I officially declare this week “Love All Week Long Week,” in honor of St. Valentine and his disciples, who might include Rodney King, with his timely quote from 1992: “Can We All Get along?” The quotation is sometimes amended with the addition of “just,” as I’ve written it here. On Valentines Day I like to spend time in the studio using my calligraphy practice to think about love. Each year it takes a different turn. Given the chaotic state of the nation, King’s plea is more relevant than ever, and a return to these poignant words from 1992 did not seem out of order.
This set of work is an exploration of voice in letter forms. The quotation can range in tone from Hallmark Greeting to hip hop to something you might see in an alley emblazoned on a wall. Check it out.
Wishing you Love in whatever form it finds you!
Follow me on Instagram to see more projects in process.
Designing a quotation in calligraphy for the modern age is not, forgive me, always a piece of cake. Sometimes it is quite vexing, especially when you test your ideas out on a trusted focus group and they say things like “Why does that calligraphy look like frosting?” or “You know, Marie Antoinette never actually said “let them eat cake….” Sigh. . . .
It appears to be true, that my favorite diva of a previous gilded age was not the author of that quote and was in fact a lovely woman who showered the peasants (her peasants) with presents. Regardless, given the current rehash of the gilded ages playing out daily on television, internet and IRL, Marie Antoinette and her current doppelgängers have been on my mind. These classic Words That Marie Did Not Say sound completely contemporary today.
Here are three different approaches I took to creating a modern broadside from a classic text. I knew I wanted the letters to echo the form of both a gown and a cake, and settled very quickly on the style of script. The big question was context: what kind of background should the lettering have? The first version was done in the spirit of the parlor, with an ornamental touch.
Marie Antoinette on a plate, with lace.
Then I started thinking about the French Revolution, which wasn’t really that pretty. Think rioting in the street, guillotines, torches and smoke. This version feels cinematically correct, and evokes the mood of a revolution:
Marie running from the riots.
Lastly I did this version, in which the cake stands in for an urban kiosk, and could be right down the street in my own fair city, with its lush graffiti gardens and cyber-dystopian perfumes. I know, you can’t really read it, but that’s the beauty of urban walls.
Marie, dressing for a riot.
I dearly hope Marie is not offended by my liberties. I grew very fond of her while hand lettering the title for her biography:
The Real Marie.
Let me know what you think. Should I have actually baked a cake and done the words in real frosting? Next time! ‘Til then, follow me on Instagram and theispot to see what’s cooking in the studio.
Who can resist the simplicity and strength of a declarative sentence? Powerful words from the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. Also . . . . . an excuse to do a style mash-up of Trajan Capitals and custom watercolor lettering with a twist on balloon style.
Expressive lettering quotation by Iskra Design
Working in the studio today on a project my hand started getting tighter and tighter, so I took a break to remember where the life energy in calligraphy comes from.
A little post script: just in case you were wondering, the word “free” here does not refer to “free fonts.” I create bespoke typefaces for clients, but this is one-of-a-kind free form lettering, and is not a font.
Watercolor,unique lettering and collage © Iskra Johnson
Our meme-maker in chief has ensured that this little word duo remains current. From an abstract design perspective, it is always helpful when words are the same length and lock up with an interesting positive-negative charge. By flipping a few backwards it added even more interest. Watercolor, hand lettering and collage.