Thank youThank You for Coming, lettering, photo & all text © Irene O’Garden, 2014

To listen to this post, please click here:Gleefully Distressing

Enjoyed my immensely challenging project last week, designing and painting 18 signs for the stunning country wedding of our Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Randy Florke, his partner of 22 years.

After stylist Phillip Montanez showed me an old Presbyterian Church sign as inspiration, I was off and running: custom-designing letters, arranging layouts,  measuring, measuring, measuring–a process interesting and arduous as play rehearsal: learning the moves so you hit your mark when the time comes.

Getting to paint is like performing at last. How I loved making big letters!  Like cast sizes in the theatre, most lettering and art these days has to be so small.  Who has money and space for big canvases? Who can afford a big cast of actors? A narrow sorrow of our age is such miniaturization of artistic expression.

It was fun seeing words shape under my hands, watching how shading changed them. I never thought I’d be tickled painting a restroom sign, but creation holds constant surprises.  These were like letters from childhood, in more ways than one. 

 

 

Clean RestroomsRestrooms, lettering & photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

Certainly there were frustrations—difficult surfaces, erratic spacing, my own infractions of perception, but flaws and all, I liked these humble, old-fashioned signs. They seemed alive and full of feeling. Yet one thing remained to carry out the vision. I would have to distress them.

It was scary and contrary to take sandpaper and rasp to the first of the sweet shiny letters. But the difference in feeling was remarkable.

 

Reserved for Family            Reserved for Family, lettering & photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

Soon I was whacking away at them, knowing every crush and curl made them subtler, gentler voices that seemed to issue from our past. Reminders we need not fear a little distress after all.

 

 

 

 

Barn Lounge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beer Truck

 

 

Restrooms

 

 

 

 

My happiest moment came Saturday afternoon, as I went to drop off the last of the signs. Following computer navigation, I was about to turn onto their lane, when I was stopped by an Exit Only sign. Nice, I thought. Fits right in.

 

 

Exit OnlyExit Only, lettering and photo © Irene O’Garden, 2014

 

 

Only then did it strike me that I had made it.

Here’s hoping you’ll take on a project you’re not sure you can do, and end up gleefully surprising yourself!

 

Back To The Petal, photo and all text c Irene O’Garden 2012

If you’d like to listen to this post, note that alas, due to file size limits, you’ll have to click again at the end to hear the poem. For the post itself, please click here:A Little Lettering

Poetry has been requesting my attention quite a bit lately. Above you see a fragment of a child’s poem, one of ten I hand-lettered on muslin for an upcoming event this Sunday at Constitution Marsh. If you look near the upper right corner of this page, you’ll find the link to my Calendar page, which goes into more detail about The Hudson Highlands Land Trust River of Words Poetry Trail (as well as the other upcoming poetic events which have buttonholed me.)

A moment of digression before the pith of my post: For the last few years, the Hudson Highlands Land Trust  has sponsored a regional River of Words program. River of Words is an national environmental literacy organization which seeks to connect children with their watersheds via poetry and art, and I am part of a great Land Trust team which offers free workshops in our local schools.

I was asked to choose ten poems from the hundreds generated in our programs and to help find a way to display them throughout  the exquisite landscape of the Marsh. I decided to letter them simply on large pieces of unbleached muslin, which will then be driftwood-weighted, twined and hung along the trail by my teammates.

I’ve had a sense of Christmas all week, knowing that the children who come on Sunday have a happy surprise in store. Seeing their poems floating in the trees and thrusting out of the ground will help them treasure their poetry and their landscape, and remind parents why both are so important.

It’s been a while since I have practiced calligraphy, and I’ve savored it this week. It’s been fun to be so close to fresh poetic imagination, and satisfying to letter the poems I midwived in the classroom. But the best part was this dawning realization: one of the fruits of age is the progressive retirement of the inner critic. In the heavenly silence that ensues, we can go back to enjoying the process, as children do constantly. I relished exploring the letters themselves. As designer Eric Gill said, letters are things, not pictures of things. Making them felt like putting forth little round berries and pointy leaves of my own.

My poem, Nonfiction, describes my earliest pleasure with letters. (This is the poem which recently won a 2012 Willow Review Award.) If you would like the written text of the poem, please contact Willow Review for a copy of the issue in which it appears.  If you would like to hear me read it now, please click here: Nonfiction

 

Is there a process you particularly enjoy?

 

 

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