Dream Job

Do you have a vision for your art?

A Heritage Edition of the The Saint John’s Bible now resides at Regis College.

Affiliated with the University of Toronto, Regis College is a theological school located on Wellesley Street West in downtown Toronto. On my way home from work, I would pop into the lobby for a peek. Protected under glass, a two-page spread is displayed at a time. Sometimes there are two pages of pure calligraphy, but other times there is a gorgeous illuminated spread, gleaming with gold.

Several years ago, members of the Calligraphic Arts Guild of Toronto were invited for a closer examination of all seven volumes. While we were not permitted to thumb through the volumes on our own (not even a remote possibility), volunteers turned pages so we could peer closely at the lettering and breathtaking illuminations. It was hard not to drool!

Heritage Edition of The Saint John's Bible, 7 volumes on display at Regis College

Heritage Edition of The Saint John’s Bible, 7 volumes on display at Regis College

The Saint John’s Bible is the first hand-written, illuminated Bible to be produced since the Gutenberg press began printing the scriptures in 1455.

Have you ever had a dream? A big dream?

In Wales, just after the Second World War, school boy Donald Jackson dreamed of writing the entire Bible by hand.

In 1995, he took a step closer to his dream—a leap of faith actually. He pitched the feasibility of such a project to the trustees at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. The project got off the ground several years later in 1998. The last word, applied to parchment using a quill, was penned in 2011.

As Artistic Director and Illuminator, Donald anchored the project from his scriptorium in Wales while guiding his international team of calligraphers, illustrators, and administrators.

Page from Heritage Edition of Saint John's Bible featuring the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

Page from Heritage Edition of Saint John’s Bible featuring the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

The original Saint John’s Bible is housed at Saint John’s University in Minnesota, but close to 300 sets of the 7-volume Heritage Edition were printed for a broader audience to enjoy. To date, approximately 125 sets have been claimed.

One set was on full display at Seattletters 2018, the international calligraphy conference in Bellingham, Washington, where over 400 participants could leisurely browse the full Bible and ask questions.

Page from Heritage Edition of Saint John's Bible

Page from Heritage Edition of Saint John’s Bible

It was my pleasure to catch up with Donald at Seattletters 2018. He and I were students in Suzanne Moore’s class. Now retired at 80, he spoke about the realization of his childhood dream to produce a handwritten legacy of the scriptures.

The other dream, which he also realized, was to be a scribe to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth.

Do you have a dream—or two—for your art?

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Caged Bird

When Kelita Haverland invited me to scribe the words to her popular song “Caged Bird”, she generously gave complete freedom—both exciting and daunting for an artist! The poignant lyrics deserved special treatment, so I immediately got to work choosing lettering styles and images.

WillowLetteringWhat was the inspiration?

Lettering. I’ve always admired the classic work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), a Scottish architect, designer, and water colourist. His projects were inspired by the flourish of Art Nouveau and the simplicity of Japanese forms. He was known for designing a simple and elegant letterform called “Willow”.

A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh was commissioned to design the School’s new building, but also the furniture, artwork, and stained glass windows—unusual scope granted an architect.

Images. While researching song birds, I was intrigued by the Merops apiaster species—a richly coloured, wild, migratory bird with a mellow song. Its name is Greek and Latin for “bee-eater”. Merops feed on flying insects—but not before removing their stinger and venom. What resilient birds. As resilient as the subjects in Kelita’s song.

In the final design, “Caged Bird” combines the influence of stained glass with watercolour and the “Willow” letterform. I am imagining that the letter “o” resembles a birdhouse entrance with a perch! It was tempting to refine the lines of the birdcage with pen and ruler, but leaving it rustic gives the impression of forged iron, which provides a counterpoint to the soft colours.


“Caged Bird” features watercolour, gouache, and ink on Arches 140 lb. watercolour paper. The piece was designed at the kitchen counter during studio renovation when supplies were in storage—a test of resiliency!

Have you been given freedom to design a project? What was your approach?

Viva Colombia!

Last Friday, I attended my first Parapan Am, 5-a-side football (soccer) match. The series was played by the visually impaired—that’s another story.

Innovative lettering for the word Colombia on jacketTeam players for Colombia and Mexico were battling for the bronze medal. Since I was there for the experience, I was impartial and cheered for both teams!

I happened to sit next to a veteran fan and admired the fabulous lettering on his jacket; it was characteristic of his country’s Andes mountains.

Although I did not speak a word of Spanish, nor he English, we shared snacks and the international spirit of the games. He allowed me to snap a photo of the terrific logo on his jacket.

In the end, Colombia lost in a shoot-out—a heartbreaking loss for him. Nevertheless, the Colombia logo is a clear winner with me!

Have you been inspired by a cool logo?