Friday, February 19, 2016

Southwestern Calligraphy, part 2

Although North American Indians did not make use of phonetic alphabets (until the Cherokee created one around 1815), almost every tribe offered distinctive art, which calligraphers have made use of.  
While Spanish, Mexican, and cowboy styles have influenced regional versions of the ABCs, the local Indians of the Southwest contributed a wealth of their decorative motifs, distinctive symbols, and religion.  Settled rather than nomadic, the style of their many artifacts flavors the region's distinctive lettering styles. To give the alphabet Indian flavor, letter artists can include stair-steps, parallel bands, so-called squash blossoms, and a philosophy of universal wholeness.  
Motifs, materials, and colors.  
In addition to borrowing visual forms from each other, Indians and later settlers also shared the same color palette of available earth pigments, colored sands, plant dyes, and turquoise.  While Indians originally painted on oyster shell, mother of pearl, abalone, conch and clam shells by using sticks, fingers, and bones, new materials inspired them to work in paper, hide, and silver, with more sophisticated tools.   Any these elements can contribute to making basic letters feel Southwestern. 

How to add Indian flavor to
Roman letters using simple squares. 

How to add Indian flavor to 
Roman letters using simple dashes. 

This 20th century German style actually adapts well to a Southwestern aesthetic.  All three styles come from Calligraphy Alphabets Made Easy, and are adaptable to many kinds of designs.  (The little pointing hand means that this alphabet is friendly to left-handers.)  
Unique in its own right, Indian art also gives Southwestern calligraphy some of its regional identity.  It is a resource for all American artists, of such importance that its integrity is protected by a special act of Congress  

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