Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
My name is Michel D’anastasio. I have been a calligraphy artist for the past 30 years and live in Paris. I exhibit in Japan, Israel, India, Russia, the United States, and in Canada. I teach Modern Hebrew typography as well.
Everything started in 1989: I am self-taught; that year I have received a calligraphy set for my birthday with a fountain pen and calligraphy instructions in it. And the magic began.
Important meetings followed, such as with French Associations of Calligraphy through which I was introduced to Chinese and Japanese calligraphy, as well as French grand masters like Claude Médiavilla, Jean Larcher, Kitty Sabatier, … .
I firmly believed that I had to be persistent and find the will to advance by myself, in particular by setting up my own method of calligraphy for left-handed people because everything about this subject has been created for right-handed ones. I then practiced for two hours a day over three years.
In 1993, I attended a summer workshop of modern gestural calligraphy with Bernard Arin. This step was significant as well, as it made me decide to obtain a diploma as a layout artist from the École Estienne in Paris. This training complimented the previous graphic work I have done in adding notions of creations. It was also a place of discovery: of the character, compositions, and typography rules.
Second important encounter: the “l’Aractère” association. In an incessant quest for new techniques, and with the help of my teacher Kitty Sabatier, I developed a technique for left-handed people. Subsequently, I never stopped looking for new tools to widen the field of investigation of my creations. Gradually, I used new instruments: the Coca-pen (a feather formed from a can of Coca-Cola), pigments, gauze, sand, plaster, and gold leaf … Each of the opening up so many new horizons and allowing me to enrich my creations.
In 2004, I took advantage of a trip to Malta, when my ancestors’ country was celebrating its entry into the European Union, to carry our genealogical research. My research revealed that part of my family is of Jewish origin.
So, I decided to go to Israel a few months later. I immediately felt and attraction for the Hebrew culture. The Hebrew alphabet fascinated me in particular. Upon my return to Paris, I began to study by myself, diligently, for several hours a week … The letters are wonderful to work with and I feel the artistic emotions of my beginnings. A new world opened up to me, with a new palette of shapes and signs.
It’s the handwritten letter that I explore. It is more alive, freer, and more modern. The initial admiration changed into a fierce will: to master the contours of the Hebrew alphabet, to modernise it in a way I like it, as I had done before the Latin alphabet. At that time, I decided to take Hebrew lessons to feel more deeply the meaning of the nascent sign under my fingers.
The work diversifies quickly; I use new techniques to highlight my works. The photographs of calligraphic letters and decorative objects are a big success.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve become an artist to freely express what is inside of me, thanks to the letters of the alphabet, which I share through my calligraphy work.
What is your specialty?
My specialty is Hebrew Calligraphy – in classical, modern, or abstract forms, while also creating modern calligraphy pieces using Latin letters, sometimes in forms that are more abstract.
How and where do you work?
I work in my studio, in the centre of Paris. Sometimes, I create when I’m out of the studio, while running workshops. I am able to produce new creations and new trends when I am outside of my studio: it allows me to open myself to other creative fields. But, as a rule, all my research is done in my studio.
To have a better overview, all my research files, as is my artwork, is arranged and classified by topic. This allows me to easily find my calligraphy and see its evolution.
What is the most indispensable item in your studio?
There are several things. Fundamental elements such as daylight. I was able to place my desk next to the window of the studio. It’s essential. I also always arrange inks in advance to always have them on hand, together with a stock of high quality cotton paper in larger sizes.
Where do you take your inspiration? Are you pursuing any themes?
I find my inspiration in the Torah. It is inexhaustible! I need to feel the verses as close as possible. I also often feel the need to obtain the commentaries or videos, which can be found on the internet, thanks to rabbis and specialists who share their ideas and knowledge.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I’m working on several artistic projects, but especially and upcoming, collective, exhibition under the theme of sacred texts. It will be in France. I will give public demonstrations and lectures on the art of Hebrew Calligraphy and the history of the Hebrew alphabet.
What are your favourite items in your current collection?
At the moment; I have developed a new collection where I have been able to create a harmony of cursive squared letters, using a fountain pen and a brush. You let the colours blend by passing the fountain pen on the brush stroke. I also created a personal ink with bronze pigments. I’ve also created a collection which I particularly like. I worked large superimposed letters with a spatula: the transparency of the letters brings lightness and freshness to the composition.
How do you know when a piece is finished?
It is very hard to say but as a rule, I let it dry and then I look at it the next day. Only then, I decide to stop or to continue according to the desired effect.
Do you do bespoke work?
Yes, of course. That’s about 50% of my work. My clients want to have a biblical text, a word, or a personalised first name. I show them my entire collections to choose a style, the colour of the background and the letters, as well as the type of composition.
What was the first artwork you ever sold?
My first piece of calligraphy was bought by a pharmacist. This person really believed in me. I created for her a text from the hymns of hymns:
“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine.”
This person is now a friend. On each occasion when she needs a present, she comes back to me and chooses one of my calligraphy pieces.
Which project have you enjoyed working on the most so far?
In general, all my projects delight me. They bring me a lot of pleasure and I give each of them the uttermost importance.
What do you want to achieve with your work and what are your wishes for the future?
I would like to introduce the Jewish people to the modern art of Hebrew letters throughout the world. Showing that letters convey a message and a meaning in their shape.
For the future, why not an exhibition of my works at the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem? Or, a projection on the Kotel or on the rampant of the holy city!
Anyway, I will continue to seek, create, exhibit, share, and teach this art of Hebrew letters that are my life.
Where can we find your work?
You can find my work:
On my website: www.script-sign.com