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Letter Form Design.

This process began with a design based on rectangular interlocking forms which applied the principles of three-point perspective drawing. As the students worked their way through this process, I felt they were capable of having a more challenging experience by creating a personal artistic statement using the same perspective principles. Encouraged by their work, I developed the idea that they could use the letters of their full name connected in creative ways. They would apply the principles of three- or four-point perspective drawing to create this personal design.


Applying the principles of three-point or four-point perspective drawing, students will develop a unified image using both their first and last names as the subject. The letter form can be interlocked, overlapped, or creatively interconnected in some way. This image will be fully developed by blending or mixing color to create a highly personal image.

Start-up Activity

Review the basic information regarding the use of vanishing points in two- and three-point perspective drawing.

In using two points, each point is placed on the horizon line on opposite sides of the paper. Any given horizontal angle is then grounded to these two points. The importance of using vanishing points is to create consistent angles in the relationship of the drawn figure to the ground. The third point is placed at the top of the page in which all vertical angles line up to that point. This will visually exaggerate the angles of any structure.

To refresh high school students' memories as to how to correctly use vanishing points, I ask them to create a drawing of interlocking rectangles using three vanishing points. To begin the first rectangle, draw a vertical line which is directed to the top vanishing point. This will be considered the closest edge of the rectangle to the viewer. Students will direct two lines form this line to one vanishing point on the horizon line, choosing the right or the left point. The last line of the rectangle is directed again to the vertical point at the top of the paper completing the basic shape. This creates a linear yet skewed looking rectangle.

For the second rectangle, create a smaller rectangle inside the first one following the same vanishing points. This new interior shape will be developed as a visual hole through the first rectangular shape. To create the illusion of depth use shorter lines directed from this rectangular shape to the opposite horizontal vanishing point. The student decides the depth of each rectangular form.

This process is done very lightly in pencil so that part of the first rectangular shape can be erased to permit the second rectangle to be interlocked. Begin the second rectangle by drawing the closest line of the rectangle (considered the closest edge) and follow the preceding directions. Continue this process until six or seven interlocking rectangles are developed. When complete use fine line markers to outline the finished image to show the clarity of each form.

Remind students that every line drawn must be applied to one of the three vanishing points. The overall size of each rectangular form is decided by each student. The image may appear as a series of interconnected trapezoids yet in three dimensional reality they remain interconnected rectangles.

Name Design

Instruct students in the use of vanishing points to create each letter of their names. Every line that is drawn is directed to one of the three or four vanishing points. The fourth point is located along the bottom of the paper and its location can be selected as the need arrives. All letters can generally line up to the two on the horizon line and the one at the top of the page. Letters such as W, M, and X need the fourth point and the students can decide the placement as they work through each letter's placement in their names.

Have students follow four basic steps to develop their name design:

1 Instruct students to create thumbnail sketches using simple lines on 8 1/2 x 11" (22 x 28 cm) or 12 x 18" (31 x 46 cm) newsprint paper. This is done to roughly see how each letter will be directed to one of the three or four vanishing points. It also helps in the overall composition of letters in the first and last name.

2 Students then add width to each individual letter using the same vanishing points. The students' names must be readable.

3 The illusion of depth is created by using the opposite vanishing points to show the thickness of each letter. See each letter as having a closest edge in which every line to the left of that closest edge lines up to the left vanishing point, every angle to the right of the closest edge lines up to the right vanishing point. Verticals go to the top vanishing point and a fourth point may be used at the bottom of the page for really challenging letters.

Check each student's work to make sure that each line is directed to one of the three or four points because at first glance the work may appear to be correct. The aim is a well constructed yet readable design.

4 The design emphasis is on combining letter forms to create an overall unified image. This can be accomplished as students are encouraged to overlap, interlock, and/or have one letter appear to pierce through another to make visual connection.


Craftsmanship 10-50 points

10 Poor use of materials, little attention to detail, marks on white negative space

20 Satisfactory use of materials, satisfactory attention to detail

30 Competent use of materials, adequate attention to detail

40 Good use of materials, good attention to detail, clean white negative space

50 Excellent use of materials, extreme attention to detail, clean white negative space

Effort 10-50

10 Poor use of class time, not focused on task, work handed in late, mediocre image development

20 Satisfactory use of class time yet not fully attentive to task, work handed in late, sufficient and acceptable image development

30 Good use of class time, focused on project, work on time, competent development of image

40 Very Good use of class time, very focused project, work in on time, very respectable development of image

50 Excellent use of class time, strong daily focus on project, work in on time or completed early, visually compelling final image

5 Additional points are given at the discretion of the teacher for exceptional problem solving, overcoming difficulties, complexity of the overall project or extra effort put forth in the process.


* 12 x 18" (31 x 46 cm) newsprint

* plastic right angle

* metal straight edges

* 12 x 18" (31 x 46 cm) white Vellum

* fine line permanent technical pens

* colored pencils or watercolors


Students create artworks that use organization principles and functions to solve specific visual arts problems.

Ken Vieth is an art teacher at Montgomery High School in Skillman, New Jersey.
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Title Annotation:using letters in art
Author:Vieth, Ken
Publication:School Arts
Date:Apr 1, 1999
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