How did you get started in typography?
Whenever I’m asked to make a poster, I don’t just like to write it, I like to make it fancy. And, I’m always doodling on my papers. Something I really like are the little reminders you can give yourself during the day and so this was just kind of another way to incorporate art. I don’t see letters as just something that forms words, I see letters as pieces of art because they’re shaped a certain way. I don’t see them just as making up words. The more I practice and the more I draw, the more I realize how much it takes to make one letter perfect rather than just making huge sentences, you really focus on detail.
Take me through the process of creating a typography piece.
I originally start out just writing the quote to see what letters are included, how long it is. Just not even any form at all, I just draw a little square the size of a page and just arrange the letters how I would want. The next step, I do that another time, playing with sizes. And these are all small scale, not full page. I’ll just kind of get the composition I want or if I have a banner I can kind of start to see that so I do a lot of rough sketches and just normal handwriting. And then after I see those and I look at that as it progresses, I see where maybe some words should be bold or where some should cursive. A lot of the time I use fonts that already exist or sometimes if I don’t like any of them and I can kind of picture it in my head, I’ll practice some of my own.
Tell me about your Marilyn Monroe paint chip piece.
That was the first one I did. The project was based around Gerhard Richter, who was a photorealistic painter. He did these really cool paintings but he also did color blocking. And so the assignment was to take a portrait but distort it, so some people did things with a lot of droplets through it [as if] looking through a window, but I really don’t like to paint. So, I thought I could incorporate the colorblock thing and make it a picture of a recognizable figure.
I was really interested in [Marilyn] when I read more about her on like perception, and that’s kind of what all my paint chip projects are about so far, the idea of perception and how we perceive things. And Marilyn Monroe for example, from far away people who admire her see her as this perfect person. The visual is like if you looked at the paint chip project from far away it would look like the clear image but the closer and closer you get, you realize that it’s made up of so many different things and so many different tones and it’s kind of weird and you can’t really tell what it is. I think that’s how, once you read about her and read about people’s lives, they’re made up of all these different things, and for her it wasn’t like she had a very hard, young childhood so that’s kind of why there’s so many dark, weird colors in it. You see all the pieces that make up who she is instead of just this perfect figure you can see from afar.
Take me through the process of creating a paint chip project.
Originally, I just start with a theme or I think I have an idea of what I want to portray. I’ll look at images until I find one that, for example the Marilyn one, the one that I chose was most recognizable for people and I picked that one. And then, I pixelate it and it’s kind of tedious because the size of the board depends on it. On the first one I used two inch squares but now I have a paper punch so I can use different squares without having to cut them out by hand.
I’ll count how many squares it can take to fit with still looking pixelized from close up but being able to recognize it. Because if it’s really pixelated, it’s harder so that’s why it’s important to get a recognizable photo image. So then I’ll count those and it kind of crops itself. After I do that, my goal is to get all the same size, luckily I have a paper punch. The first one I did, I went to the store and [got the paint chips] all at once and people looked at me weird cause I was taking all these paint chips. So I’ll start with a couple rows, I’ll go to a hardware store, different ones every time every couple weeks because I don’t want to take all of them. For the one I’m working on right now, it’s all grayscale so I’ll just grab all the ones that look like grayscale even though some are different hues. I grab them and see what I can come up with.
Then I take them home and see which one [fits]. I literally place the paint chip over the pixelized image that I printed out. And I’ll just write on the back of with a marker. I have letters going up and down and numbers going side to side and so it makes itself a grid. So if I say this color matches up with the box that’s A1, then write that [on the back of the paint chip] and check it off. So that’s kind of my organization process for it. And then after that I just cut them all out and glue them on with rubber cement.
It’s really frustrating with these, and that’s why I love it so much, but making it up close, I really have to trust my own process cause I’m not really sure what it looks like until I set it down and step back far away.
Are there any future projects you’re planning on?
These are my two separate series that I’m really interested in. For the paint chips, I want to perfect the technique that I’m going to use so then I can start playing with possibly using my own images as the picture or start using different shapes instead of just different squares, or start figuring other ways I can assemble them rather than just on a flat surface.
For the quotes, I actually taught myself how to use Illustrator so I want to practice not only using pencil and ink but actually transferring them digitally. Right now, I’m working on our Senior IB class T-shirts so I started drawing those and converging them into vectors through Adobe Illustrator, so hopefully I can start printing things and making those.