In the hands of calligrapher Georgina Artigas Rodriguez, delicate writing instruments seemed to come alive.
“When she worked, she had a rhythm and felt like she was dancing with the pen,” said Brenda Zoby, a longtime friend and fellow South Florida Calligraphy Guild member who edited the book, A Passion for the Pen: The Art of Georgina Artigas.
Artigas, of Miami, was born in Cuba on Oct. 3, 1918. She died on Aug. 16, 10 days after suffering a stroke, at 93.
Her artistic lettering graced diplomas, awards, citations, greeting cards, advertisements, invitations and illuminated retirement scrolls on calfskin vellum. Among her clients: the Pulitzer Prize board, the Columbia University Board of Trustees, the American Museum of Natural History, New York Telephone, Bacardi International, Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York Life Insurance Company, and Vizcaya.
“Her passion for calligraphy was why she continued to work. It was her life and what she lived for,” said Liana Tidwell, Artigas’ daughter.
She expected her work, done in Chinese ink sticks and distilled water, to last 500 years.
In the mid 1930s, Artigas received a degree at Havana’s Professional School of Commerce after studying calligraphy and American cursive handwriting. Through a correspondence program, she earned an advanced certificate in handwriting from the Zanerian College of Penmanship in Ohio.
In Cuba, Artigas and her husband, Celestino Rodriguez, made diplomas and certificates. Artigas studied with master calligrapher Manuel Lorenzo and became proficient in ornamental writing and sketching in pastels. Along with her calligraphy, Artigas was known for her intricate text illuminations in gold, featuring vines, flowers and leaves.
The family left Cuba in 1963, settling in New York. She worked in the scroll department at the Ames & Rollinson scroll studio for 10 years, after which the family moved to Miami. Artigas established a studio, and in 1981 co-founded the South Florida Calligraphy Guild. She created the group’s logo.
“Georgina was extremely good. She was one of the masters,’’ said Eleanor Winters, who used some of Artigas’s copperplate pieces for her book, Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy: A Step-by-Step Manual.
“She was very pristine and meticulous in her style,” said Winters, who publishes the Calligraphers Engagement Calendar, to which Artigas contributed for 14 years.
Artigas also contributed reproductions of her work, layouts and color copies to the Richard Harrison Collection of Calligraphy and Lettering at the San Francisco Public Library, one of the largest collections of calligraphy in the United States.
In addition to her daughter, Artigas is survived by her son, Jorge Rodriguez, of West Miami. Celestino Rodriguez died in 1998.
Services for Artigas were held. The family suggests memorial donations to the South Florida Calligraphy Guild, southfloridacalligraphyguild.org.