Jake Weidmann is one of the most talented calligraphy artists you are ever likely to come across. He has truly mastered the art of the flourish and creates absolutely beautiful letterforms. It is difficult to actually find the words to portray how incredible and perfected Jake’s work is. Jake was certified a Master Penman in 2011 by ‘The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers, and Teachers of Handwriting’ (IAMPETH). When developing the Apple Pencil, Jake was sought out by Apple to help inform the tool that so many artists are now adopting. He also worked with the developers of the Procreate app to aid in refining calligraphy based features. These are just a small selection of Jake’s many achievements. Jake’s impressive array of skills have stood out to so many across the world.
Calligraphy is not the only skill Jake has developed to such a high standard. He makes accurate, detailed drawings, he is amazing at illustrative lettering and he is an experienced stone and wood carver too. In addition to this, Jake has also devised his own unique type of calligraphy pen holder which you can periodically buy from his website. Jake is continually sharing the progress of his work with aspiring lettering artists to be on social media, and is actively helping to keep the art of calligraphy and penmanship alive. These wonderful attributes more than qualify Jake as a ‘Lettering Legend’.
Hannah Weidmann is Jake’s wife and is also a talented editor. Hannah very kindly collected Jake’s interview responses and edited them, she also put her editing touch on a couple of the questions I asked to suit the flow of the responses provided by Jake. Along with Jake, Hannah has recently started writing for the the website Calligrafile which I believe launched towards the end of last year.
In this interview, you can learn about what skill Jake started out mastering first, how Jakes skills link to one another, the importance of patience, where Jake would like to see the Master Penman program go in the future and more.
If you are unsure of what a ‘Lettering Legend’ is, or if you would like a reminder, feel free to browse the ‘Lettering Legend’ introduction article. If you would like to view past ‘Lettering Legend’ interviews, visit ‘Resources’.
Update: Lettering Legends are now recognised through the Typefolk Awards platform. Visit Typefolk.com to participate in public community votes, apply to join the Typefolk judges panel and enter work to try and earn the title of Lettering Legend!
We’ve all seen or read about the part in Harry Potter where the famous wizard shops for a wand, and a wand selects him. Calligraphy penholders are not unlike wands, they can be carved beautifully, can be made from different types of wood and each one is unique. What calligraphy penholder do you think would choose you and why?
“Funny thing, I’ve had a lot of my followers comment on my penholders with the same references to Harry Potter. I have to believe that my personal ergonomic design would choose me. I developed this design a few years back when I first started making penholders. When I was introduced to the calligraphy world, there was a lack of good materials, namely pens. When I couldn’t find the penholder that was right for me, I decided to make it for myself. I later perfected my design and began selling it through my online gallery. I studied the grip of celebrated masters and formulated them into my penholder. It gently informs new and experienced calligraphers where to place the hand to encourage full-arm movement. Almost everyone who has purchased this pen tells me how perfectly it fits their hand. But if we’re making Harry Potter references here, I’ll let the wand choose the wizard…”
You display remarkable skill at drawing, illustrating and calligraphy letterforms. Oftentimes, your work integrates drawing and lettering together. Which skill did you develop first, drawing, illustrative lettering or calligraphy?
“Of all the art forms that I do, drawing is my oldest friend. It is what has matured my skills as an artist and what still hones them today. While I am constantly experimenting with new art forms, drawing seems to be one I can always go back to with ease.”
Alongside calligraphy and illustrative lettering you’ve been carving letters into stone. What drew you to this type of art? Are there techniques that can be carried over from calligraphy which can also be applied to carving letters?
“Everything I do is related. Drawing feeds into painting, painting into calligraphy, calligraphy feeds into carving and carving back to drawing. Every technique of every art form I’ve played with relates to one of my other art forms and makes me better overall as an artist and penman. It’s why I could never choose just one art form, and never will. I hope I never stop experimenting and finding the correlation in all of my work.”
Exercising a lot of patience is necessary throughout your process. Do you have any tips for those that struggle with slowing things down and not rushing when creating?
“You’ve heard the old adage, “nothing worth having comes easy.” Well, no art piece worth creating was ever easily made. In fact, the greatest art tests the limits of patience. My art has taught me this well and will continue to for as long as my hands are at work.”
At present, you’re the world’s youngest certified Master Penman. Though the program is currently closed, where do you hope to see the program go in the future? Would you like to mentor a new generation of Master Penman at some point?
“I “grew up” in IAMPETH, being the youngest attendee, by several decades, for many years before calligraphy and hand lettering started creating waves in the art world. So many of its members are family to me. I hope that one day the master penman program will be revived to give the same opportunity I was given. And though I don’t take on apprentices or formally mentor during this point in my career, I hope that my work can serve as inspiration for everyone who views it for the unforeseeable future.”
Is it best to be comfortable with a lot of different styles of lettering or develop your own style?
“You can’t have one without the other. In order to create your own style, you must first have a firm grasp on what already exists. I’ve taught enough calligraphy courses to know that no matter what the style is, everybody naturally puts their own spin on it.”
What advice or tips would you give those first starting out at lettering?
“Perfect the basics. You won’t grow until you do.”