Updated: Apr 20, 2020
we spent so much time perfecting our letterforms in grade school just to grow up typing all of our assignments, emails, social media posts, and texts. i remember being very connected to the thought of handwriting, because it's truly like a fingerprint: no one's is the same. i still prefer to handwrite my class notes and other assignments if i can, i feel like it is a primary source from me to whoever reads my handwriting.
thinking about this from an artists standpoint, pairing handwriting with illustrations or visuals makes a viewing experience much more personal. one of my biggest examples and muses is Jean-Michel Basquiat.
Basquiat's use of charged language and simple visuals leave it up to the viewer to interpret the piece at different levels. He uses language such as "Heroism," "Free," "Toxic," and "Hollywood Africans," to set the tone for his painting. The effectiveness of using his own handwriting to send messages is something i myself look to as inspiration in my own work. it makes the message more real, knowing that the artist physically took their hand and wrote in their own handwriting to communicate with viewers.
switching gears to the handwriting of painter Vincent van Gogh: i came across an article dissecting famous painters and their handwriting. I was immediately interested because some of the artists had handwriting not unique to their painting style, except for van Gogh, who writes similar to how he paints.
his sketch on the left page shows his fluid and fast pen strokes, very reminiscent of most of his famous paintings. but the block of text he writes beneath the sketch is what made me remember the saying, "the way someone does one thing is the way they do everything." i could pick his handwriting out of a bunch of others and be able to tell this was Vincent van Gogh's penmanship. the strength and finesse of his letterforms, especially with his signature and the phrase, "the great field of violet," has the same form and shape as his individual brush strokes in his paintings. i am wholly fascinated by this connection because his brand is consistent, original, and authentic from his paintings to his sketches to his personal letters. i admire when an artist doesn't have to try to be one way, they just naturally are an artist through and through, and is seen not only in his/her art, but handwriting as well.
from the powerfully charged and broken language in Basquiat's paintings to the consistent beauty and technique of van Gogh's letterforms in a personal letter, handwriting is, to me, one of the best ways to connect artist to viewer. the direct communication between who wrote it and who is reading it will always be one of my favorite ways to connect to people. it's our duty as artists to make people feel a connection to something. it's our duty to connect!