Michael Leventis – lettering for the artist

Lettering the fine fine art painting

This lettering commission was really unpredictable with the canvas and different absorptions affecting flow of sign enamel.

The letters actually flowed on beautifully… but the real drama was getting them on in the first place.

Normally the layout drawing traces down onto the surface easily and one uses the chalk line draft as a close spacing guide.

This drawing and trace down decided to completely fail for some unfathomable reason.  It was at that moment I realised there was something special in the way he applied his paint.

”Only oils with turpentine he mused..”

But as I gave up the normal route I realised I had to do it differently and without hesitation.

I grabbed a pair of rusty studio scissors and started hacking out the letters with reasonable accuracy and rising panic… after a fairly desperate activity I laid the drawing back up and flicked chalk across the now newly chopped stencil.  In 32 years this was a first and not without desperation.

I never use the drawing as a final mark… I always take my brush and allow it to command the structure and curves.  The drawing gets you spaced accurately but after that it can get in the way.

At last my pallet was loaded and brush charged to the canvas the chiselled sable went and with a tip led technique I found myself flying around the text!  Ocassionally the canvas sucked in the mix and cause tiny errors, spiders and runs…  I zapped these with tissue at hand and re cut the glyphs.

The font itself was a contrived New york wharf type of 50s font – chunky and hard. Standing back with line one done it looked really hard and perfect.

I was amazed!!  This was good.

After 30 minutes they were done and it was solid… no need for an outline as originally planned.

The painting had taken on a new dimension and talked it’s own poetic message.

Masking the 10mm box line was a job every bit as accurate as Damien Hirst job nay more so… involved taping registers for marking out … marking, straight liner tape as offset guide, then Frog tape, tracking the straight setters… corners all needed re tape cut ins because impossible to razor trim tap for obvious reasons… Frog Tape ruled again with only 2 tiny bleeds.

Curious as I usually am about my clients, I had a number of fascinating kick-back chats with Michael in his fab Rauol restaurant in Maida Vale and talked about his past present and future aspirations..

I can recommend the salmon and avocado sandwich by t’way.

”I started out working with my father… he didn’t want me to head in the ‘wrong direction’ (art college) and so in my early twenties I found myself in the USA … we had a number of businesses in the states… one of which was a bottling plant for Cocoa Cola… ”

But it wasn’t until I met Francis (Bacon) years later and quite by chance on Ios that I realised I had to paint again… Francis demanded I return to England and found me a studio… how could I refuse that?

” You see my father died of lung cancer… and the chap in the Marlborough adverts died of lung cancer too… so it’s deeply ironic.

I physically winced when he told me that.

”How devastating… ”

Michael kep his eyes fixed in his sheltered yet poised way.  he struck me as a tender hearted man and a gifted painter.

Getting up close to his image on the canvas was quite a surprise because at a distance these graphically rendered images seem rather slick. Up close is a different mater.

They are beautifully painted… crafted across the carefully selected shifts and divisions.

Divisions they depict and play with.

TBC shortly

NG

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