Anagrams, hidden messages and numerology have always sparked my interest. I love the way the use of numbers, words and typographic elements employed in conceptual picture making create curiosity, provoke thought and add meaning to the overall work. To see how I incorporate these concepts in my mixed media work, check out my lecture SYMBOLISM: Anagrams and Visual Puzzles in the video below.

SYMBOLISM: Anagrams and Visual Puzzles lecture by Lisa L. Cyr

The artwork featured below is called Focus. It is a mixed-media triptych piece that was pulled from my various sketchbooks. The work is about understanding what we focus on. On one side where the eye is blinded, we are plagued with all the bad things that are going on because it is so overpowering and all-consuming at times. But, if you block out the noise, what you will see, with an open eye, is all the positive things that are happening. Being a parent, I see the hope that children of the world bring. They have been through so much at such a young and impressionable age that they are driven to make a positive change for the future.

My painting entitled Focus is currently on display at an exhibition at the NYC Society of Illustrators called Sketchbooks. The exhibition runs from November 1, 2022 to January 7, 2023.

When it comes to utilizing typography in art, direct or indirect transfers can be very effective. Here are some things you can do to add typographic elements to your work:

1. Design your typographic elements on the computer or scan in your hand-lettered type.

2. Reverse the type on the computer in Photoshop and print it out using an inkjet printer, preferably one that uses pigment-based inks if archival issues are a concern. I use an Epson 3800 inkjet printer with pigment-based inks. You can also print on clear acetate that has been treated for inkjet printing.

3. For highly textured surfaces, use acrylic matte gel medium directly onto the print surface, making sure not to cover the entire sheet of paper. For smooth surfaces, you can use acrylic matte medium.

4. Place the reverse type, with acrylic matte gel medium on it, face down onto the textured or smooth painting surface. It takes about an hour to set, humidity depending, and then you will be able to lift the paper off. Let it dry overnight.

5. The next day, rub the surface with a damp cloth, lifting the remaining paper (which looks like tissue ) off the surface. You can also use your fingers. Sometimes, I like to use a clean rubber cement pickup eraser to do the job.

6. When the excess paper is fully removed, the ink part of the type will be the only thing that remains.

7. Solvent transfers using a solvent to lift/remove the ink can also be used. Even a blender marker that has a solvent inside can lift the ink by rubbing it on the back side of the paper.

The above image is from my handmade sketchbook before the pages were taken out. It was done using razor blades and paint. The images below show the pages that were accented with typographic elements.

The text was added in using a solvent transfer and clear treated acetate made for inkjet printers.

In addition, you can also use press type to apply typography to a surface. Letraset is a company that used to make press type for graphic designers back in the day. I still have a whole bunch of it! To apply the type, all you need to do is burnish it on and then seal it with acrylic matte medium. I have used this process in other paintings. It is the easiest transfer process to use. But, you are limited to what has been premade in terms of type and symbols.

The above image is a detail of the raised lettering I created on my mixed-media triptych called Focus.

Lastly, stencils are a great way to get lettering that is raised. You can even combine both raised and textured type to get interesting effects. In the detail image above, the lettering was designed on the computer and stencils were cut with my die-cutting machine. The raised letters were created using molding paste and various stencils. Acrylic paint was sponged on top. The floral element was created with gel medium debossing techniques.

Incorporating a typographic message can not only add an interesting graphic element but also provide context to your work, making it meaningful to the viewer. According to the announcement for the Sketchbooks exhibition at the Society of Illustrators, “Sketchbooks capture an artist’s ideas whenever and wherever inspiration strikes. In these pages, quick sketches can provide a blueprint to follow when creating an elaborate piece of art, while observational drawing focuses on the documentation of the external world and includes travel and nature studies. Sketchbooks are the connection between an artist and introspection, often the rawest and most unique artwork an artist creates.”

For more mixed-media explorations check these new projects out:


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NAVIGATING THE LABYRINTH OF THE CREATIVE MIND is my new patreon endeavor where I take you behind-the-scenes to witness projects I am working on. From the preliminary concepts, sketches and the production of unique costuming, masks, headdresses and embellishments through to the final execution of my mixed-media paintings, you will witness my journey through live monthly access on Zoom, weekly process posts and weekly inspirational and motivational audio insights.

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