When Timothy Botts went off to college, he knew he was an artist, but he wasn’t sure what type of artist he wanted to be.
One of the required courses Botts took focused on calligraphy, and although he didn’t know what that was at the time, he soon found it was what he wanted to do with his life.
“I already was one who loved words and loved art, and it brought the words and the art together in one medium for me,” Botts said.
Now, after 40 years of designing books, teaching, leading workshops and having his work published, Botts’ calligraphy will be on display locally at an exhibit at Windsor Park, a retirement community in Carol Stream.
The exhibit will include pieces from his latest book, “Bound for Glory,” published in 2011.
The book brings to life the words of African-American spirituals and is especially close to his heart, inspired by the songs he sang as a child in choir and his desire to celebrate the background of some of his grandchildren.
“I often call them ‘miracle songs’ because here were these people who were enslaved, and yet they were able to produce these songs of hope in the midst of all that,” he said.
Botts spent eight years on the book’s 52 pieces, the most time he’s ever spent producing a book.
Some original works will be on display at the exhibit at Windsor Park in picture frames created by Botts’ son, who made them from wood salvaged from old homes in the St. Louis area.
The exhibit was brought to Windsor Park by the Windsor Park Center for Lifelong Learning, a resident-led initiative that focuses on providing opportunities for growth, continued learning and engagement in life, said Jim Steere, Windsor’s director of community services.
“It’s a different form of art than we’re used to seeing,” Steere said. “It’s not pictures; it’s words.”
The group has arranged events since it was started two years ago, including speakers and musical performances, as well as other art exhibits.
Botts’ work will be on display through Aug. 1. The public is welcome to visit daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to view the gallery.
During his career at Tyndale Publishing in Carol Stream, Botts designed more than 600 books before he retired as senior art director in 2012. He continues to teach calligraphy as a part-time instructor at College of DuPage and speaks at national and international workshops on the art form.
Botts’ work has been published in 10 books.
When Botts begins to work on a new piece, he puts his initial ideas onto paper with markers or colored pencils. He tries to match the mood of the words with a color and style of lettering.
In “Bound for Glory,” some of his artwork was inspired by graffiti – something he admits to admiring on train cars – and famous quilts made by the women of Gee’s Bend, Ala.
Ultimately, Botts hopes people will take away something positive from his work.
“I’m aware that even today in our country, there’s still a lot of racial tension,” Botts said. “I just hope that this book will be an instrument of healing and unity among us.”