An Interview with Yves Leterme: What turns him On, Off, Inward & Forward.

Yves Leterme

In preparation for our next Atlanta Penablers meeting on October 5th, calligrapher Yves Leterme has generously given us some compelling thoughts to ponder. 

After reading, we dare you not to sign up for his Italic Variations workshop on October 6th & 7th. There are still a few seats left!


Anne  Elser: What is your favorite word?

Yves Leterme: Wabi-Sabi – the subtle beauty of imperfection.

AE: What is you least favorite word?

YL: Vakoverschrijdende eindtermen – you probably don’t understand: it’s a long story… think of useless documents one has to fill in.

AE: Describe your earliest memory of feeling your first creative spark.

YL: I honestly can’t remember, probably because I wasn’t creative at all as a young boy. I was much better in consuming art: reading books, listening to music, watching movies… come to think of it, I wouldn’t call myself “a creative nature” even now: I need a push, definitely, but once I’ve pushed myself into creating something, I keep going.

AE: What turns you on?

YL: A piece of good music, a well-written and enjoyable book, stunning artwork, a beautiful and classy lady, a clever conversation, a captivating movie or TVseries, an act of sheer friendliness, gorgeous architecture, a peaceful rustic scene… ah, so many things

AE: What turns you off?

YL: The opposite of all that… in one word: vulgarity (which includes most graffiti, especially ‘tags’).

AE: If you could use just one word to describe Gestural Writing, what would it be?

YL: Sprezzatura, the Italian word for ‘studied nonchalance‘.

AE: How has your experience teaching classical languages influenced your calligraphic work?

YL: I think the study of classical languages has taught me to develop an eye for detail, it has also shaped my taste for good literature, a sense for the right proportions and in general a suspicious attitude towards things that go too easily.

AE: What do you love most about teaching?

YL: I especially enjoy those moments when you sense the students are following your train of thought and are willing to go along because they recognize your struggle with the same issues. Preparing and giving a workshop also forces you to question all theories you held on to for a long time. Seeing how the students interpret your information can be beneficial for the teacher also for it can open new ways he hadn’t thought of before. In other words, one has to keep his eyes and mind open at all times.

AE: What sound or noise do you love?

YL: The sound of nature when walking through woods.

AE: What sound or noise do you hate?

YL: I absolutely detest the noise of motorcycles, scooters, tuned up cars, etc… I can’t understand why people need to make more of that dreadful noise than necessary in order to prove they exist.

AE: What advice do you have to creatives about what to do when they get “stuck?”

YL: Question everything you do… why that tool ? why those texts ? why that small ? why that colour ? why that interlinear space ? And have the courage to change everything…

AE: What music (genre and/or composer) inspires you most?

YL: No doubt about this one: Elvis Costello. Clever texts, lots of different styles, great performer, boundless energy…

AE: What fine art (genre and/or artist) inspires you most?

YL: Abstract expressionism. And the calligraphy of my teacher Brody Neuenschwander.

AE: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

YL: I truly don’t know – I’m perfectly happy being a calligrapher and teacher of Latin.

AE: What profession would you not like to do?

YL: Anything that has to do with bookkeeping and economics.

AE: In many of your pieces, I see a recurrent echo of rectangular shapes, scattered neatly in a horizontal format across the page. Sometimes they are picture boxes, sometimes the shapes hold letterforms, or are left blank. They are beautiful. What are they and where do they come from/what inspired them?

YL: They’re mainly there for design purposes, a repetitive thing that I put there to create unity or to apply some structure to the whole design. I’m aware of my inclination to do that and sometimes I refrain from doing it (or I try), but then… is it so bad to have a recognizable feature ?

AE: I heard once that a painter often produces work that evokes the same quality of light that their environment produces. In comparing your own workspace and environment – could you say they are similar?

YL: Not really. I deliberately use a wide variety of colours and tones – it has even nothing to do with the way I feel at that time – it’s just part of my approach to change my way of working. I can make very dark pictures when I have not a worry in the world.

AE: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

YL: “I haven’t exactly spoiled you with an abundance of talents, my son, but you did fine with the leftovers I’ve thrown in your lap. I noticed quite a few people enjoyed your workshops and works, so you must have spread some happiness around -which was the whole point of you being a mere calligrapher. That should make you happy yourself, no ? “

Click here to read more about Yves, his history, and to view his amazing work.


Atlanta Penablers meeting  “Movement, Marks and Meaning.” From the art of abstraction, to the emotive tug of calligraphic lettering, Yves Leterme (as layered with shimmering depth as his pieces,) has much to share about his techniques, inspiration, and inner wisdom. Come for his interview, demonstration, slide show, and audience Q&A. Yves will also be bringing some of his original works of art for view and purchase. Squee!

When: Sat & Sun, Friday October 5th, 2012 6-8PM

Where: The Binders Art School in Buckhead

What to bring : A drink or snack to share and yo bad Self.

Italic Variations workshop

When: Sat & Sun, October 6th & 7th, 2012 

Where: The Binders Art School in Buckhead

What to bring : After signing up online for Italic Variations workshop through the Binders Art School site, a supply list will be sento to you.

Movement, Marks, & Meaning: An Evening with Yves Leterme on Friday, Oct. 5th, 2012

Leterme Lecture at Isalnd Magic, Canada July 2007

Join us at our next Atlanta Penablers meeting for a very special evening with calligrapher Yves Leterme. 

When: Friday, October 5th, 2012 from 6-8PM

Where: The Binders Art School in Buckhead

What to bring : A drink or snack to share and yo bad Self.

Yves will be here all weekend (6th & 7th) for his Italic Variations workshop (seats still available!) and our Penabler meeting falls on the night before we delve into his Italic adventures. If you can’t take the workshop, you’ll at least get to meet him Friday night for…

“Movement, Marks and Meaning.” From the art of abstraction, to the emotive tug of calligraphic lettering, Yves Leterme (as layered with shimmering depth as his pieces,) has much to share about his techniques, inspiration, and inner wisdom. Come for his interview, demonstration, slide show, and audience Q&A.

Yves will also be bringing some of his original works of art for view and purchase. Squee!

Click here to read more about Yves, his history, and to view his amazing work.

And stay tuned for a sneak peek inside his head for a taste of his Penabler interview!

Here’s some more delightful information about Yves: Yves Leterme (°1959 Bruges, Belgium) spent more than twenty years trying to influence the lives and thoughts of young Brugean adolescents by reading and explaining the works of Virgil, Plato, Cicero and the likes. But since even Latin grammar cannot keep a man happy and satisfied for a whole lifetime, he now devotes all his time and energy to the fine art of calligraphy. Being a freelance calligrapher he continuously shifts from various commissions (lettering and artistic works) to artwork for exhibitions and galleries. He has been teaching calligraphy mostly in Flanders, but in recent years also in the US, Japan, Australia, Canada, South-Africa, the U.K., Germany, Switzerland and France.

Yves Leterme’s Work

Having been a close student of Brody Neuenschwander for a number of years, he was (and still is) favourably influenced by his vision on contemporary calligraphy. Already at an early stage he devoted a lot of time developing his gestural style, for which he has gained international acclaim. Other typical features are his carefully drawn capitals and unusual compositions on richly textured backgrounds.

He was cofounder, coach and chief master of the Whitespace-system, a school for contemporary calligraphy in Flanders.
Throughout the years, Yves’ work has been selected for inclusion in many juried shows and his pieces can be found in museums and private collections all over the world. He’s the author of ‘Thoughtful Gestures’, the first book on gestural writing.
Beethoven Herschreven
A film featuring Yves Leterme’s calligraphy with Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique’ (first movement) as musical score. 
Made for the calligraphy exhibition at Heist-op-den-Berg (B) in April 2012.
Yves Leterme Cleans UP
This video documents Leterme’s exhibition in Antwerp during the summer of 2011.
The Crown of Ariadne – harp and calligraphy
The first cooperation of harpist Andrea Voets ( and calligrapher Yves Leterme (, inspired by the piece ‘the Crown of Ariadne’ by the Canadian composer R. Murray-Schafer. 

Envelope Book Meeting Shots and Instructions

Our Meeting on September 7th was cozy and rewarding. Many beautiful Envelope Books were made. Penablers arrived with a variety of lovingly assorted vlopes featuring different palettes and themes. All day I’d heard from folks who, at the last minute, couldn’t make the meeting and we sorry to have missed such a fun project. If you were one of them, take heart! Directions on how to make your own Envelope Book can be found here. Feel free to share the good stuff and creatively inspire your friends.

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Candace Harris came in with printed envelopes, each with an engaging image or text. My favorite is the little red bird. She wants to use her book while she travels, to collect ephemera such as ticket stubbs, receipts, pamphlets, parking passes, etc., as keepsakes to remind her of the details of her trip. Pat Vidal presented a set of envelopes that had been fed through an inkjet printer featuring shots of her doggie’s sweet face.

George Dorsey (featured up top) brought in a set of beautiful oversized ivory envelopes and his stitches were so beautiful even and strong. As you can see, I still managed to include a pair of scissors in his shot, for George begged me once again to stop the amateurish attempt of hacking away of my own hair. He’s the real professional. 😀

Next up we have Eve London who stitched up a beautiful book with a strong, vibrant palette. Her diaphanous bow made a beautiful finishing touch and her envelopes were lovingly addressed in a variety of calligraphic hands. I wish I had had the opportunity to take a closer look at each one. This is the first time I got to meet Eve in person and she was really fun to sit with. She brought yummy homemade cheese biscuits and totally trumped my World Market chips and bag of taffy.

Lisa Buckalew’s charming mini book of smaller vlopes balanced well with a hearty white bow. Karen Rothstein added a beautiful ribbon rosebud to her set. Christina Swann chose a patriotic theme for her husband who is away serving our country. This book is for him to fill with their written correspondence.

As with any project, creative themes, functions, metaphors, and ephemera all intertwine as deeply as you’d like to go. Opportunities are endless. As an artist and calligrapher, I’m always looking for innovative uses for the art of beautiful letterforms. This little book is just one of countless expressions possible.

Do you have any ideas you’d like to share and possibly feature at a Penabler meeting? Write me and let’s explore together! Love from the Atlanta Penablers, ~Anne Elser

Friday Sept. 7th Envelope Book!

Join us this Friday on September 7th, 2012 from 6-8PM at our next Penabler meeting. We’ll be making an Envelope Book! Read below for more details on what to bring to join in on the activity.

How to Use Your Envelope Book

• Recipe organizer

• Secret keeper

• Inspiring quote reminder

• Coupon book

• Erotic poetry stash

• Calligraphic Envelope Style Sample for your local Stationer!

• Business card organizer

• Color chip or wallpaper sample book


One more additional note on the ribbon size: The template I’ve designed works with a 1.5″ wide ribbon. However, you can use a slightly wider or more narrow ribbon if you’d like. You’ll just need to make your own holes. Super easy adjustment. The other thing you can use besides a ribbon is a strip of fabric. The sample I’m bringing uses a strip of vintage sari cloth – it’s very thin and has the consistency of cheesecloth, but smoother.


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Join us for our next Atlanta Penablers meeting!

Friday, September 7th, 2012 from 6-8pm at Binders Art School in Buckhead.

“Stitch an Envelope Book”

Demonstration and guided activity by penkitten Anne Elser. Stitch your family of envelope samples together just like a book! For the bookbinder looking to add a new feature to their hand bound books or calligrapher looking for a creative way to package your envelope styles, this guided activity is useful and fun as a self-promotional tool or a gift for yourself or a friend. We’ll be using a combination of Coptic and Tape bookbinding techniques and you’ll have a handout waiting for you when you arrive.

Keep in mind that the envelopes you use for the activity can be blank if you like. But it might be more exciting for you if you’ve got imagery/calligraphy on both the front and back of your envelopes. We’ll be using the flaps themselves as signatures to bind the book. The ribbon really does need to be 1.5 inches wide and your envelopes really do need to be 6.5 x 4.75 because we’ll all be using the same template to stitch our books. Binders DOES carry ribbon and envelopes in lots of fantastic colors, if you don’t have time to pick them up before you arrive. I will also be bringing a few chunks of beeswax so you can wax your thread. But if you don’t have any, no sweat. Just feel free to bring it if you’ve got it!

You’ll walk out the door with a completed project that has many variations and practical uses!


To read more about how and why I came up with the idea for this project, go here to read the original story: Calligraphy Sample Book  

What to Bring:

• A snack or drink to share

• Needle

• Beeswax (if you’ve got it already)

• Scissors

• Thumbtack

• Pearl Cotton Thread size 5 or 8

• Pencil

• 1.5” wide ribbon

• 8 or more A-6 Envelopes (6.5” x 4.75”)

• Your recent work (optional)

• Your Bad Self