Art uses right brain, letters are a left-brain activity, so what are calligraphers to do?

Cambria Center for the Arts spotlight falls on Cambria artist Annie Lawrence

Special to The CambrianJanuary 25, 2013 

This is the fifth in a series presented by the Cambria Center for the Arts to heighten awareness of artists — and the arts — in the Cambria community.

Annie Lawrence is an artist of many talents, known for her calligraphy, handmade books and talent for teaching others. She works out of a colorful upstairs studio in the West Village where she teaches a continuing calligraphy class every Monday. Annie founded “Central Coast Creative Arts,” which provides day-long workshops in a variety of media for the paper arts: marbling, paste papers, bookbinding, walnut ink, block carving and more.

Q: How did you become interested in art?

A: I have always loved art but never thought I could do it, so I shied away from it, married, had children and later began a career in accounting. In the early ’80s, my desire for art led me to a little calligraphy class at the YMCA, thinking I couldn’t really get into serious art but I could maybe do this. I loved it! And from there I went on exploring lettering in all its forms.

I went to Cal State LA where they had a wonderful lettering course, and then to Cerritos College for a two-year certificate course in calligraphy taught by a famous calligrapher, Marsha Brady. This certificate course was so wonderful I took it for four more years! It opened up all kinds of art avenues for me.

I joined “The Society for Calligraphy,” a southern California organization that holds many workshops and studies relating not only to calligraphy but all the paper arts and actually more.

Q: How would you describe the art you do?

A: I would definitely call it a love of letters. I love their structure and their history. I feel I must be a reincarnated scribe because I can do lettering for hours. For me it is my meditation.

But calligraphy is definitely an art form and I believe there is even some proof of that. Art is a right-brain activity, those letter forms are shapes but they are also forms that make words and words are a left-brain activity. Calligraphers make a lot of spelling mistakes because we are in the right brain doing our art!

Calligraphy is at the core of my work, but once your letters start looking pretty good you want to make colorful backgrounds to put them on. My art has expanded to all the paper arts including watercolors. I even love putting letters and color on eggs in the Ukrainian wax-resist method.

Q: What inspires you?

Being around other artists really inspires me. Taking workshops, there’s always something you get out of them. A group we have in town, called Central Coast Creative Arts, started because people love to learn about paper marbling, paste papers (putting acrylic paint in a paste to then make designs), walnut ink (a special ink not made from walnuts that is very rich looking on paper). These are workshops that anyone can take without feeling they need to be an artist and the price is always affordable.

Q: What do you like about calligraphy?

A: I love quotes, especially really meaningful ones that I want to remember, and to put them down beautifully is very rewarding. Also I have used my calligraphy as a money-making thing, too. On a regular basis I do envelopes for special events and sometimes the invitation to match. It’s been a hobby that has provided some income for me. I never tire of it.

Q: What are your biggest challenges?

A: Big challenges for me right now are graphic design, working with scanning in my art and page layout programs, designing books on the computer and reproducing them. Formal watercolor is also a big challenge but I love doing it. I’m taking a class in Atascadero and some pieces turn out wonderfully, others not as expected, so I put a quote I love on them!

The books you make are so compelling. Why are we drawn to handmade books in this modern age?
I think because there is a connection with the past. They are not slick fonts or commercial perfect looking. They are handmade, hand-sewn, tactile and thrilling. Wonderful to hold and look at.

Q: What advice would you give a beginning artist?

A: I tell beginning artists that if you have the desire to learn art, you can. I believe that’s all it takes: desire plus learning. Take non-threatening classes and workshops to begin to play and practice. I don’t think there needs to be an “inborn gift,” just a huge desire.

Q: What can participation in a local arts organization offer both the casual and the professional artist?

A: For both a huge amount of inspiration as well as a starting point for the beginning artist, a thrilling feeling of “I can do this!” But you have to take the first step. As they say, “Just do it.” You just might be amazed.

To learn more about Cambria Center for the Arts, visit artistsof To join Annie Lawrence’s email list and keep informed of classes and art opportunities related to Central Coast Creative Arts, email her at

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