills I learned at Reigate on one piece and enabled me to change career to that of Professional Artist.

'Twinning Charter'
on Saunders Waterford paper by Tina Warren
What advice would you give to yourself, the artist you were 10 years ago?
Believe in yourself more. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there - mix with other calligraphers and artists of different disciplines. Working solo and being self employed can be quite isolating. Social media has been very positive for me as building relationships with other creative folk has helped me grow as an artist. There is always work out there that is better or worse  and if you feel like giving up, remember why you started!
Anything else you'd like to mention that I didn't ask?
I am passionate about keeping heritage crafts such as calligraphy and hand lettering alive. It brings me enormous satisfaction when clients or learners come into class enthusing about the lettering that surrounds us (good or bad) - they are seeing through new eyes!

We'd like to thank Tina Warren for doing this interview with us - 
To view more of Tina's amazing work head over to her website!

For more info about Saunders Waterford paper:

For more info about Bockingford paper:

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