Calligraphy is, for me, the art form that best engages both sides of my dual identity, scholar/writer and visual artist. Calligraphic work marries words and images to convey a message that neither could alone. My use of letter-forms and decorative elements from medieval manuscripts allows me to combine scholarly rigor with artistic imagination and expression. My work is heavily influenced by many years of active participation in the Society for Creative Anachronism, where I found both an outlet for my developing skills and a community of like-minded scholar-artists. Today, my work is nurtured by New Orleans’ respect for a tradition in hand-made objects, and by the love of bright colors that infuses not only its architecture, but its language and storytelling as well.
Sondra Venable is a New Orleans artist living and working in the Uptown neighborhood.
Questions & Answers
Describe your art in three words.
Visually enhanced words.
Describe yourself in one word.
What do you love the most about creating art in New Orleans? What particular part of your immediate environment, or in your neighborhood, specifically influences your work?
New Orleans supplies a wealth of both words and images that practically cry out for calligraphic interpretation. My apartment’s high ceilings and abundant natural light provide a comfortable and stress-free work-space that reinforces concentration.
Describe your creative process. Are there any rituals or rites of passage you exercise before you begin a new piece?
I sit down at my drawing board with a pad of graph paper and a nib or two in my favorite double-ended pen. I begin warming up with abecedarian sentences (The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. Pack my box with five-dozen liquor jugs. Sphinx of black quartz, judge my vow!). I continue with quotations, song lyrics, alphabetical lists or whatever random words come to mind and then segue into the text at hand, experimenting with different scripts, sizes, layouts, etc.
Where do you draw inspiration?
I always start with the text, what visual form can I give these words that will enhance the reader/ viewer’s understanding of, and response to, the verbal message? For a commissioned piece or a gift, I also consider the customer/ recipient’s cultural background, aesthetic sense and personal tastes.
Who are your artistic influences, or gurus?
The scribes and illuminators of the Middle Ages.
In New Orleans, art and music go hand in hand. What type of music, band or song lyric best describes your work?
As Irma Thomas says, “In New Orleans, we celebrate everything!”
Where can we find you when you are not creating art?
In a classroom or a library, or out-of-doors somewhere away from buildings.
What is your favorite time of day/day of the week/month of the year?
Early morning, today, migration season.
What is something people don’t know about you? A fun fact.
I love algebra.
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Where You Can Find My Work
All works listed online are available to be viewed at Where Y’Art Gallery by appointment.
Available exclusively on Whereyart.net