Calligrapher’s Corner: Consulting with the Experts, Volume 15: Bill Kemp
Describe how you began your love of lettering and how you started your career in calligraphy. I was first interested in the lettering arts looking at the old Stroh’s beer labels, which is similar to the Budweiser label today. Attending school I was in drafting classes and wanted to be an architect, but switched to engineering. From college I went into the military which took me to Albuquerque, New Mexico. At that time I did not know what calligraphy was nor what it truly looked like. For some reason I saw there was a calligraphy class offered at the Continuing Education Department at the University of New Mexico. Wanting something to do, I took the class; needless to say, the rest is history.
What would you consider to be your area of greatest expertise? The pointed pen is my first love, with the top being Engrosser’s Script and Spencerian and then Mike Kecseg’s pointed pen variations. But I have to say that my fall back script is Italic- a broad edge script.
With whom did you study, and who were/are your biggest influences? I still study with Mr. William Lilly who was a graduate from the Zanerian College in1952 with a gold seal (highest honor). Then the others that have been a major influence on me have been Gwen Weaver, Dick Jackson, Mike Kecseg and Michael Sull.
What products can you not live without? The main products are my oblique pen holders that are from Mr. Lilly, Michael Sull, Bryan Smith and Rodger Mayeda. I also love Nikko G Nibs, McCaffery’s inks, Old World Ink, and Dr. Martin’s Bleedproof White.
What advice would you give a new calligrapher? Study with a true seasoned instructor-one who can provide you with their learning history of who taught them and how long they have studied with those instructors. He or she should be a reputable individual.
What is something people would be surprised to learn about you? I am a hot-air balloon pilot. I still consider myself a student, still taking lessons and learning.
When you are not lettering, what do you enjoy doing? From the previous question I enjoy flying my hot-air balloon, when the weather is cooperative. I also enjoy being with my family enjoying a movie and taking new workshops and trying to improve my skills.