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  • Writer's pictureSeb Lester

'When You Are Sorrowful' - A Print Exploring Love & Loss

Updated: Apr 6, 2023

My father passed away last year; it was one of the saddest events of my life. Dad was a clever, talented and complex man. I take great comfort in having been able to spend time with him in the weeks before he died. We spoke about family, friends, and life and made each other laugh. Light in the darkness. I thanked him for everything and told him that I loved him. Ultimately, that was everything that needed to be said.

I knew that I wanted to produce something to commemorate dad's life. However, I realised that the project would also be a cathartic process for me, a way to process the finality of his death whilst also expressing love and gratitude towards him. The creative process is the purest expression of love for many of us; it makes sense that it can provide strength and comfort; it has helped me through several challenging periods in life, giving me consolation and escape when I needed it most.

Dad loved poetry, so finding a poem to work with seemed fitting. Moreover, calligraphy and poetry can work beautifully together; letterforms can engage us by illustrating and accentuating the meaning of words. So I asked my followers for poetry suggestions exploring love, loss, sorrow and beauty.

I had some incredible tips, but a chance email from Nadine Chahine was to provide the answer. I mentioned my father had passed away, and she expressed her condolences and said that when her father passed away in 2019, a friend shared part of a poem by Khalil Gibran: "When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight." The quote is from 'The Prophet', one of the World's best-selling books. I'm not sure why; maybe it was the timing and how Nadine shared it with me, or perhaps the words were simply that powerful, but I knew I wanted to produce something with them. And in doing so, I share them with others as they had been shared with me, hoping they, too, find comfort and meaning in them.

Notes on design & production:

I always start with a sketchbook for prints; I tried various calligraphic compositions from a design point of view but settled on simple letterforms based on my italic hand, set in an oval frame of flourishing. The piece looks like I could have inscribed it in stone, which seems appropriate. The flourishing itself is relatively simple by my standards, flowing, graceful, contemporary, fresh and yet respectful of the wisdom of the past.

I'm particularly pleased with the production methods employed. 'When You Are Sorrowful' is my first die-stamped edition mini-print. Die-stamping is a form of intaglio printing which dates back to the late 16th century. The process involves engraving the design onto a copper or steel plate. It's the traditional printing method for prestigious items like Royal Wedding Invitations and Funerals and the Coats of Arms emblazoned on the letterheads and stationery of eminent figures and distinguished institutions. The print is small, measuring 173 mm X 143 mm (approximately 6.8 X 5.6 inches), the ink is a beautiful deep, rich, warm satin gold, and the edition is printed on thick 540gsm Colourplan art paper. 'When You Are Sorrowful' is an initialled and numbered edition of 200, 100 on black paper and 100 on white paper. Given the nature of the edition, I have tried to make it as affordable as possible at an introductory price of £21, plus postage and packaging.

***The print ships worldwide on Monday, 3rd April.***

This print sold out in a few hours; thanks to everyone who bought one. I had some incredibly poignant messages about this project, and many were disappointed that they didn't manage to get one.

Update: I will release another colourway, Gold Ink on Midnight Blue Paper, and it will be available in my shop on Friday, 7th April 2023, at 4 pm GMT (12:00 noon EST, 9:00 am PT)

The poem is out of copyright in the UK, EU, North America, and many other parts of the World. However, as a token of my appreciation and respect, I donated to The Gibran National Committee (GNC) in Bsharri, Lebanon, which manages Gibran's estate and biographical museum.


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