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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Alphabet

I would like to touch on an ancient art that is still very much in use today, our alphabet.   Calligraphy is just making art out of writing, but writing is an art already.  There are many theories, but Sumerian cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics and demotic script, Semitic Mesopotamian logograms all seem to point to the first actual alphabet as being the Phoenician.  An alphabet being where a symbol is a sound only. Theirs was consonant only, the Greeks added vowels.  




Writing goes back even beyond the Egyptians but for our purposes, I like to start with the Etruscans who developed a pictograph method of writing simplified into letters.  The Greeks built on these and used them extensively.  When the Romans conquered most of the "known world" they added many of the Greek letters to their own.  Gaius Julius Hyginus wrote in Roman mythology that Mercury (the god) invented the letters A B H T I Y from the flight of cranes when they fly by.  However it happened, those letters and K X and Z were also adopted into the Roman Alphabet to form 21 letters of the 26 we still use today.  All of these were capitals and had a serif (foot).  The Greek alphabet (from which we get the word: alpha and beta), is boxy and square.  The Roman alphabet is also square but has some rounder elements added.  To make it easier and more visible when carved into buildings, there are thick and thin lines on each letter.  For instance the A has a thin left leg and a thick right leg.  Even the curved "tail" of the Q has a thick and thin element.  
A form of "short hand" was developed later by overworked scribes in the form of lower case letters.  It is interesting to note that the Romans didn't just copy Greek art and literature; if they did it would be less excellent than the original.  What they did was to "marry" it into their already established culture, to create something new, something excellent.  Perhaps you couldn't call Roman art and architecture superior to Greeks, but it isn't inferior either.  It is different.


I think it is interesting that the Romans left us a working alphabet.  The Greeks left us names for frat houses.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Three New Things

I have discovered three new things about myself and the way I work.

First, I always thought I work better in the morning when I am first up and fresh, but lately I’ve noticed that though I start first thing, by noon I've hit a stride and I get some great ideas just after noon.  I don't think this means I'll change my routine, because obviously, there is something to starting early and then hitting a stride.  It is just a revelation I never really noticed before.

Second, working on collages this summer made me realize that although I was eager to do some work for "myself" I found it hard to jump in.  I sometimes have to search through my files of saved inspirational photos just to get in the mood to work on my own work.  What that means now is that I was happy for jobs to begin again so that I could continue on my projects that are half done but have direction already.  I want to see a completion on them. 

Third, is that this week I noticed how much I appreciate the diversion of writing.  After spending hours on my visual work, I like to take a break.  Without realizing it I begin writing; anything and everything, little articles for online sites, blog posts, artist's biographies, etc.  There is something about writing that gives me a diversion from the visual and allows me to "clear my head" so that when I go back to the drawings, I feel fresh and ready to begin again.  It doesn't make sense really.  I do think we all need little diversions though.  Some people like to take a walk; I like to write.