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Past Exhibits: Michael Hannon

Calligraphy and Hand-made Books by Michael Hannon

Hannon Book

Austin artist Michael Hannon on his work:
I have long been interested in the relationships between words and images. This may have been influenced by the fact that I did not learn to read (at all) until the sixth grade, enforcing an interest in illustrations. This was due to my having Asperger’s Syndrome (or high-functioning Autism), which certainly has also drawn me toward the formal use of language in verse. My related difficulties in learning to write have led, perhaps paradoxically, to my having taken up calligraphy to try to improve my handwriting.

Hannon calligraphy

I have been greatly inspired both by medieval illuminated manuscripts and by the Chinese tradition of paintings with inscribed poems. The examples of William Blake and William Morris have particularly influenced me in producing books that could be printed to make multiple copies. Blake’s illuminated printed books are a wonderful use of text and image combined in print. And the fine productions of Morris’ Kelmscott Press use original typefaces with carefully prepared illustrations and borders. In this context, knowing what printing technologies are now available, it seems a shame how relatively little is done to explore the design possibilities of books today.

I have also been influenced by the importance of hand done calligraphy in Asian art and poetry, from Persia to the Far East, as carrying the spirit of the piece. (I believe that Blake had some interest along these lines, leading him to write or draw all of his text for his illuminated & prophetic books). While I am not against the use of typesetting, and would even be interested in designing typefaces, I wanted to explore hand lettering in printed books. This is partly because I have only seen it used in very limited ways, even though it is now possible to reproduce handwritten lettering virtually as easily as typeset text. It seems especially expressive, allowing for natural variations in the rendering of verse.