X is the Loneliest Letter

Last week I showed some work I was doing in a decorative letter class I am taking through the Smithsonian Associates. You can see that post here.

The letter for this week is: X. Poor X. Very few people try to get an X in scrabble. And when they do, the letter is relegated to the obvious ‘X ray‘ or ‘Extra‘. Even the more lofty “Extravagant” does not always have a very good connotation. Not much creative happens with an X. And then it has a bad reputation on top of it all : X rated. Brand X. So why not give X some well deserved attention. So below I present…. The Letter X

Decorative Lettering

Writing and enjoying letters, as in the actual alphabet, has an appeal to many people. This manifests itself by our interest in calligraphy, our amazement regarding illuminated manuscript letters, and even our attachment to those iconic typefaces we have come to know such as the ones in Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker (plus whatever your regional newspaper uses in its masthead). When I was the director of an historic arts club in Philadelphia, I would listen to retired advertising executives and art directors discuss typefaces on a regular basis, not to mention at great length. One of these men said you could spot how old any advertisement is simply by looking at the typeface. He was right.

So when I saw a class for decorative lettering in watercolor through the Smithsonian, I decided ‘ why not’? Now the two key things about this class is its emphasis on using watercolor and another emphasis on use of botanical motifs. While I am not against using watercolor, I like to use it as one medium among a number of others (I am also a pen fanatic). As far as botanical motifs, well, I work in an herbarium so while I have nothing against botanicals, I would also like to explore other motifs. So below are my first three designs.

For the one above (the ‘R’) I went with a medieval motif complete with sword and dragon/reptile like skin textures. For the letter below (the ‘E’), I utilized close hatch marks that was something emphasized at another workshop I attended a few weeks ago. Finally, for the last image, I broke down and used only watercolor and stuck to a botanical theme.

Portrait of Claudia

This is a portrait I did of my friend Claudia. It looks absolutely nothing like her. Claudia does not clad herself in Jarlsberg cheese wrappers, or any cheese wrappers for that matter. I am not even sure if Claudia likes cheese, but then again, who doesn’t like cheese???? Odder than the dress I choose for Claudia is the head. When I saw this telephone dial from an ad in an ancient newspaper, I immediately thought of Claudia. Well, you may think, maybe this Claudia person likes to talk on the phone. Wrong again. Claudia hates to talk on the phone. About the only thing that slightly relates to my friend in this portrait are the colors, which are among those she often uses in her own artwork, and the technique for applying the colors. The technique for applying the colors is from a workshop we both participated in last Friday at the National Gallery of Art’s Virtual Studio series. So I can safely say that Claudia, at least last Friday, used this technique of applying color to paper.

Continuing the Paper Quilt Sketchbook Series

I have been engaged in a sketchbook practice making paper quilt collages that were inspired by the Gees Bend Quilters. This came about after attending a workshop through the National Gallery of Art’s Virtual Studio program. The initial post for this project can be found here. In addition to making the paper quilt collages, I decided to take the practice a bit further by drawing the collages on the blank pages adjacent to the collages (you can read about that here). Since my last post, where I talked about source materials, I made 5 more collages & drawings. I will be sharing them in this post with a bit of reflection on my process.

For these first two collages, I used images from a magazine (I recall a lot of train cars) and some product information from some paper I purchased. The collages of each of these are below.

Below I will show you each collage with it’s drawing companion. I really wanted to capture the feel of the writing from the first collage and for the second piece I was captivated by the repetitive circular shapes. The drawings are on the left, the collages are on the right. You can click on either image to enlarge them.

After completing these, I started to think that I wanted to simplify a bit more. One of the main reasons I was inspired by the Gees Bend Quilts was their simplicity of materials. Since I am becoming more and more, lately, about minimalism in my artwork, I had that idea in mind when making the next three collages. But all my papers sort of screamed color and shape! Enter the wrapping to a bar of Kirk’s Castile Soap and the AHA! moment arrived. This was followed by some additional finds of very basic papers around my studio.

And here they are below with their companion drawings. I think these were the most challenging to draw. No wild colors or concrete shapes to mimic. As above, drawings on left, collages on right and they also can be enlarged by clicking the individual image.

Thanks for taking this journey with me. I will continue with this project until my little 4″ x 6″ book is filled. But I will probably wait until I am finished and then post my favorites.