06 February 2014

Beginning/A Letter a Week


A new year - > new projects! A new year is also the perfect excuse for a new arrangement in the studio. While things are constantly changing places in our apartment, the studio desk has remained in the same spot for well over a year. This feels like an unusually long time to me...I am a wholehearted proponent of that principal of feng shui that says moving twenty-seven objects brings new energy to a space (I swear it's true!). The desk is now at an angle to the window, & I'm enjoying the new view from my stool, as well as the easier access to the window. Space has also opened up for my easel to go next to the window, & I am excited to resume painting with oils; I've had too many unrealized ideas floating around for far too long.

You don't really get a sense of it from the photo above, but when I sit at my desk at the moment I feel as though I am in a garden of Paperwhites, & it's lovely. The only thing missing these days is sunlight—though the sun did stop in for a nice visit today& we're now up to a generous ten hours & five minutes between sunrise & sunset...

One project that has started up again is A Letter a Week 2014, edition five. Begun in 2010 by Australian artist Fiona Dempster, ALaW involves creating a letter each week of the year, for a total of two alphabets by year's end. The brief always includes an alphabet that is to be inspired by a particular theme (this year it's "place"), & the other one is open to the artist's interpretation. In both cases the letters must each fit within a 7x7-cm square & ultimately be brought together into a final piece...this can be a book, a wall piece, a quilt, a set of cards, etc. Last year Fiona organized a lovely collective exhibition of the three previous years' work. (More about the guidelines on the blog for this year's ALaW.)

While I completed both alphabets in 2012 (my first year participating) I did not fare so well with ALaW 2013. In fact, I am still working on my "Peace" alphabet, & will likely not manage the second one in the interest of completing both of this year's alphabets. It was not for lack of inspiration or time at the studio table that I struggled with ALaW in 2013, but rather that I had a hard time settling down & committing to a concrete direction...I tend to get carried away with the "process" sometimes, & enjoy playing with/stretching ideas—unfortunately sometimes at the expense of bringing them to a conclusion. If anything, ALaW has been useful in making me understand this; hopefully by the end of 2014 I will be able to say that indeed I did manage to apply what I learned from 2013's attempts.

The structure of this first set of letters, my "free" alphabet, borrows from an idea I was developing for one of the alphabets last year; it will consist of twenty-six "sleeves" that each slide over a 7x7x2.75-centimeter box made of Canson Mi-Teintes paper in a variety of colors. Here are a few shotswith a glorious slice of sunshinefollowed by images of the files...


The concept for these "letters" came to me as I was creating a gift card for my parents' seventieth birthdays. I started playing with a couple of letters, trying to conceal their identities, but allowing them to guide the design. At first I experimented with blocky, sans serif fonts, but decided to see what would happen with the more flowing English Vivace. Through a series of manipulations—duplicate, flip, group, rotate, repeatI then grouped the resulting elements into a new object, duplicated it & altered its dimensions (which changed the amount of space between the individual letters that comprised the object). I transformed them further by applying different colors & then began layering the designs (sometimes with a further rotation of the original). This likely doesn't make much sense, but I will try to record the steps of one of the letters at some point to clarify the process.


The alphabet in English Vivace



Here are some of the letter arrangements in a more basic form; you may remember them from my Christmas greeting in this post. The first one was made from 16 "P's," the second from 32 "J's," & the third from 16 "L's" (inspired by "peace," "joy" & "love").

Next are some screenshots of the files for the tops of the sleeves for the ALaW project, i.e. the "official" 7x7 cm squares...






Most sleeves will likely just have a design on the top, but these next two images are screenshots of the print files for those with designs on the sides/bottom as well (the lines at top/bottom are guides for the scoring-lines).

Now I just need to decide what will go in the boxes!

I didn't photograph the original card before sending it off to my parents, but here are some of the others that have helped along/further inspired my AlaW alphabet. The first, a birthday card for my sister-in-law, is  based on "A" (the colors are a little off as there wasn't much light the day I sent it off/took the photo). The next two are cards I made for my daughter's birthday, variations on the "E" theme. I'm looking forward to discovering other ways to use these designs...



And, on a completely unrelated note, to conclude this post here's a song by the original Journey, circa 1975—a song either new to me or that I had forgotten about for the last couple of decades—Of a Lifetime. Enjoy...


  1. Hi Lisa- Getting caught up with your last few posts. You DO love those Paperwhites! I believe that my "new year" should begin in April or May...maybe by that time my studio will be clean and organized (and my house, as well!). Still book slogging...what was supposed to be due mid-Dec has now been put off to early March. Of course, all the original classes and activities I planned in January through March have not been put off...lots of juggling going on. I wanted to thank you for your post about my Dad. It was good to be with family and share memories.

    1. Oh, goodness - it's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one who could do with the year starting later! I say shoot for May, as it sounds as though your days are pretty much planned 'til then. Even if it will be busy, may the road ahead be as smooth as possible...

  2. Lisa,
    Lovely and cute 'letter mandalas'. It's a proof that fantastic things can be done out of a simple letter and they can be used to do more than writing.
    Ana Laura and I love mandalas. I have a little mandala color book that I use to paint in order to relax.
    The 'A' and 'V' are beautiful, but the 'T' caugth my attention, maybe because of the blues and greens, maybe because its 'clean'.
    I´m always learning with you...
    Two questions:
    1) What software did you use to play with the letters?
    2) What kind of printer do you use in order to get such vivid colors and perfect solid printings?
    Love - Vera

    1. Hello again, Vera, & thank you for your lovely comments about the letters. They have been fun to experiment with!
      To answer your questions... I have tried creating the letters with two different applications. First I started with Pages (part of Apple's iWork suite - it's similar to Word in that it's Apple's word processing program, but it can do a lot graphics-wise too), using a separate text box for each letter, and would then export the graphics I created as JPEGS. I'm now starting to use Adobe Illustrator, which is a dedicated application for graphics...it'll be interesting to see if I make some new discoveries using it. Pages does everything I need to be able to do - and is very easy to use - except that by the time you copy a letter 16 or 32 times & then duplicate the resulting "object" a couple more times, the file becomes very slow to respond. Illustrator is more streamlined, plus the backgrounds can be transparent, i.e. more easily overlaid with others. It will probably be a while before I'm organized enough to sit down & try to explain this in a more logical manner, but I will try to at some point!
      Take care & thanks for your interest. Happy creating to you & Ana Laura...
      - Lisa

    2. P.S. I just remembered that you had also asked about the printer, Vera. It's the one I use for the shop, an Epson Stylus Photo R3000 - which I just love! The paper is an Epson matte...
      - Lisa

    3. Lisa,
      Simple again! No fancy softwares and a perfect result.

    4. Hello again, Vera ~ Now you have me wondering if there is such a software program! There probably is an easier way to create this kind of graphic, but I think part of the fun is going through the process oneself - that way, you never know what other discoveries you might make. I am now creating the designs in Adobe Illustrator, and enjoying the ability to be even more precise (down to three decimal points on a millimeter...which I have found can actually make a different with all of the overlapping/layers/intersections!).
      I hope you are well!
      - Lisa


Thank you for joining in on the dialogue; I appreciate your comments!
{Sorry about enabling word recognition, but I'm hoping it will alleviate the spam.}

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