Let us read, and let us dance – these two amusements will never do any harm to the world – Voltaire.
I was commissioned to do this text in calligraphy for a public school. It is a kind of dream project – beautiful words, a client who gives a lot of leeway, for a school that is filled with amazing art, a lovely display position in the open library area of the English Department.
Naturally my choice of imagery was dance.
My model came to pose for me three times and I did a lot of studies. You will have seen the final images – although I could not say at the time what they were for, as this projects was far from complete. I stamped out the complete Voltaire essay on The liberty of the press in English) as a textured panel down the centre of the 70cm X 50cm artwork to form a background for the dancer and main words which were whittled down to “Let us read and let us dance”
It was so scary when I had to simply pick up my brush and paint the figure over those hours and hours of stamping. There was no back-up. I had to just go for it. Later I added some coloured pencil shavings in soft colours to enhance the texture. This piece of work can look flat and yet when lit up the texture is incredible. It has an almost organic feel.
I experimented with a few options but in the end did the lettering with pencil and added tiny details of gold (which have not photographed well. In fact this panel is about impossible to photograph). This is in the evening sunlight. Below you can see the daytime version, still with the gilding not showing up. It is another aspect that catches the light.
And here she is!
Paper: BFK Rives glued to birch-ply 70cm X 50cm. The lettering is stamped with 6mm metal punches, letter by letter. The figures was painted with a size 12 sable paintbrush and a feather using indigo and burnt umber watercolour. Caran D’Ache coloured pencils for adding a little extra modelling to the figure and for the two oblique narrow rectangles of colour. (It’s quite confusing to see what is what because of the sunlight Without sunlight, I could not even show the texture.) Words in pencil with touches of gold added. The panel was framed in a deep black box frame with Clarity glass. If you don’t use Clarity glass, you’ll never even be able to see the debossed letters.
Thanks to my lovely model who made this possible.