I am so excited to announce a new series on my blog called Meet the Artist! In the past few months, I have had the wonderful privilege of collaborating and learning from many different artists, often quite different from myself, with unique styles and art forms. Through these collaborations and conversations, I have learned that art is much more fulfilling when experienced together. There is so much to learn from each other, and there is inspiration everywhere! My desire with Meet the Artist is to not only discover different artists, but also to understand and appreciate their art, and most of all, to be inspired by their journey as artists. So, it is with great pleasure I introduce the first artist in my Meet the Artist series, Alissa Mazzenga of Feast Fine Art & Calligraphy!
Alissa is a Chicago-based artist who blends calligraphic, illustrative, and other fine art techniques in her beautiful work. From the moment I saw Alissa’s work, I was smitten! I love the fluidity of her craft, and being a type-lover, I was immediately drawn to the beauty and elegance of her work. I came to know Alissa after inquiring what kind of calligraphy tools she used and what she would recommend for a beginning calligrapher. She was extremely encouraging and a tremendous help, but let me just say that calligraphy and hand-lettering is much more difficult than it looks!
Alissa’s gorgeous designs have been featured on Besotted Brand, Oh So Beautiful Paper, and most recently, Martha Stewart Weddings. She was kind enough to sure some samples of her recent creations, along with some wonderful insight into the world of calligraphy and her creative process.
Click through to read the rest of her inspiring interview and see more of her beautiful work! All photos are courtesy of Aimee Mazzenga Photography.
Interview with Alissa Mazzenga of Feast Fine Art & Calligraphy
01 | What is the art of calligraphy and how would you describe it?
The word ‘calligraphy’ in Greek means beautiful writing. I would describe calligraphy as a form of handwriting that emphasizes the shapes of letterforms and is created to attract a viewer’s gaze.
02 | How did you get started in calligraphy?
I stumbled into calligraphy through an interesting series of events. Right before graduating from Baylor University in 2010 I became engaged to be married. I decided to take up calligraphy as a way add to the design of my wedding invitations and save a little money in the wedding planning process. Several months into my engagement, my then-fiance and I called off our wedding and ended our relationship. It wasn’t an easy thing to go through, but I don’t believe I would have began exploring calligraphy had I not been engaged. After our relationship ended, I began helping out with friend’s weddings and picking up more and more calligraphy jobs.
03 | What do you get your inspiration from?
I am greatly inspired by organic nature forms. As a painter, I cannot help myself from depicting subjects through leaf-like shapes, and one of my favorite subjects to draw or paint is hair! My love for organic, swirling forms that convey movement greatly influence my calligraphy. I have recently become very inspired by the Art Nouveau period of art history, which was characterized by foliate forms and sinuous lines.
04 | How has your calligraphy evolved since you first began?
My calligraphy has evolved more than I could have imagined. Without any formal training in copperplate calligraphy, I picked up some calligraphic nibs and ink one day and was at first very frustrated and bewildered by how to depict on paper what I envisioned in my head. I cringe when I look at work that I did in the beginning of my journey in calligraphy, but it reminds me that we all start somewhere and that I am growing! Over time, I have become more and more confident in calligraphy and feel like I’ve developed a personal style that is much more consistent and recognizable.
05 | What advice would you give to those getting started with calligraphy?
I would advice you to purchase a whole bunch of different nibs and several types of ink at a local art supply store, and practice. (Paper Ink Arts offers a great starter kit of 25 different calligraphy nibs.) I would also encourage a beginner to be patient. Like any other art form, practice is key. Turn on music that you love and sip a cup of tea. Enjoy the process. Save your work as you go so that you can celebrate your progress as time goes on!
06 | What are your must-have calligraphy tools?
My favorite nibs are currently the Leonardt No. 41 and Hunt Extra Fine #22. Other must-have tools include my teeny tiny Master’s Touch Angular 12/0 paintbrush, gouache paint, and Rhodia writing pads. I love the smoothness of these pads and practice on just about nothing else!
07 | What other art fields do you enjoy?
Drawing, painting. Lettering.
08| I see that you are a painter as well! Which came first? Did one evolve from the other? How do the two relate?
Painting came first! Really, drawing came first. I have always enjoyed and felt that I had a natural ability to create art, but it wasn’t until high school that I really fell in love. I became a voracious colored pencil artist in high school. I dabbled in painting a little bit in those years, but then studied art in college and by the end of my senior year, had filled most of my schedule with painting classes. My style really evolved and I found such freedom forming organic shapes with a paintbrush. Calligraphy can be a restricting art form, with a lot of precision, care, and detail involved. I think that I’ve brought the freedom that I’ve enjoyed in painting to my calligraphy, creating organic, free flowing forms with a nib and ink. My work is not traditional, and that is intentional. I’ve decided that I must enjoy the art that I am creating- or I will miss the gift that it is to me.
09 | When you are not working on art projects, how do you spend your free time?
I love long conversations about people, personalities, psychology, and theology. I love to read. All while drinking coffee.
10 | Who are some artists that have inspired and/or encouraged you?
My two greatest artistic encouragements to date would have to be my Mom, and my high school art teacher, Mr. Mueller. My Mom has been my greatest fan artistically. She is an artist herself, but decided to slow down when I reached an age when I really started cranking out work- to encourage my unique gift and style. She is the most selfless person I know and would do anything to allow me to soar. My high school art teacher used to say, “You’re a wild woman!” whenever a student (well, female student) stepped out of the box and took a risk artistically. His voice tends to echo through my head on occasion. He was very catalytic in the development of my love for art and belief in myself as an artist at a younger age. He helped me learned to trust my eye.
11 | What is some of the best advice you’ve been given on your creative journey?
To follow my bliss, and to trust my eye. And that presentation is everything.
12 | Have you ever had any setbacks and/or challenges on your creative journey, and what did you learn from them?
I think one of the biggest challenges that I’ve had is more of a current challenge, and that is understanding the balance between a focused work life as a freelance artist and connection and time spent with people. I am an interesting mix of introversion and highly relational connector. I am learning how to more intentionally collaborate, network, and grow with other artists in my field, whether locally, nationally, or internationally. I feel like I have grown to be a part of a vast network of artists over the past couple of years, and that is really fun for me.
13 | Describe your workspace.
I need a lot of space. Some artists can make due with one small desk. I used to work on a smaller desk before recently renovated my studio, and I used to dream about a giant table to spread my arms and scatter paint and paper. I can create quite the mess when in an inspired state! My studio is currently located at home. I have a lot of desk space, white walls, tall antique bookshelves that store supplies and books that inspire me. My favorite piece of furniture is a tiny white supply drawer that rolls out from under my workspace when I need it and holds my inks and countless drawing utensils!
Thank you so much, Alissa! I am totally inspired to get out my calligraphy nibs and gouache paint! Wishing you all the best!