Men of Letters

Jan 28, 2020
Men of Letters is a joint retrospective celebrating the lives and work of late lettering artists Tony Forster (1941–2008) and Phill Grimshaw (1950–1998). 

Tony's son, Dan Forster, has spent years uncovering and documenting a lifetime’s output of work, which has remained largely unseen. Through the Men of Letters Exhibition, the work and legacy of these two incredible lettering artists will be shared with the wider world.

The Life of Tony Forster

Tony Forster was a self-taught lettering artist and calligrapher based in Manchester, UK. His love affair with the written word spanned 50-years. His career encompassed senior positions at major agencies, freelance work and many teaching posts. 

‘Beeta’ — logotype for Beeta Boutique.

Tony was a master of letters, whether rendering a single letter, a word or phrase, he could complete a piece of work with ultimate precision and technical skill, or work spontaneously—he had been known to use beetroot juice and a lollypop stick for a piece of calligraphy.

‘Funky Dreams’.

Although modest, his work was widely recognised throughout his career—he won over 25 International Design Awards. His work can be found in numerous publications including Type Directors Club and Communication Arts annuals, Trademarks and Symbols of the World, Novum, Graphics World and many others.

‘Othello’ — Lettering for a theatre production.

The life of Phill Grimshaw

“If you enjoy what you do and you’re lucky enough to be good at it, just do it for that reason”. 

This was the life-long philosophy of Phill Grimshaw, lettering artist, type designer, mandolin player, water-colourist, and man-about-the-north (of England). Throughout his career, Phill created over 44 typefaces for ITC and Letraset. He was described by Colin Brignall as a “one of the best display typeface designers of recent times.”

‘Happy Solstice’ — Greetings card.

Tony was Phill’s friend and former tutor at Bolton College of the Arts. He suggested Phill send out his work first to the Royal College of Art in London (then later on to Brignall). The college was so stunned at the quality of Phill’s work that they asked who he wanted as his tutor. His own claim to fame from his time at the RCA was that he once shared a sink (though not simultaneously) with David Hockney.

One of two calligraphic pieces created after attending workshops by Werner Schneider and Villu Toots.

Phill also pursued a love of calligraphy. Because of his enthusiasm for both areas of letterform creation, his typographic work was influenced by calligraphy and vice-versa, and he himself was influenced and encouraged by experienced practitioners in both fields.

‘Alphabet’ — Drawn for Letter Exchange Northwest 1988.

Men of Letters Exhibition

The families of Tony and Phill have undertaken the overwhelming task to uncover, document, photograph, scan, and categorise a lifetime’s output of work of the artists to share with the lettering world. The exhibition is being mounted in collaboration with The University of Bolton, Bolton School Of The Arts, Anthony Roocroft, The Museum of Bolton, Penny Ogden-Grimshaw and Dan Forster. 

The exhibition will run from the 8th of February to the 8th of March at the Bolton Museum, Le Mans Crescent, Bolton BL1 1SE. Admission is free and the opening hours are from 9am–5pm every day except Wednesday which is 9:30am–5pm, and Sunday 10am–4pm.

There will be a large space showcasing Tony and Phill’s work—including sketches, sketchbooks, mock-ups, final artworks, original calligraphy pieces, typeface designs and original posters. There will also be a 'memory wall' where they will be collecting any tales or anecdotes that visitors wish to share about Tony or Phill.

An ongoing archive of Tony and Phill’s work

Beyond the exhibition, Dan Forster is sharing their work online. Dan is doing a fantastic job sharing not only the work but the stories, materials and process behind it. We highly recommend checking out the accounts: Men of Letters @_men_of_letters, Tony Forster @TonyForster_Lettering, Phill Grimshaw @PhillGrimshaw_Lettering.


 Discover simple, actionable techniques to improve your lettering skills from the January Typism Skills Summit.

Get lifetime access to replays of 20+ lettering workshops from the recent Typism Skills Summit and download bonus gifts from the speakers worth over $300


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