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Blackletter calligraphy isn’t just a strict and rigid style of writing. Once you get a good grasp of the basics, it’s hard to imagine everything you can achieve with a broad-edged pen.
In this interview, I had the pleasure of having a quick chat with a talented calligrapher and friend – Tamer Ghoneim of Blackletter Foundry. Join us and learn more about Tamer’s journey through the world of blackletter calligraphy with a fresh twist to it.
Enjoy the interview.
1. For those who don’t know you, could you give us a few lines about yourself?
First, I want to say a huge thank you to Max of Lettering Daily for giving me this opportunity and for everything you do for calligraphers and people who want to learn this skill. It’s an honor to chat with you and everyone in this amazing community!
My name is Tamer Ghoneim of Blackletter Foundry, and I’m a professional calligrapher, teacher, and artist from Houston, Texas.
I love calligraphy and believe that absolutely anyone can learn how to write beautifully and make calligraphic art. I love working with all “calligrafriends” out there and helping them reach that moment where they’re excited and proud of what they’ve made.
I’m also a bit of a comic book, superhero, and sci-fi/fantasy fan.
2. How long have you been practicing and studying the art of calligraphy? How did it all start?
I remember the exact moment that I discovered the magic of calligraphy.
I stumbled on a video of someone writing beautifully with a fountain pen, and I was utterly mesmerized. The pens, the nibs, the inks… I was hooked.
I think I spent the next five or six hours rewatching that fountain pen video and looking up other calligraphy videos, trying to discover what wizardry was behind such magical writing.
That happened around 2013 or 2014, then a few years later, I stumbled on an instructional book about broad nib calligraphy while walking out of a local book store and totally fell in love with these styles. I’ve spent every possible moment since researching, practicing, and experimenting with writing.
3. Some of my favorite artworks you have created are the big and complex calligrams. Where do you find the inspiration for them?
The inspiration for these calligram projects came from a desire to combine two types of art that I love – illustrative art and calligraphy. While researching and trying to absorb everything I could about Blackletter-style writing, I’d stumbled on abstract broad-nib designs. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any instructional material for working with this style, so I spent months focused on deciphering techniques used to make these types of designs.
I eventually worked out a style (sometimes including hidden words and phrases) for filling blocked areas then had the idea of combining the abstract design with an illustration.
My first design was made digitally on an iPad was an illustration of Darth Vader, and I was so thrilled when the composition worked! I then worked out how to pull off the technique by hand using traditional tools, and I now have fun creating these both digitally and on paper or canvas. I’ve created abstract calligrams of the Joker, the Avengers, Baby Yoda and always have so much fun working on these projects!
4. What are your thoughts on the divisiveness between digital and analog calligraphy? Especially with more traditional blackletter styles?
I’m so happy to chat about this! I could probably write a book about my thoughts on this topic, but I’ll try to be a bit more concise.
I think there’s plenty of room in the creative world for both digital and analog calligraphy (and a combination of the two!).
You can pull off techniques with a pen that aren’t possible or are extremely difficult to replicate digitally and vice versa. For example, changing colors, playing with unique effects and layered designs, the magic of “undo…” All of these can be easily accomplished digitally but are difficult or impossible using traditional tools.
We can create beautiful calligraphic art using each approach and combining both together, so I believe in celebrating all of the ways we can express ourselves creatively.
I believe that a knowledge of the fundamentals using pen and paper really helps when making the transition to digital, so I encourage everyone to try both and enjoy creating with whatever tools work best for you.
5. I know that you have recently decided to make calligraphy your full-time job. What motivated you to take that step, and what was the thing that held you back from doing it earlier?
The things that held me back from pursuing my love of calligraphy as a full-time job boil down to fear, imposter syndrome, and a lack of knowledge of building a creative business. I don’t have any formal art training or education – I’m entirely self-taught but have loved and practiced art my entire life.
What motivated me to pursue calligraphy as a full-time job was the desire to pursue a career that I find immensely fulfilling and rewarding and wanting to share the joy of calligraphy with absolutely every person I can.
Making art and igniting the spark of creativity in others is so amazing – there’s nothing like seeing a student’s face light up when they’ve made something they’re proud of. It’s magic!
I want to share these experiences – the joy of creativity, calligraphy, writing, and art, with everyone I can. I want to share the fun and happiness.
6. When you were just starting with your calligraphy business, what were your biggest challenges? And if you could go back, what would you do differently?
This is another topic that I could happily write a book about and discuss for days because I have learned so much over the years that I would love to share to help anyone else on this journey.
The biggest challenges for me were not knowing where to start and what to focus on. There are a myriad of approaches, platforms, and tools for building a creative business these days – it’s wonderful but can also be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to prioritize and spend your resources on.
I’ve learned lots of lessons along my journey and am grateful for all of them, so I’ll answer the second question as what advice I’d offer if I were just starting today:
- Define your goals and align your actions with them
- Push the boundaries of your comfort zone
- Find a great mentor and community for support
7. You’ve recently started to be more active on YouTube. What sort of content can people expect from you?
My upcoming content will be focused on education – tutorials, tips & tricks, product reviews, and related topics.
Most of my content is based on feedback I get from my community. I send out regular surveys via my newsletter (Blackletterfreebies.com – where I also offer a growing bundle of free blackletter resources) to ask what questions everyone has, what topics they would like to learn about, and anything they’re struggling and need help with.
I plan to continue my weekly Live Streams, which have been a ton of fun in the immediate future! Everyone who joins the live stream gets to pick what I make live – the quote, the colors, everything. I’ll also be sharing more tutorials, live streams, and some collaborations that I’m very excited about!
Here you can check out one of my recent tutorials on blackletter calligraphy –
Fun Fact – Tamer has written an amazing tutorial for the Lettering Daily website. The tutorial will teach you how to create a circular calligram step-by-step.
8. Where do you see yourself and The Blackletter Foundry in the next 5 years? What would you like to accomplish?
Before talking about the future, I first want to say thank you to everyone, including you, the reader, for your interest, support, and being a part of this journey so far.
As for future goals, in five years, I would like to have:
- Built the most valuable, helpful, and fun educational platform for learning blackletter calligraphy.
- Built a successful creative business that gives back to our calligraphy community and supports charitable organizations.
- Become a champion for sharing the joy of calligraphy with as many people as I can. In five years, it would be amazing to have reached 1 million calligrafriends and to have contributed to growing this wonderful community of calligraphers, artists, and letterers.
- What is one lettering/calligraphy skill or technique that you never tried but would love to learn?
I would love to spend more time learning pointed pen techniques, especially the more traditional styles like Copperplate and Spencerian. I love the elegance of these scripts and would love to experiment with combining them with Blackletter styles.
You’re trapped on a desert island, and you can only carry 5 tools for calligraphy. What would you choose?
This is tough! Ok, if I could pick only 5:
- Pilot Parallel Pens
- Ink (black, white, violet, yellow, gold)
- Helix Circle Ruler
- Bristol, Mixed Media, or Watercolor paper
- iPad & Apple Pencil (the pencil magnetically sticks to the side, so this counts as one, right?)
The above tools are what I often travel with when I can!
Check out Tamer’s other online platforms –
- YouTube: www.BlackletterTV.com
- IG: https://www.instagram.com/blackletterfoundry/
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@blackletterfoundry
- Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/BlackletterFoundry
- FB: https://www.facebook.com/BlackletterFoundry/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/blackletterfdry
About the author
Lettering Daily is an online community that provides educational and inspirational content for hand lettering and calligraphy beginners. Our mission is to help artists and enthusiasts from all around the world to learn and improve their hand lettering and calligraphy skills.