Finally after some long grueling work with research and a lot of painful fingers, my typography portrait has finally been completed. Since I’m more used to traditional 2d mediums and digital art, this time I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and try to build something with my hands instead. Despite my lack of talent in it. This of course meant that during the process of crafting each individual portrait, a lot of challenges were thrown my way but thankfully, I was able to conquer them to produce the final product in the picture below.
Meaning: One of my flaws, which I’m still trying to correct is that I have an irritable personality. I get easily ticked off by things I find offensive, and since I tend to keep things to myself, I may start to appear judgmental. I may get easily ticked off but I try to school myself to remember that I will need to be accepting of other people’s quirks and problems. It is getting better now but it’s still something I constantly agonise over. This work is meant to remind me of my prickly nature and to keep myself in check.
Methodology: I used a Styrofoam board and toothpicks in this work. I painted the white board with many layers of acrylic paint to ensure that I could get it as dark as possible. I then sketched my design onto a piece of paper. Using the sketch as a stencil, I would then poke pins through the paper to generate small holes to mark where I needed my toothpicks.
My first attempt with the toothpicks however was a complete disaster. Since they were too long, sticking them meant I couldn’t control the direction they were pointing in. Instead they formed a jarring mass of formless shapes. I tipped them all over since I obviously couldn’t submit a formless shape. I went on to try and experiment and see if I could lay down the toothpicks, but it felt too flat. So that was also another failure.
In my frustration, I broke a toothpick (highly appropriate considering the attribute the portrait related to) and realised that hey, I could use the short end! I stuck it in the board as a test trial and it worked so well that I went with it in the end. I’m glad that it was able to turn out the way the did considering the problems that arose. The fact that I didn’t get any splinters (or maybe I did but I just couldn’t see them) was a bonus too.
Meaning: The ironic thing about this attribute is, I am actually a ridiculously messy person. And yet, one of the things I constantly need to do, is finish things in a systematic way. I am constantly writing lists (one of my guilty pleasures. Guilty because who the hell likes lists?) and doing things by the book. But this makes me feel secure, knowing that I have done everything I need to do. Especially when work starts to pile up, my lists are always my go-to. Sure the increasing length of tasks stresses me out, but at least I have everything I need down.
Methodology: Initially, I had planned a conveyor belt concept, like churning parcels out in a factory. I had intended to build it out of paper but after some consideration I abandoned the idea. This piece underwent a lot of conceptual changes simply because I couldn’t make up my mind on what exactly I wanted. Finally, after hearing the idea of negative space during a consultation sessions, I decided to go with it instead. Paper became Lego because of its strict geometry and hard lines.
I spent more than half a day working on this piece because unlike the first piece it was much harder to generate a stencil and gauge the spaces for the letters. The Legos are mean, unrelenting little bricks that are determined to do damage to my soft, human fingers so I they were really rubbed quite raw by the end of it. Just the thought of those Legos bring back the phantom feeling of pain.
Thankfully though, this piece was more smooth sailing (in some ways) than the others. The only big issues was arranging the letters to make sure, yet again, it wasn’t a formless blank space. Execution wise it was a simple idea. It was only more tedious to actually form the word. However, I’m happy that it now resembles actual typography.
Meaning: Conceptually, this is probably the simplest of them all. I wanted to represent the traveler in me, and my need to get out there. I love going overseas, even if the places I have visited aren’t many.
Methodology: I use pins and white thread in this one to generate the typography. Initially, I had intended to use pictures to denote the places I have visited as well but as I wanted a cohesiveness to all my designs, I ended up scrapping the idea. Looking back, I realise that perhaps it may not have been the best idea. It now looks a lot plainer and drab, and the meaning doesn’t show itself as strongly than if I could have use pictures to support the typography.
Just like all the others, forming the text was a a grueling and tedious process. My rather lanky form meant that I had to curl up ungracefully on top of my desk, twisting my back and neck in order to properly pin things up. Ensuring everything was straight and aligned with each other added to the physical torture – you didn’t just have to pin, you needed to hold a long metal ruler in place too. By the time I got down from my desk, there was a kink in my neck and an ache in my back, but I was happy. (The sacrifices you make for art.) But hey, at least the typography itself worked out.
Honestly, I was least happy with this piece, as the lighting was undesirable and the concept not as well executed as I wish it had been. However, I am still glad that I was able to complete and produce a finalised work.
Meaning: This piece has a slightly darker connotation to it. Art will never be complete without some intense introspection. This piece is generated from a place of thought: literally, because existentialism is a downward spiral of thoughts on the human need for purpose in life. Perhaps it comes from me being an introvert, but I find myself getting lost in my head more often than doing anything solid. A flaw as well but that isn’t the point of this piece. This portrait rather, is to remind me that even if my thoughts tend to reach towards less positive places, I can always trust to find light and hope at the end of that tunnel.
Methodology: I first sketch out a meticulously measured design in pencil first before taking a knife to the paper and slowly slicing out the designs. There is some idea of negative space usage as well, as I wanted the letter to be suggested through the curves of the paper. Therefore finding a balance between space and paper was quite challenging as I didn’t want it to be formless (yet again) and I didn’t want to have to re-cut the work. It was a more hesitant process.
The paper cutting was the easy (though tiring part). Now I needed to find a way to take the picture. I know I wanted a semblance of translucency to the picture so I taped tracing paper behind the piece for light to shine through behind. I stuck the piece on my shelf, where my desk lamp was conveniently placed behind it. And due to the translucent nature of the paper, the brownish hue of my note board was able to reveal itself through the paper. So instead of a flat white light within the letters, there is now a soft gradient of colour.
The effect was unexpected but very much satisfactory, and this is one of my favourite pieces, together with Prickly.
A lot of thought and consideration was put into this work, something that I haven’t done for a 2D project in a long time. (More due to my reluctance to do anything that wasn’t purely digital/in traditional mediums.) This meant that I had to work harder to manipulate this unconventional, unfamiliar modes of representation and the challenges that arose were much more numerous than any other project I have experienced before. The lighting for some of the pictures weren’t very desirable as well, so learning how to control light would be something I’ll want to tackle in the future. However, the process of creation was definitely enjoyable, and even if they hadn’t turned out as perfectly as I saw them in my mind. they already far exceeded anything I have done in the past. All in all, I am glad that I was able to complete and finish this project, to produce my four works.