Tag Archives: Lettering & Typography

Projects and artworks about lettering, typography, and fonts design!

Mixed Media Collage: A Portrait Of David Bowie

David Bowie Portrait Collage
The Ziggy Stardust tribute poster.

This illustration portraits Mr. David Jones (a.k.a. David Bowie) at the time he was performing as Ziggy Stardust. The poster design was created as a collage of many different pieces of vintage paper from old newspapers and magazines with articles about Bowie. Some nice textures and decorations were found on books and all sorts of collectible ephemera as well.
David Bowie once stated: «I’m a collector. I always just seemed to collect personalities, and ideas. I have a hotchpotch philosophy which is very minimal». He used this archive of ideas and personalities as a toolbox to create characters and alter egos to play on stage: «I was a character when I performed all those albums, and I carried the character into interviews, newspapers, on stage, off stage – whenever there was media around I had to keep those characters concrete. The fabric of my work is using my body, my personality as well as my songs and stage performance, rather than a canvas».

The character of Ziggy Stardust is a perfect example of such holistic creational process. It was designed as a collage of various elements from Bowie’s cultural palette, mixing together his collected items: Iggy Pop and The Stooges, Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, The Legendary Stardust Cowboy, model Twiggy (which later appeared on the cover of David Bowie’s Pin Ups), and many more. The idea for the title (and maybe for the name of his band too) of his concept album The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars probably came from an LP recorded by The Rats, former group of Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder, Mick “Woody” Woodmansey, and John Cambridge (who will all later play with Bowie). The Rats recorded The Rise And Fall Of Bernie Gripplestone And The Rats From Hull in 1967. It was written by John Cambridge: «I had just been to see the film How I Won The War which featured John Lennon and I based the name of Bernie Gripplestone on musketeer Bernard Gripweed – the character played by John Lennon». John Cambridge was the drummer who joined stage with Bowie, Tony Visconti, Mick Ronson, as The Hype, for the Atomic Sunrise festival held at the Roundhouse on Wednesday 11 March 1970. It’s believed that Glam Rock was invented that night. Even Marc Bolan (T-Rex) was there, glued to the front of the stage and probably inspired by the show. Tony Visconty has been pretty clear about that event: «For me this will always be the very first night of Glam Rock. I didn’t know it at the time, but when we saw photos taken of us by Ray Stevenson , Marc Bolan was visible resting his head on his arms on the edge of the stage, taking it all in, Bolan never admitted he even went to the gig!».

But the main inspiration for Ziggy Stardust was certainly rock ‘n’ roll dark legend Vince Taylor, a wild stage animal that, by mid 60s, was already on the downside path of his musical career as an acid casualty. It was around this time that Bowie met Taylor (who had took his name “Vince” from Elvis Presley’s character “Vince Everett” in Jailhouse Rock and “Taylor” from actor Robert Taylor, even though other accounts say he got the name from the Latin phrase In Hoc Signo Vinces on Pall Mall cigarette pack) at the La Gioconda club in London. David Bowie recalls Vince Taylor telling him he was a god or an alien or probably a bit of both. Some of the features of This fading rock ‘n’ roll star who went crazy under a diet of amphetamines and LSD, claiming to be an alien god, were later injected inside Ziggy Stardust, who was going to be, indeed, another rock star messiah.
Ziggy and Vince had many things in common, starting with the make-up (and ending with self-destruction). You can picture Bowie thinking about the rise and fall of Vince Taylor, a leather messiah who ended up in a rock ‘n’ roll suicide. A composite rocker who quickly blended into his alter ego, melting in his own confusion.
There is an interview where Vince Taylor (whose real name was Brian Maurice Holden) says: «I’m a normal person. On the stage… My stage is an act». Just like Bowie and Ziggy. But sometimes boundaries between fictional and real can dangerously blur together. As Bowie once said: «I don’t know if I’m writing the characters or the characters are writing me».
Curiously, the name Ziggy came from a London tailor’s shop, called “Ziggy’s”, that Bowie saw from a train one day.

The collection of different pieces that Bowie used to create his own artwork was the inspiration for this mixed media illustration, a portrait made of paper clippings. Recycling old elements in something new, something with a different cut is also related to the cut-up technique. A technique that David Bowie used to write some of his songs, something he had borrowed from William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. But I will leave this for a new post!

Check out my other illustrations and posters dedicated to Bowie:

Vintage Nautical Illustration: Old Ship

Santa Caterina Old Sailing Ship Engraving
Seafaring Graphic Design.

The above illustration it’s one of the traditional themes for sailors and ocean lovers: a wooden sailing ship riding some waves and framed by a worn out rope. As all the old-fashioned maritime-related artworks, its graphic design style resembles the one of vintage prints and engravings. There is also a minimal touch of modernity in the lines that reminds the fresh inking of comic strip artists. The handwritten calligraphic text reads Santa Caterina (Saint Catherine), a name often used for boats and tall ships. On demand, this picture comes with different lettering styles and text. The customization makes this illustration very versatile so it can be used in a wide range of “naval” situations; for example as a signboard for a pub or a tavern, or for custom linens, sheets, and towels inside your sailing vessel! The drawing was originally part of a series of sketches for a logo design that will be posted soon.

If you are looking for nautical art, be sure to check sirjoeworks.com for more stuff, such as posters, prints, drawings, and collectible ephemera. Feel free to ask which images are available for purchase or for any other kind of custom design.

The King Of Chicha

The King Of Chicha
Typography and psychedelic cumbia.

On this quite minimalist illustration I have played a little bit with typography, mixing it with the drawing as a texture.
This artwork was somehow inspired by guitar player Enrique Delgado, pioneer of the Peruvian cumbia known as Chicha. Together with his band Los Destellos during the 60’s, he started to develop a peculiar mix of Andean music, psychedelic rock, and Cuban rhythms.
Their self-titled debut LP was released in 1968 by the Odeon-Iempsa label. This recording features Enrique Delgado (alias “El Chino”) on lead guitar, Fernando Quiroz (who was originally playing lead guitar with Los Zanys) on second guitar, Tito Caycho on bass and Carlos Ramirez on drums.
Some more great old-style Chicha bands to check out are: Los Mirlos, Juaneco Y Su Combo, Los Hijos Del Sol, Los Diablos Rojos, Eusebio Y Su Banjo.

Lettering Leaks

Lettering Leaks
Drops of words design.

Recently there has been a lot of leaking: leaked emails, leaked conversations, leaked information. Even my house’s plumbing suffered of leaks! So I guess this new trend had a bit of influence on my artwork. This sketch was a test for a project I started to develop months ago. It’s a rough hand-drawn 3D lettering design experiment with a vintage touch on a grunge old paper.
This illustration has certainly a warmer feeling than the one related to my Fake 3D Lettering Design post. In a certain way, it can be considered an evolution of one of the styles used for my Illustrated Indy’s Quote image. You can often achieve interesting effects by extruding depth from a font. But even more interesting stuff can come out of leaks!

Cuban Street Art: Fidel Castro

Murales Cubanos: Viva Fidel!
A tribute to murals in Cuba.

The first time a travelled to Cuba, many years ago, I was amazed by the incredible variety of street art on the island, especially in the main cities of La Habana and Santiago. Mural paintings seemed to blend perfectly with the old eclectic architecture and the humidity of the tropical heat. The murales related to political propaganda are still the most charming and classic ones, beside all the different styles and themes of Cuban street art. The ideals of Communism and Socialism perpetrated by Fidel Castro’s Cuban Revolution are a presence that gets life through vibrant colours and epic quotes painted on the walls. Some of the historical figures portrayed in the graffiti shine like Medieval icons with written adages, like the mythological Ernesto “Che” Guevara accompanied by the mantra “Hasta La Victoria Siempre”.

The Cuban mood and location inspired me this mural painting: a portrait of El Señor Comandante Fidel Castro surrounded by vintage lettering and classic quotes from the Revolución Cubana, such as “Cuba Libre”, “Viva La Revolución”, “Fieles A Nuestra Historia”, “Cuba es Fidel. Yo soy Fidel”.
Several years later, back to La Habana, I checked to see if the graffiti was still there. Here is the picture of that wall. Viva Cuba, Viva Fidel!

Mexican Folk Art Poster Design

Pachanga Chiapaneca Poster Design
It’s pachanga time!

Here goes a preview of the artwork for a flyer (and poster) I’m working on. It’s a freehand drawing inspired by Mexican folk art, especially the classic decorated calaveras (skulls) you can find during the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), and the ones drawn by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada. The graphic design and lettering are also inspired by chalkboard art.

Pachanga is a kind of music originally developed in Cuba by the end of the ’50s as a mix of Son Montuno and Merengue, characterized by cheerful rhythms, besides funny and puckish lyrics. After Fidel Castro raised into power, the Cuban music panorama started to lean more towards other islands and the USA. Ernesto “Che” Guevara once said about the Cuban revolution: «This is a socialism with pachanga!».
The name is also a synonymous for big party or fiesta, like the good ones with music and alcohol for dancing and drinking!

Lettering: Illustrated Indy’s Quote

Indiana Jones Lettering Quote
What to say when the only non-painful part of your body is the elbow?

One of Indiana Jones’ most classic lines comes from Riders Of The Lost Ark: after Marion’s comment about Indy’s bad look («You’re not the man I knew ten years ago»), he replies with the iconic «It’s not the years, it’s the mileage». A quote almost impossible to recycle in real life, but perfect for playing a little bit with lettering and graphic elements inspired by vintage labels, old maps, and nautical cartography.

Fake 3D Lettering Design

Fake 3D Lettering Design
Throwback graphic design work.

I’ve just found out this lettering experiment inside my old archives. The “Sir Joe” part was originally handwritten. I then added some depth and shadowing with different digital layers to simulate a computer-generated 3D effect, plus some red and white stripes as a background. It’s a quite simple idea, but enough entertaining to play for a while!

Wink Of A Brain: Mixed Media Collage

The Wink Of A Brain
A mind cosmogony: describing a very irregular head.

The idea for this collage was born as a way to explain layers of thoughts inside a misunderstood brain. It’s based, somehow, on the concept of cosmogony and the knowledge behind it, and has an analogy with the Flammarion engraving appeared as one of the illustrations on the 1888 book The Atmosphere: Popular Meteorology by French astronomer Camille Flammarion. That particular wood engraving was more a representation of the ancient mystical wisdom, like the one depicted in the visions of the Hebrew prophet Ezekiel, than a technical representation of a medieval cosmology, as probably believed by Flammarion himself. The caption of the engraving describes «a missionary of the Middle Ages [tells] that [he] had found the point where the sky and the Earth touch» and it’s obviously related to Flammarion’s previous work (from 1864) Imaginary Worlds and Real Worlds, on which he relates the legend of the monks Theophilus, Sergius, and Hyginus, who opened a mysterious gateway to another world while they where trying to discover the point where the sky and the earth touch.

So this artwork is the result of an imaginary conversation with Rosemary, trying to figure out a way to explain the mechanics of a very irregular head: as those monks, I was making an attempt to find the point where the sky and the earth touch. It’s not easy and it takes time to make intelligible the speed of [his] thoughts, a wink of a brain.

[The guidelines of this collage where generated with the help of Sir Joe Works’ My-Ching device!]