The Letterarian

Artist. Keeper of letters…



letters… letters…

Letters letters letters….. Time to get back to work in the studio….
This work is a study done with an automatic pen #1, gouache, on BFK paper.

I’m thinking of turning this work into a print, and also working it into an embossed version with my etching press.


©Jacqueline Harris 2019

experimenting with original work

Experimenting with digital filters on one of my original prints.
From the Dream Sequence I, l’enchantement de la femme noire book.

Dream Sequence I, detail – Version 3

The Book of Laughter


Happiness is elusive.
Just when you think
you’ve got a good hold of it,
it slips from your grasp.

And yet,
it’s as free for the taking
as the air that we breathe.

I can hear it laughing.

©Jacqueline Harris 2016
The Book of Laughter Artist book, hand lettered, bound, printed, and embossed. Edition of 4.


Paper Universe

Paper…it is a universe within itself… As handlers of paper we respond to how it feels, looks and responds to our touch, to its weight, by how it moves and how it sounds when it moves, how it bends, and how it can flap about when you animate it, or how serene and beautiful it may look when it hangs from a wall or falls from a book… This list can go on and on. Besides the amazing things that artists can do and say with this fine medium for expression, paper can say a whole lot without having anything said on it.

These are elements I was exploring when I developed the following three book works which were created specifically for a Canadian group exhibition that showed in 2011 called “Bound by Nature, An exhibition inspired by nature, landscape and books,” curated by Canadian artist Deborah Danelley.

With “Memoir, a book of sand” I was interested in exploring texture and containment, light and shadow, and the metaphor of moving through time with the eye travelling across the length of an image, a book. Taking the memory that time places on us and containing it in this form felt like a natural thing to do…

“Memoir, a book of sand” 2011 Book cover/box: 2 3/8″ h x 4 1/2″ l x 3 7/8″w (h 6cm x l 11.5cm x w 9.8cm) Fine Japanese St. Armand papers mounted on board.
A concertina book structure with an inkless embossed print mounted and bound on fine handmade Japanese papers. Book opens up to approx. 106 in. (269 cm) Text contemplation by Jacqueline Harris. Photo credit: Nicole Coulson.

Poem text:

a mark in time…

this is the mark
time places on us

it is a memory
in the sand

Detail of “Memoir, a book of sand” Digital text in pigment ink. Photo credit: Nicole Coulson.
Detail of inkless print in “Memoir, a book of sand” Inkless print hand rendered onto paper from a long plate made up of acrylic mediums on board.


The next set of books “Night & Day I” and “Night & Day II” is an example of how papers can speak for themselves…

“Night & Day I” “Night & Day II” 2011 Matchbox books bound with Arches and fine Japanese papers.
Detail of “Night & Day” books.
Detail of “Night & Day I” Text digitally rendered in pigment inks and composed by Jacqueline Harris.
Detail of “Night & Day II” Text digitally rendered in pigment inks and composed by Jacqueline Harris.
Detail “Night & Day I”
Detail “Night & Day II”
Details of “Night & Day” books.


“Dream Sequence I, L’enchantement de la femme noire”
In this work I was exploring size and the concept of the “unfolding” element of a narrative. I also wanted to feel physically engaged in the handling experience of reading a book with such wide pages…you have to use your whole arm to turn the pages, and I found this very engaging as a reader.

“Dream Sequence I, L’enchantement de la femme noire” 2011 This “book” is bound in a handmade box. To provide an idea of the scale of this book, dimensions are: h 18.3 cm x w 64cm x d 1.2cm; h 7.2″ x w 25.2″ x d .47″ (book closed up)
Detail of “Dream Sequence I, L’enchantement de la femme noire”

Building a visual narrative is like building a poem. Thematic elements and motifs occur and recur throughout the piece, building up rhythm and harmony. I wanted to retain such a feel with the method of printing and gilding, and so devised a way to apply the gold in the work in the manner of the pochoir method of the forest and dame noire.

Inside detail of “Dream Sequence I, L’enchantement de la femme noire”
Narrative consists of Pochoir print and 23kt gilding on Rives, mounted and bound on fine Japanese and St. Armand papers. w 186.6 cm; w 73.5″ (book opened up) Photo credit: Nicole Coulson



Writing & Visuality

This is a question that I ask myself: What is writing? Does the act of writing always have to deal with letters? What if the act of writing dealt with image… We could say that written/drawn letters can become image, but what about the act, the motion of writing becoming the image…After all, writing is a gestural act, and unique to each hand that practices it.
The three works I am showing below are examples of inkless prints – one of the areas I have been working on to which I have been applying the musings above. It is interesting to think of the works below as writing, as they have not been rendered with ink… Within these works, the light casts shadows upon the carved forms, and the shadows act as the ink.

“Just two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl” is a traditionally lettered piece inspired by the Roman Cursive style of writing. The letters were rendered in a traditional calligraphic manner, then transferred to a board to be used as a plate for printing. Working on the “empty” space surrounding the letters, acrylic medium was shaped around the edge of the letters, with further detailing applied throughout the plate. The plate work was as much sculpted as it was written.The focus of development for this work was on making the letters clear and legible. To my eye, this piece has a more traditional, classic lettering element.

“Two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl” 2008 9” x 15” (22.8 cm x 38 cm) Inkless print on Rives Moulin du Gue from board with acrylic medium, printed on an etching press. Lyric line from Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were here” song.
Detail of “Two lost souls…”


“Bound by Nature” is another lettered work. Here I was developing some expressive outline letters that relied on impulsive gestural movements to form them. Once transferred to the linoleum, these lively letters were carved with my carving tool into the plate, again, in a gestural manner – much like hand writing. The letters are mostly legible, but somehow they take on a dancing, drawn quality.

“Bound by Nature” 2011 Inkless print on Canson Edition printed from linoleum on an etching press. 4” x 7 1/2” (10.2 cm x 19 cm)
Detail of “Bound by Nature”


“Solitude” is an example of a work that I call a “written image.” While the moon is formed from acrylic medium applied to the lino plate, the carving of the tree image is rendered in strokes that are very much like hand writing. My carving knife has become my pen, and my image my writing. For me, it is like writing a poem, except that in this instance, the image is the poem, and the strokes used to make the image the “letters” that made up that poem.

“Solitude” 2014 Inkless print on Canson Edition printed from linoleum on an etching press. 5 3/8” x 7 1/2” (13.6 cm x 19 cm)
Detail of “Solitude”



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