Lesson 2: Text and Image

When we read, We’re used to converting the words we see into things we understand. We don’t always think about the shape of the letters, their position on the screen. When we view an image we use language to describe what we see: a picture tells a thousand words. Text and Images are intertwined and this relationship has been explored throughout art history.

Calligraphy is the art of the hand drawn letter. It adds emphasis to the text through the decorative use of the pen. In Islamic art there is an emphasis on the written word. Passages of the Qur’an is the text upon which a lot of Islamic calligraphy is based.

Folio from a Qur'an (Mamluk dynasty).jpg

The Lindesfarne Gospels are illuminated manuscripts date from the 7th century AD and are an example insular script calligraphy. They are famous for uniting lots of different traditions in illuminated script, including Irish, English and Greek influences. The text would have been planned out carefully in pencil first, and then the text would have been carefully applied. The work is on vellum, animal skins that have been treated, then bound.


Task 1

You will need: Paper, pens, coloured pencils or paints

Take your initials and make them into a calligraphic or decorated lettering composition. Use the shapes of the letters to inform how you decorate them. Use colour if you have them or make your initials calligraphic: purely about the written letterforms.

The printed word is the raw material for the artwork created by the artists of the Dada movement. They took the printed matter and created new meanings through shocking compositions.


Task 2

You will need: a magazine or newspaper, glue, paper

Take cuttings from a magazine and make a type collage. Consider how you could use the letterforms in different ways to make shapes and images.

Tristan Tsara in the Dadaist manifesto describes a the cut-up technique for creating poetry:


Take a newspaper.

Take some scissors.

Choose from this paper an article of the length you want to make your poem.

Cut out the article.

Next carefully cut out each of the words that makes up this article and put them all in a bag.

Shake gently.

Next take out each cutting one after the other.

Copy conscientiously in the order in which they left the bag.

The poem will resemble you.

And there you are – an infinitely original author of charming sensibility, even though unappreciated by the vulgar herd.

Task 3

You will need: a poem, paper and a pencil

Pick a poem that you like or if you don’t have a favorite, make a cut up poem like in the description above. Think about how you could create a single image that would accompany the poem, it could complement it, sum it up or illustrate a passage or line from the poem.

Paula Scher trained as a graphic designer. What makes the maps so interesting is not just the level of detail, but also the fact they are all drawn from memory. This gives them a very personal dimension. They are of the artists’ own perceptions and memories, not from an official source such as an atlas or an encyclopaedia. The paintings look simple, but can take many weeks or months to complete.

Task 4

You will need: paper and a pencil

design a series of four stamps that use only text. The stamps must follow the guidelines for stamp design found here You can draw them at a larger scale, they can be on any theme that you want but they must only contain hand written text.