Text Art

Since the invention of the computer, typography has gradually entered the creative world as an art form, rather than a procedure involved in printing. Contemporary graphic designers use typography to express a message without solely relying on the actual words used. Certain typefaces can depict anger, whereas others are calmer, old fashioned, innocent and so forth. On the other hand, some artists use typography in a completely different way.

When drawing a portrait, for example, the artist has a wide choice of media: pencil, ink, watercolour, acrylic etc; but how they use this equipment is entirely up to them. Throughout history, artistic style has changed rapidly as the result of numerous art movements. In the present day, it is hard to say exactly what the current style is since artists tend to appropriate ideas from bygone eras. One thing that is unique to contemporary art, however, is text art – creating images using words or letters.

With a computer, providing it has the relevant software, it is easy to place typography in certain positions, change sizes, alter colours, switch from bold to italic etc. By trial and error (or a well written tutorial) it is possible to produce a work of art purely made up of typefaces.

On a recent trip to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, I got the opportunity to view some rather interesting art works. Two of these were forms of text art, yet instead of a computer, the entire thing had been created by hand. Knowing how easy it is to rectify inevitable mistakes on a digital version, I was amazed at the precision and accuracy the artists had achieved, particularly as there is no “undo” button in real life.

For something that many people achieve digitally, it must have taken ages to carefully plan the portraits before putting pen to paper. Not only the position and size of the text, but the pen thickness needs to be carefully thought about in order to create the portrait. Above are the two examples exhibited at Ripley’s. On the left is a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, which not only is created using calligraphy, has been executed in one continuous line! The text is Lincoln’s 1862 Emancipation Proclamation. Similarly, the portrait of Obama has also been made up with the words of a speech, in this instance, the Inaugural speech he made on 20th January 2009.

The artist who created the Barack Obama text art, Daniel Duffy, has produced many similar portraits of well-known people. Copies of Duffy’s art work have been sold to numerous fans, mostly in Philadelphia. His outcomes are much more impressive than a digitally produced version due to the evidence of the time and hard work needed to complete them.

Below are a few more examples of Daniel Duffy’s text art:

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