We spent the first few weeks of class looking at how different artists stylize letters. From the Book of Kells (an Irish illuminated manuscript circa 800) to modern day graffiti techniques using paint: How do artists make letters unique? Why might artists choose to make their names unique? After practicing a few styles, we each chose one to adorn the outside of our class sketchbook.


The Inspiration

Zora Neale Hurston, the renowned anthropologist and folklorist, observed in 1934 that “the will to adorn” is one of the primary characteristics of African American expression. Like orature, quilting, and musical forms such as the blues, African American dress and body adornment are creative expressions grounded in the history of African-descended populations in the United States. They have been shaped by the legacies of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and more recent African diasporas. They reveal continuities of ideas, values, skills, and knowledge rooted on the African continent and in the American experience. Most importantly, dress and body adornment are “cultural markers”—aspects of visual culture through which people communicate their self-definitions, the communities with which they identify, their creativity, and their style.