To the Letter

To the Letter

When we think of lettering, fonts, text, and color, we don’t always think about marketing, or poetry, or decorative painting.  But the truth is, all of these things can and do work together to tell a story, communicate a brand, and create a mood.  For all of these things are more inter-related then we may think.

Cathedral School for Boys, an independent Episcopal school Founded in 1957 ,  located on the grounds of Grace Cathedral in  San Francisco  enrolls approximately 267 boys in kindergarten through eighth grade.  When their Development Director engaged me to hand paint the school’s motto and other signage, we had to think about the size and style of lettering, font, and color that would best reflect its essence.

The Development Director wanted to identify “Alumni Hall”, which holds commemorative plaques listing the names of the student body dating back to the 19560’s.  The lettering of the words had to command the wall on which they were placed, and the dates, to clearly identify each decade of  pictured. A deep, rich custom blue was designed, reflected in the existing visual identity of the School, and the font “Perpetua” was chosen, appropriately enough. (Was that a fluke? A “meant to be”…?  A so-called, “Freudian slip” ?)

The school’s motto, “Minds  Hearts  Hands  Voices” was lettered across the front of the architectural detail directly facing the front glass window, creating a potent and effective message.  Key was planning the spacing between the words, as the Headmaster wanted the look to be clean, simple and streamlined, and thus elegant. No muss, no fuss.   It was just to be those four words, after all.   Let the words do the talking, supported by their size, spacing, color and font.  The space between each word serves as a visual and aural “beat”, or resting point of space and silence, which becomes part of the motto’s overall rhythm and poetry.  Aural, because the words “speak” to us the viewer.  As we read them, we hear them inside our heads, and as we are moved to speak, recite, or chant them.  This process again supports and enhances the messaging of The School, and perhaps, the adjacent related Grace Cathedral as well.

Without being overpowering, the power of the words which embody the intent, spirit and brand, of The School communicate, while integrating perfectly into its presentation, its lobby, its front office, and its formal signage.

The architecture of the building, its purpose, where it is situated geographically, its urban and natural surroundings, and its spiritual identity and associations are also an inspiration for the aesthetic choices relating to it.

Seeking grace and maybe sometimes  finding it.  The elements of visual and literary art, architecture, design, urban planning, education, the natural world, our creative, quirky and infinitely original  imagination, these gifts are always at our disposal to feed our hungry souls, and those around us.  Here’s wishing you grace, and the ability to offer it to others, through the powers of  our own perception.

Have YOU found a moment of grace through the powers of Your own perception?

If You feel so inclined, please share about it with us here.

We love to hear from You.

Remember, we are all  finding our own manner of grace in this thing called Life, together.


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Color Me Eclectic

Color Me Eclectic

On a recent sunny and magnificent day, I took a ride South, then West, first to see a Client, then to return to my studio in the western part of the City.

Little did I know what house color adventures awaited me during this relatively short excursion.  From  the middle class, to the well-to-do, to the downright funky,  the inhabitants of this variegated city never cease to amaze with their use of imaginative, and I must assume, highly personal  combinations and placement of color on their dwellings.

Here is a bit of my colorful, and oddly poetic romp, from the edge of nicely heeled Monterey Heights, to the Pacific reaches of the Sunset District’s outer Avenues.

Pale green and pinky red: not exactly Christmas

Across the street and down the road from my Client, who has resided in the same earthy gold stucco home for at least three decades, in a neighborhood of many more stucco. earth-toned  houses, I saw the above brightly hued structure, nearly vibrating in its complementary red and green intensity.  I noticed it also, because I expected to see it clad in it’s former strong yet earthy orange, (still quite noticeable in the neighborhood), next to the house pictured  below.  It has since been painted, but managed to avoid a Christmas glow, because of the paleness of the green, and pinky quality of the red.  Some might say that the placement of the paler color on the foundation’s garage door makes it feel ungrounded, but making such claims is not the purpose of this post.  You may draw your own conclusions.

Orange sherbert and Chocolate plum...vaguely gastronomic?

This house is the red and green home’s  direct neighbor on its left.  No slouch in the bright color department itself,  it no longer coordinates with its vibrant neighbor, and perhaps, fades into commonplace next to it.  However, it still stands out and reads as bold amidst the browns, ochres, golds and ivories that dominate the street.  Credit should be given where credit is due.

You could forget where you are....

Out of Monterey Heights, and away from the adjacent St. Francis Woods, one enters the world of the Outer Sunset Avenues,  punctuated by alphabetically named  streets which slope down to the blue Pacific.  Concentrated Asian populations, among others, reside in this area, their cultures reflected deliciously in colors and architectural details, as well as restaurant cuisine.  While gazing at the Church above,  framed by some of the few trees that grow out here, one could forget where one is for just a moment, and imagine being in other lands across the water.

Yellow ochre against jewel blue sky

Artists, musicians, and other creative types also live beach-side, and it is not completely unusual to see self-styled architectural additions, mural applications, faux finishes, textural surfaces, and decorative painting treatments like the one above, brightening up the often grey Avenue climes with strong color and whimsy.

One side of the street...

Driving West, I noticed that both sides of the street in a particular block had stretches of colorful houses directly facing each other.  Above, the shiny blue car adds a counterpoint to yellow,  green and red brick building fronts.

And the other side of the street...

Brightly colored cars would have been a distraction on this side of the street, and taken away from the yellow, green, ivory, mauve and blue house hues.  Happily, the homeowners complied with the concept of “variety within reason”, and maintained a balance of unity and complexity through their choice of dark gray automobile.  Thus, viewers and passers by, such as myself, were saved from the potentially negative effects of  overstimulation….

Backside View: weathered, poetic pastels...

Some might find the pale,weathered backsides of painted Avenue buildings understimulating, which could lead to restlessness and boredom in the viewer.  However, to me, these pastel-colored patinas,  slowly fading over time in the constantly shifting weather and light conditions of sun to fog, to rain, to sun again, contain a grave poetry . Perhaps they mirror the ultimately somber poetry of our lives: no matter how brightly we color the exterior, the facade will fade and crumple over time.  All is eventually claimed by nature. But what color we can create in the meantime, as we paint the portrait of our lives, reflected in our buildings, neighborhoods, cities and art!

If you have the time and the inclination, tell me what you think!  We are all in this thing called Life, together.