Thursday, February 11, 2016

Signs of Life


I love hand-lettered signs.  Here is one of my new favorites, glimpsed in Tucson, Arizona.  It's an eye-catching sign for the Set Free Church, which has been helping addicts for some 15 years.  

The calligraphy just couldn't be better.  It's strong, appealing, and clear, and it shows great focus and ingenuity.  The artist has good visual instincts and an evident love of the project.  
 I'll try to get another photograph that shows the sign in its surrounding neighborhood.  I got these shots by making my family pull over out of 6-lane traffic and wait while I clung to the fence as close as I could get. 

Here's a close-up, about 8 x 3 feet.  I love the decisions the painter made to use thick horizontals for all those E s but then thick verticals for the H, as well as rotating the brush to keep the curves thick throughout.  You can see the transition to lower-case letters after that H.    

American calligraphers have more authentic sources for their letters than simply copying classical styles from Europe. Artist Ben Shahn, an Lithuania-born lithographer trained in Roman and Hebrew calligraphy, drew America's attention in the 1930s to the treasures he called "letters by the side of the road".  He designed many prints, posters, and works of graphic art using vernacular letters of his adopted country, and influenced a generation of graphic artists to get inspiration on their roots. 

Grassroots lettering is a rich source of new ideas, and a window into our national identity.   Keep your eyes open to notice and appreciate these gems of originality.  

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