From Hell’s Heart I Stab at Thee!

24 Aug
“Towards thee I roll, thou all-destroying but unconquering whale; to the last I grapple with thee; from hell’s heart I stab at thee; for hate’s sake I spit my last breath at thee. Sink all coffins and all hearses to one common pool! and since neither can be mine, let me then tow to pieces, while still chasing thee, though tied to thee, thou damned whale! Thus, I give up the spear!” 
Shame on you if you identified the above as Khan’s death speech to Kirk in Star Trek II, shame! (sorry, I think I might be channeling my grandmother). The above quote (by Capt. Ahab) is of course from the great american novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

(above)  Cans of  “Moby Dick”  brand whale meat for pets. primarily used for Dogs and cats.


Classic texts have always inspired  artists/illustrators to create images. What always amazes me is the width and breadth an icon go to over it’s  life in the public conciousness. Characters who seem to be forged in hell latter appaear with big goofy grins and shel pet food.  Think frankenstein which scared the bejezuz out of movie goers in 1931 ending up as “frankenberry cereal”. But all that is grist for the illustrator’s mill. There is a rich, rich history of illustrating Moby as evidenced by  the great , and varied work on display.


(above) right in case  and directly above Rockwell Kent’s rich wood engravings for the 1930 Lakside Press of Chicago.

(above)  Moby Dick: A pop-up Book by Sam Ita

(above) Mark Summer’s 1994 illustrations for  a Barnes and Noble Edition, next to paper Moby toy.

(Above) Queequeg by illustrator Mathew Cruickshank

Many thanks to illustrator Bob Sikoryak for the loan of his superb Moby Dick collection for this display.


Unheeded, The Last Image You’d Admire

15 Jun


Every time I’ve noticed this caution on a truck I’ve thought to myself, this is just a perfect marriage of image and type. Red for danger, clear graphic image conveying  a truck’s blind spot, nice type hierarchy.

I wish I had drawn that.

There is a flickr album of truck wide turn signs on the web, but the above is the baby for me.

(This is a re-post from :

147 Years Young-Modern Type

3 Sep

Kent James of Depression Press found this wonderful book of  “Examples of Modern Alphabets, Ornamental and Plain” published 1864. Go to Mr. James’ flicker set to see all the spreads  There are 21 plates in the whole book.  It’s interesting to note how contemporary some of these display fonts look.   If you told me Egyptian (see below) was created in the 1960’s I wouldn’t think twice, yet Lincoln was still in office when this book was published.


420 Characters Assignment

31 Aug

Sketches due: Sept. 7th   Finish due: Sept. 14th

For your first assignment you are going to write a short story and then illustrate it along with hand done text.  Your story will be 420 characters (characters= letters and punctuation). 420 characters (remember not words, but characters) is the limit for a facebook status post. Evil genius illustrator, Lou Beach has refined this short form into a poetic art. See:

Take a look and listen to Lou’s stories and then write one yourself. As I mentioned in class, you might find it easier to start in the middle of a story or scenario. There are no constraints on what your story is about, so have fun. Remember to edit, edit, edit. It should be exactly 420 characters (you don’t have to count spaces).

After you’ve written your story you’re going to illustrate it and include hand type, text.

 Your text can be:

  • Dialogue
  • Sound fx
  • A narrative
  • Text, or letterforms as reference or marks/texture
  • All of the above

In addition to your own handwriting I would like you to look at some existing typefaces for inspiration.

Choosing a typeface…notice I didn’t say font, we’ll talk about the difference in class. How to choose a typeface is a larger discussion that we will be having next class. I realize there are millions of options. There are some guidelines to help you on this process that we will go over, (which is what makes this a great first project , it leads to interesting questions0. Right now do your best making a choice and we’ll discuss it at the crit.

 Some quick things you want to consider… If it’s dialogue, what does the character’s  voice sound like? Formal, informal, young, old? Angry, happy? Is there a lot of dialogue?

Remember, where you position your text on the page and choice of typeface should always agree with your overall concept

Your assignment is in color, your sketches do not have to be in color, unless that’s important to understanding what you will be doing.  Size is up to you.

 Bring in next week, Sept. 7th:

  •  Your finished 420 story, written out, printed out.
  • At least 6 sketches (not in your sketchbook) with indications of what your text is and where it will be placed.
  • Work out some examples of different typefaces by hand, just three or four letters to see what would work best.
(above)   Gary Taxali’s use of letterforms and type in his illustrations
(above) Dave McKean’s use of text

E-mail Questionaire

29 Aug

Welcome to Language & Letterform!

My name is Les, I’m your  teacher  for this semester.

It’s important that I have your correct e-mail address, If the time or location of a class trip has changed, if I have a question/comment about your project, or if I can’t make it to class I should be able to get in touch with you. E-mail me with any problems or questions or just to let me know about something cool you’ve done or seen. Include “Lang & Lett” along with your name in your subject line.

My e-mail me is :

You also need to have the address of another student in class. If you miss a class and need the assignment I should not be your only source .

At the end of this post are some questions I’d like you to answer (in an e-mail to me) so we can start talking about your work and what you do. Please use your Newschool e-mail address  check it on a regular basis.

This isn’t a test and there aren’t any right or wrong answers. Please answer as frankly as possible.

  1. Why did you choose illustration as your major? What excites you about being an illustrator/artist?
  2. Who are your favorite illustrators/artists? Include a url if you have one.
  3. What medium do you like to work in? What do you like to draw/paint/fabricate outside of school?
  4. Any place I can see your work online?
  5. Do you use type/handwriting etc. in your work?
  6. Do you like to write?
  7. What are areas that you feel you could improve artistically? ie: I have trouble working in color, I’d like to paint better, I procrastinate. etc.
  8. Anything else I should know about you?

Please let me know if ;

  • You’re  in the animation program
  • You’re  a major in another department
  • English is your second language

Last question:   If you had to choose between the super powers of Flight or Invisibility, which would you pick? You cannot choose both and you must choose one.  And yes I am serious about asking this question and if you don’t answer it I’ll either become invisible and sneak up on you when you least expect it  (yecch!) or fly over to your place and embarrass you.  Either way  I’m determined to get an answer.

See you on Wednesday. Bring your sketchbook (you should bring it to every class) and of course a pen/pencil/something to draw with.



Get Thee to a Dentorium?

28 Aug

At 18 West 21st street (NYC)  is the very  cool entrance to …The (A?) Dentorium. I know this not because my good friend  Denturous Falsus Maximus told me (or was it the nobel gladiator Novacain?) but because there is some awesome 3-D Lettering proclaiming it.  Sorry for the name split in half in the photo-