Tag Archives: caricature

Abjad

I’m going to pull a ‘Well, akshually’ and tell you the Phoenician alphabet isn’t quite an alphabet. It’s an abjad. An abjad has consonants but no vowels—no A, E, I, O, U or sometimes Y. You were expected to know how words are pronounced and supply the vowels yourself when you read something written in the Phoenician system.

The word ‘abjad’ comes from smooshing together the first four letters of the Arabic alphabet: alif, bā’, jīm, and dāl.

Pointless rambling for today: There’s a tv show from the 1970s set in the 1950s called Laverne & Shirley. They’re 2 working-class girls from Brooklyn, New York City and speak like Brooklyners. I saw a bit (I can’t find a clip, sorry) where one of the girls is talking about her friend ‘Sheldn’—she pronounces it just that way. It fits with her accent; that’s the way they tawk in Brookln. The punchline: his name really is Sheldn; the ‘o’ was accidentally left out on his birth certificate.

https://linguisticator.com/blog/19729/the-arabic-alphabet-what-is-an-abjad
https://www.lexico.com/definition/abjad
https://www.metmuseum.org/learn/educators/curriculum-resources/art-of-the-islamic-world/unit-two/origins-and-characteristics-of-the-arabic-alphabet
Wikipedia says the Arabic alphabet is the result of the Phoenician alphabet evolving in the Near East, where it took a few different turns from ours in the West. Scroll down to look at the chart.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Arabic_alphabet

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

The hardest cryptogram evurrrr

Champollion doing that weird Napoleonic hand-in-the-vest-for-my-portrait thing

A cryptogram is a puzzle where the letters of words are replaced with ciphers. A cipher is any symbol. To ‘decipher’ a code is to replace the ciphers with the correct letters. I told you the secret to solving cryptograms: you look for a short, common word, like ‘the.’ Young began the process by correctly identifying the word ‘Ptolemy.’

Jean-François Champollion (ZHEHN frahn-SWAH shahm-pōl-YŌN) was the tireless French scholar who broke the hieroglyph code. He started with Young’s discovery and used the Greek words to decipher the hieroglyphic and Demotic versions. He figured out that Ptolemy’s name was a rebus—meaning that those symbols must represent sounds. That was a beginning. He still had years of diligent work ahead of him. Eventually, in 1822 he was able to show that hieroglyphic symbols could stand for things, ideas, syllables or sounds. Demotic symbols stood for syllables or sounds. He’d sorted out how the reader can tell which of those a symbol stands for.

And so, after thirteen centuries of silence, the hieroglyphics could speak again. Nowadays if you put ‘Rosetta Stone’ in your search engine you’ll get ads for a company that teaches foreign languages. The Rosetta Stone was so crucial to solving the hieroglyphics mystery that it’s become a symbol for understanding all languages.

https://blog.britishmuseum.org/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-rosetta-stone/
https://discoveringegypt.com/egyptian-hieroglyphic-writing/egyptian-hieroglyphic-alphabet/
https://www.natgeokids.com/za/discover/history/egypt/hieroglyphics-uncovered/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Fran%C3%A7ois_Champollion
http://www.loeser.us/examples/hiero_alpha.html
https://www.history.com/news/what-is-the-rosetta-stone

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

In hock Señor Wences

I deserve every “Okay, Boomer” sneer I get for this lame gag. I pray Señor Wences’ ghost will forgive me.

The persecuted Christians of the Roman Empire adopted a strange symbol to represent themselves: the Cross. The cross was the torture device used to kill Jesus. Maybe it was a way of saying they knew they might be put to death for worshiping Christ, and accepted that possibility.

We’re zipping ahead to ad 304—the Roman Empire was enduring a civil war. Emperor Constantine and Emperor Licinius were at it. It looked like Licinius had all the military advantage. But Constantine had a dream the night before the big decisive battle: the dream told him to fight under the banner of Christ. Constantine must’ve dreamed in Latin, so the takeaway message was: ‘In hoc signo vinces’—‘In this sign you will conquer.’ He had his soldiers paint crosses on their shields and they won the battle and the war. After that, Constantine decreed that all religions would be permitted in the Roman Empire and no one would be punished for worshiping Christ.

Here’s a very good read:
https://turningpointsoftheancientworld.com/index.php/2017/03/31/licinius-constantine-civil-war/
https://johnmanders.wordpress.com/2019/08/21/constantine-dreams/
https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?fr=yhs-trp-001&hsimp=yhs-001&hspart=trp&p=senor+wences+ventriloquist#id=1&vid=597745f8e30b0718ec6064ecc1fc886a&action=click
https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0920777/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Milton Glaser and logograms

When a symbol works—when everybody sees it and immediately knows what the writer is saying—it really works.



Back in the mid-1970s, there was a hugely influential graphic designer named Milton Glaser. In New York City—and everywhere—every young graphic designer knew about Milton Glaser and the mighty crew at Push Pin Studios. He was asked by the State of New York to help out with an advertising campaign to promote tourism. They wanted people to come visit the state and spend money. The slogan was to be: ‘I Love New York.’ They would turn the slogan into a musical jingle for radio & tv ads. It would appear on all print promotion.

While thinking about the project in the back of a taxi cab, Milton Glaser grabbed a crayon and a scrap of paper and turned the slogan ‘I Love New York’ into a logogram: *

which became this:



Gajillions of T-shirts/buttons/coffeemugs/ballcaps later, everybody knows that logogram. The design is trademarked, but not by Milton Glaser. He was generous with his talent and did the work pro bono—for free. Pro bono is Latin for ‘why people in the graphic design business are often short of cash.’ Try to negotiate for a percentage of sales, you young designers, even if you’re doing a favor.

You can see how logograms became part of the system of hieroglyphics in ancient Egypt. A scribe might hit upon a widely-recognized symbol and use it to replace a word or words. If it worked, it became part of their writing system.

*I admit: only the ‘heart’ part of this is a true logogram, standing for the word ‘love.’ And, yes, hearts have been part of romantic love imagery and Valentine’s Day cards for years and years. But before Glaser’s design, nobody had used a heart symbol that way—to replace a word. Today it’s part of our visual language. How about that for influence on a culture?

https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Logogram
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_New_York
https://news.artnet.com/art-world/graphic-designer-milton-glaser-obituary-1890597

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Happy Independence Day!

George Washington

Happy Independence Day! Around here we celebrate this weekend by putting up images of the heroes who built the United States of America. Around here we honor the patriots who created the greatest country the world has ever seen. Around here we don’t have time for screechy morons who pull down statues.

Have a fantastic day! Go outside, stop looking at the computer!

Find longitude, win valuable prizes!

In 1714 the British government established the Board of Longitude and held a contest: Who can come up with a system to accurately tell where you are at sea? The Royal Navy disaster on the Isles of Scilly had caused a reaction from the British public—they’d seen their own sailors drowned on the coast of their own country. Whether that disaster was the motive for creating the Board of Longitude may be disputed, but there’s no doubt a better, more accurate system of finding your location at sea needed to be found.

The Longitude Act, ‘An Act for providing a Publick Reward for such Person or Persons as shall discover the Longitude at Sea,’ was passed. The government offered up to £20,000 for a method of finding longitude at sea to within half a degree. That’s a lot of clams!

The Board of Longitude included scientists and astronomers who would judge the quality of any longitude systems that were submitted. One was the Astronomer Royal who worked at the Greenwich (GREN-itch) Observatory. I think if I ever got my career to the point where my job-title was Astronomer Royal I would consider myself to have arrived.

Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed, who also made the first recorded observations of Uranus.

https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/1707-isles-scilly-disaster-%E2%80%93-part-2
https://longitudeprize.org/challenge/history
https://www.americanscientist.org/article/the-british-longitude-act-reconsidered
https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/anniversary-longitude-act-what-was-it

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space

Galileo

Next up in our continuing series of Old Dead White Guys is Galileo, who lived from ad 1564 – 1642 in Pisa, Italy. He was a scientist whose method was to prove or disprove an idea by conducting experiments and observing the results—the way we understand science today. For instance, to prove the idea that a heavy object and a light object will fall at the same speed, he dropped a heavy weight and a light weight (like a bowling ball and a billiard ball) from the top of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He dropped them both at the same time. They landed on the ground at the same time.

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space

Happy Easter!

Hairicature

I did this caricature a few years ago. Obviously I enjoyed painting the hair. I don’t seem to have a copy of the finished piece. Here are some in-progress shots. Gouache on Arches watercolor paper.

 

 

Julius Caesar painting exercise

I just got a clamp-on holder for my phone and wanted to try this—

Update: Sorry for any confusion if you visited here in the last hour. I couldn’t get the video to show up. I’ve since added a link to Instagram. I hope that works! Thanks for your patience.

 

Hoist your flagons!

l_9781585368150_fc

Heave on your futtock-shrouds and don’t leave your swashes unbuckled! ‘Tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Don’t forget: If you are anywhere near Latrobe, Pennsylvania, shape a course for The Art Center (819 Ligonier Street) where I’ll talk about illustrating pirates this evening from 6:30 – 8:30. If you miss it, I’ll be at The Art Center again tomorrow morning 10:00 – 11:00ish (we need to clear the decks before noon—when some poor lubber’s wedding takes place).

MoviePirates

As promised, here are the answers to yesterday’s M is for Movie Pirates Quiz:

First row: Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Carribean (2006). Second row: (left to right) Douglas Fairbanks in The Black Pirate (1926); Robert Newton as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1950); Sherman the parrot; Errol Flynn as Captain Blood (1935). Third row: Charles Laughton as Captain Kidd (1945); Charlton Heston as Long John Silver in Treasure Island (1990); Dustin Hoffman as Hook (1991); Walter Matthau as Captain Red in Pirates (1986). Fourth row: Maureen O’Hara as Prudence ‘Spitfire’ Stevens in Against All Flags (1952); Laird Cregar as Sir Henry Morgan in The Black Swan (1942); Kevin Kline as the Pirate King in The Pirates of Penzance (1983); Graham Chapman as Yellowbeard (1983).