I was deeply saddened by the news that Brian Walker had died on 12th July at Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield, aged 80. I knew he was in hospital and had sent good wishes via his family, but fully expected him to make a recovery. Sadly, it was not to be and the calligraphy world has yet another great loss to bear.
I first met Brian in 1999 at a Society for Italic Handwriting event at the Art worker’s Guild in London. We got on well immediately and began to correspond with a view to improving my italic handwriting. Not long after that I became interested in Copperplate and Brian gave me great encouragement through emails, letters and phone calls. We met up at various calligraphy events and became firm friends. When I took over the group, I used to send him the Copperplate newsletter and he would send me The Spencerian Review in exchange, and we often talked about items or articles to share.
When my youngest son moved to Leeds, I started to take the opportunity to call in at Brian’s on the way to or from Leeds and enjoyed spending time with them both – Brian was always delighted to show me his latest pieces of work and original samples of Ornamental Penmanship and Italic handwriting. He was a member of the Magic Circle and took great pleasure in amazing me with one of his card tricks each time I visited. He said there were a lot of similarities with sleight of hand tricks and calligraphy. I remember he said that the lightness of touch needed for Ornamental Penmanship was like ‘the kiss of a butterfly’.
He was so proud of his three daughters Nicky, Julie and Sarah and his six grandchildren. He often told me about his trips up to Ripon in the caravan and about restoring his original classic mini.
When I called Brian to tell him that Jim Linwood had died, he was upset – he wrote a piece about Jim for the newsletter which he drafted and redrafted many times until he felt it was right. He was such a perfectionist that even his envelopes for the Exchange were written several times over – he showed me some of his rejects – only he could have detected any faults.
I am grateful to the Walker family for sending information and images to use and to everyone else who felt moved to write about Brian for this special edition newsletter. Not only was Brian a world renowned calligrapher, he was also an artist, magician, cricketer, guitarist, researcher of family history and natural remedies, a poet, a gentle man of fine character and a very proud family man.
I am very grateful to have known him.
Brian made many friends all over the world through his Study Group – he will be sorely missed and remembered with the greatest affection and respect.
Joy Daniels – UK
Brian was my dear friend and mentor since we met through correspondence in 2004. Although I never met him in person, I felt so close to him and was so grateful for his friendship. He would carefully and articulately speak into my work and help direct me to learn how to truly see penmanship. He was patient and kind while still being direct and straight forward with his critiques.
Our conversations were not just about art and penmanship but included family, health, travel all things Harry Potter and the world of nature. He was so very proud of his family and shared many proud moments with me. I looked forward to each email and handwritten letter. My heart is still so heavy with his passing away and I will miss him dearly. Whenever I teach, I share his words of wisdom with my students.
His teaching, his passion, his letter forms and the richness he brought to everyone who knew him will be remembered. Brian, thank you for all that you have shared with me and so many others. I will cherish the memories of our friendship and I miss you so much.
Heather Victoria Held – Canada
It was my distinct privilege to be one of Brian’s postal students. He served as my Spencerian mentor for over a year. His tutoring absolutely changed my life in pointed pen calligraphy.
His critiques were honest and direct, yet gentle. He was a giant in the calligraphy world! His name is well-respected around the world.
Every time he returned my lessons, he always included samples of his beautiful lettering. Those are now safely stored in my Brian Walker scrapbook. Brian’s work was so delicate and expressive and lovely. He continues to be such an inspiration to all of us who knew and loved him.
Ann Cobb – USA
I am so sad to hear the news of Brian Walker passing away.
Unfortunately, I never got the chance to meet Brian in person, but from the conversations I had on the phone and postal correspondence with him. I thought he was a charming, caring gentleman who was very generous with his time and knowledge.
Brian became interested in Spencerian and Ornamental Penmanship around 1997 after glancing through a book on the subject by Michael Sull. A few years later he set up a group after discovering a number of his fellow calligraphers were also interested in this graceful style. So from September 2000 the group would meet in York twice a year to study and share their enthusiasm.
This also led to the idea of starting a newsletter for those who were also interested in the subject but unable to attend these study days. So in September 2004 the first newsletter was published. I always looked forward to each edition which included fascinating articles collated by Brian from Members and Scribes from the UK and all over the world. Sadly the newsletter had to cease due to Brian’s ill health a few years ago…
Brian also made his own ‘Walker’s Copperplate Ink’ which is still a favourite of mine! He originally made it for his own personal use but it became so popular with other calligraphers that he started making it more widely available. It is based on a nineteenth century recipe and blended further for a smooth consistency. It is still available through various providers of calligraphy materials online.
Brian was listed as a ‘Master Penman’ recognised and certified by IAMPETH, an International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting. This accolade was for achieving a distinguished level of excellence in penmanship and the calligraphic arts.
I received a few handwritten letters from Brian over the years and also enjoyed sending him some of mine. He always acknowledged them with encouraging praise and also constructive criticism where it was needed.
I will miss Brian very much…
He was a great influence to me and helped me to enjoy new avenues of calligraphy with his dedicated generosity and time.
Thank you Brian, Rest in Peace.
David Simons – UK
I became acquainted with Brian through the Society for Italic Handwriting and got to know him better when I became interested in Spencerian around the year 2000. At the time, he was trying to interest calligraphy enthusiasts outside the US (especially the UK) in the hand, and I was privileged to attend two of his Spencerian Study Days and to stay at his home in Yorkshire.
Although Brian had been learning the hand for only about three years then, his Spencerian was — like his Italic calligraphy and handwriting, and his miniature paintings — captivatingly beautiful and elegant. Twenty years on, I still think his Spencerian hand is unsurpassed amongst modern practitioners. He was that rare calligrapher who could work magic with both the broad pen and the pointed pen; yet he was modest about his abilities and extremely generous with his knowledge, resources, time and friendship. He touched the hearts and minds of many in the calligraphy community, and will forever be deeply missed and fondly remembered.
Ludwig Tan – Singapore
In 2001, ‘Scribblers’ were doing a special offer of a bottle of Walker’s Copperplate Ink along with a personal message by Brian written in Spencerian Ornamental Penmanship. When I received this, I was transfixed! I thought this it was the most beautiful writing I had ever seen and knew I had to try it for myself. Since then, Brian kept in touch and was always so kind and encouraging. His newsletters opened up a world of study for me beyond the Broad edge and Copperplate scripts that I was familiar with. Five years ago, at the CLAS AGM, I was delighted and honoured to finally meet Brian – he was full of warmth and humour and I’m so grateful that we got to chat face to face.
How lucky I am to have a file filled with his letters and envelopes – these I will always treasure.
Thank you Brian
Lindsay Munro – UK
I met Brian Walker through our mutual involvement with the pointed pen scripts, Copperplate and Ornamental Penmanship. Brian was equally adept with both broad and pointed pens. He contributed to the resurgence of Copperplate (Round hand) script in the UK. In addition, he introduced and was a great pioneer for Ornamental Penmanship in the UK. Brian possessed a remarkable ability with the pen. This would be confirmed by his 2003 induction as a Master Penman in The International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH).
He was sought out as a teacher/mentor by many pointed pen devotees on both sides of the pond. Not many people know that Brian was the person responsible for the development of the popular Leonardt Principal steel pointed nib.
His Walker’s Copperplate Ink is a favourite of many pointed pen aficionados.
I will miss my friend and always remember his significant contributions to the calligraphic art form.
Dr Joseph M. Vitolo – USA
I think I was very privileged to call Brian my friend.
It was Brian who first introduced me to the Copperplate Script – although his main love of course was the Spencerian Script. I had chosen Copperplate after seeing this beautiful script in a ledger when I was asked to audit the local cricket club’s books, and I was eager to learn the skill needed to produce it.
He invited me into his home when I needed some decent ink to use for my Copperplate entry to gain the Certificate of Calligraphy from CLAS. He had encouraged our local calligraphy group to enter for the certificate when he volunteered to mentor us all after the untimely death of our Tutor. Not everyone chose Copperplate though.
Brian always had a welcome cup of tea for all his guests and he was eager to show me whatever he was working on at the time. His pieces of work were all beautifully mounted and wrapped in tissue paper. The work he produced was beyond compare but he would never contemplate selling even one of them to anyone – he told me they were for his family. He was very proud of his family and talked about them all the time.
He would give samples of nibs and paper and share his expertise, whenever he could. Any problems we had we could depend on Brian to come to the rescue – how do I mix this ink, gouache, powder etc. and what medium or paper do I need to get this right? I have lost count of how many hints and tips he gave out.
A phone call or an email to let us know when he had made a batch of his Walker’s Copperplate Ink and had some spares available, was all it took to have us at his door.
What a lovely, friendly, helpful, wonderful and talented calligrapher and artist he was. He will be very sadly missed by his many friends all over the world and especially by Pontefract Calligraphers.
Barbara Barnett – UK
I first met Brian at an exhibition of my watercolour paintings in the Art of Oak Gallery, Wakefield in 1990. He was looking at my exhibition poster, which I had designed and hand-lettered. He tactfully suggested I might like to join Calligraphy North – a calligraphy group in Sheffield (of which he was Chairman), that he had set up in 1984, initially with just seven people but which grew to a membership of over fifty. I took up the offer and attended for a few years studying under the guidance of tutor Renée Freeman, who taught the beginners’/improvers’ group, whilst Brian taught the intermediate / advanced students. I remember on one occasion glancing over to notice Brian’s group of students eagerly huddled around him as he demonstrated gilding – he was an excellent gilder!
He had been a member of The Society for Italic Handwriting (SIH) since 1955, when the subscription was only 5 shillings per year! In 1972, he won the annual SIH competition.
In the same year Brian joined the Society of Scribes and Illuminators and was elected an Associate Member in 1987. Brian gained Fellowship in 1989 following completion of the Associate Scheme. In 1994, he became a founding Fellow (and later Honoured Fellow) of The Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society (CLAS), serving as: a member of the CLAS Diploma Assessors’ Team; CLAS Regional Liaison Officer and Joint Assessor (with Dr Martin Wenham) for the Accredited Tutor Scheme.
Brian was a great support to the late Margaret Kendall as she founded Pontefract Calligraphers. He tutored the Group at times, gave talks and demonstrations. He acted as mentor offering help and advice over the years.
Although initially interested in edged pen calligraphy, particularly Italic handwriting, with which he excelled, Brian would go on to develop a passion for pointed pen lettering, and was one of the first members of Jim Linwood’s Copperplate Special Interest Group in 1995.
In recent years, Brian became consumed by Spencerian Script, in which he also excelled. He, together with the late Rita Blood, organised the first Spencerian Study Day (held in York on 16 September 2000) – a Workshop devoted to learning Spencerian Script. The Study Day became a biannual event taught by Brian up to the year 2011, thereafter, it became a postal study group until 2015. To reach a wider audience Brian started a newsletter called The Spencerian Review, which had a readership distributed throughout the world.
Brian became the very first truly international member of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting (IAMPETH) in 2003. His Spencerian Script was held in very high regard, leading to claims by some that he was the best living (pointed) penman in the world, to which his self-effacing response was ‘It’s a very big world’.
Brian preferred using Iron Gall ink for Spencerian Script as it produces finer hairlines, He produced his own Iron Gall ink in 1998, using a 16th century recipe. He continued to tweak his ink and eventually was to sell it commercially, calling it Walker’s Copperplate Ink – it received worldwide acclaim.
Few penmen today can say that they have been responsible for the production of a new style pen nib. However, Brian can! He persuaded D. Leonardt & Co (Manuscript Pens) to produce a quality pointed pen nib which was called the Leonardt EF Principal nib (The nib was intended to match the legendary Gillott Principality which is no longer made). The Leonardt EF Principal nib became commercially available in 2005. He went on to commission Leonardt to produce an imprint of this, imprinted with the words ‘Walker Fine Writer’ together with his ‘W’ logo in Spencerian.
On a personal note Brian helped me with my own calligraphy studies, particularly with my preparations for the CLAS Diploma in Calligraphy. He kindly provided a reference which enabled me to become a Reader of the British Library so that I could study selected original historical manuscripts. He also helped me with my preparations for CLAS Tutor Accreditation. He was more than willing to loan out his calligraphy books and was generous with his time in providing personal tuition when I, and others, visited him.
I was not able to attend Brian’s first CLAS Festival course in Design in Repton in 1995, but was fortunate enough to attend his excellent Design course at the CLAS Festival of Calligraphy in 2001.
Brian was an avid letter writer, communicating with numerous people worldwide using his cursive italic hand, and his beloved Spencerian Script in later years. Examples of his writing and lettering have pride of place in people’s calligraphy collections throughout the world, including my own.
Brian greatly enriched the calligraphic world and was loved by many. He will be sadly missed.
David Price – UK
I was introduced to Brian Walker through another calligrapher Janine Mitchell. Learning Copperplate at the time Janine recommended Brian for my venture into Spencerian. I started subscribing to the Newsletter and looked forward to receiving it with all the examples and titbits of information. In 2000, I travelled to the UK and was lucky enough to attend a Spencerian workshop with Brian for a day. The next time I met up with Brian was at a CLAS demonstration in 2005. After that when I visited the UK we would catch up. Conveniently for me Brian had a holiday unit in Ripon and so it was easy to travel across from my family in Richmond to visit for the day. Brian was always so generous with his time and always happy to show what he was working on at the time. Unfortunately, our paths didn’t cross the last time I was in the UK in 2018. Brian Walker was known around the globe and will be sadly missed by the Calligraphy world.
Margaret Burgess – Australia
Where do you start paying tribute to a man who brought so much knowledge, joy, direction and purpose into your life? A man you could call and he would always sit there and laugh with you but also fill your head with information on accurate letterforms and building your approach to accuracy.
I first encountered Brain Walker when I was just starting to teach myself Off Hand Flourishing. The structure of the swelled strokes in the flourishes kept evading me and so I turned to Spencerian Script to gain a deeper understanding of what I was missing. I can assure you, I still kept missing it. Fortunately, Brian had already set up the Spencerian Study Group, so off I went, 5am wake up to get the train to York to seek help.
It was like meeting an old friend, we laughed and talked about the script, he sat me in the corner and took out all his exemplars, people started to arrive, it soon became apparent they were all friends and the script was like the glue which bound them together.
Brian sat with me and showed me one little trick and the whole thing consolidated. He left me alone for an hour and came back and laughed, that beautiful genuine laugh, because that one little trick had solidified a year of practise. I just wanted to hug him. I kept saying ‘thank you, thank you’ and just kept laughing.
His newsletters were a joy, but it was the envelopes which he took such care to write which were the focus as they were always a point of study, and to this day still are.
My last foray into Spencerian was 2 years ago when he told me to go back to the simplified version, we spent an hour on the phone talking about it. As I plan to revisit the script, I sit here, a little lost that I cannot call him, laugh, and get on with the writing, but I feel him here with me as his letters and envelopes are a constant reminder of his presence in my life.
Paul Antonio – UK
Brian first taught me Foundation Hand many years ago when for a period of time he was our tutor at Pontefract Calligraphers. He taught me many other lettering styles, always patient but demanding of high quality work. When he was setting up the Spencerian Study Group he asked if I would join and I attended the group until it closed. Brian worked very hard to try to teach me the intricate skills of the Spencerian Script but all I ever managed to do was a passable Business Hand. He never gave up on me and constantly encouraged me to do my very best.
He was an inspirational teacher who I greatly admired. He was generous with his time, knowledge, materials and ideas; someone to turn to when you needed help and or advice. He never settled for less than your best. I miss my chats with him on the phone and also the times he called round to share some information or to show a piece of writing he had been working on.
A very talented person who gave such a lot to his students and who is sadly missed.
Jane Price – UK
Mr Walker was my teacher at Milefield many years ago and taught me all I know about italic writing. I remember him being very patient, even when the ink changing became messy!! He made a lasting impression on me and I followed in his footsteps becoming a primary school teacher then Assistant Head with responsibility for Literacy and yes Handwriting!! I hope many more people share their memories with you.
Melanie Morrell – UK
I am delighted beyond words at the launch of this beautiful website honouring our great and wonderful mentor, teacher and friend, Mr Brian Walker. It wasn’t too long ago that I joined the Spencerian Study Group of England, a group headed by Brian, and it was from this point that he became more than just a teacher, but a good friend.
He was encouraging, dedicated, inspiring and greatly skilled with a pen, pencil and brush. He shared everything about art, lettering and life, and encouraged me to aim a little higher each time I accepted an assignment.
I took every challenge seriously and mixed in with serious learning was his wonderful sense of humour and his dedication to his family. We exchanged emails along with homework, assignments and critiques enclosed, and Brian never missed an opportunity to practice his Italian each time. His Italian was very sharp and very important to him since one of his daughters and his grandchildren live in Italy. He also had me working quite hard at polishing my own first language Italian skills. I hold very special, fond memories of this important chapter in my life and of my penmanship journey with Brian and I am elated to see this wonderful tribute to a magnificent and champion Master Penman – Mr Brian Walker. Your beautiful spirit and enthusiastic dedication to elegant script has affected me deeply and lives on in many of us, your students. Thank you, Brian.
Phyllis Macaluso – Canada
Unfortunately I never met Brian but feel that I’ve known him for a long time. I was a member of his Spencerian Study Group and during that time received pieces of correspondence which I now treasure and of course study. I also had another link with Brian and that was through Magic. I have never been a member of the Magic Circle but have been a member and Past President of the Aberdeen Magical Society.
I am so glad that this web site has been set up, it will keep Spencerian and other forms of writing to the forefront and keep the memory of Brian G. Walker alive.
Ron Gordon – UK
Hi I soo love seeing Brians work again and reading his Biography the tribute video is beautiful. I had the privileged opportunity to attend his workshops at Northwest Calligraphers. It was fascinating to see Brian at work. It was unreal to watch how he moved that pen and his ink is invaluable! Brian was a very inspiring man and and achieved so much in his life. He touched sooo many people with his amazing skills. He was a ‘no fuss’ gentleman and a natural with every stroke of his pen. He is truly missed. Thank you for sharing his life with us.
Annette Bailey – UK
It was Brian Walker who helped set me on my journey of calligraphy when I came to the UK in 1996 and met him at a InkArts (or somesuch) exhibition I accidentally stumbled on to in York. A couple of years later I was running the Copperplate Special Interest Group (postal interest subscribers group) and took several workshops with him in York. He was so kind and generous and sent me loads of Spencerian exemplars as he was getting very much into Spencerian and finally began his own group. I haven’t forgotten his excitement as he told me over the phone of his progress with developing the new nib and sent me prototypes, which I still have. His letters in beautiful Spencerian are among my saved treasures. I shall remember him always and am thankful for his influence.
Dawn Fetterman – UK
If you corresponded with or were mentored by Brian Walker, or if you would like to comment on his work or post a written tribute on the site, please get in touch. The Walker Family would love to hear from you.