The Letterarian

Artist. Keeper of letters…



Summer Solstice 2016

In anticipation of experiencing a “strawberry moon” on the summer solstice, I prepared my tripod and Sony camera with zoom lens so that I could capture this rare occasion of a full moon rising on the longest day of the year. I had envisioned a clear night from which to take my photos. Alas, I could say that an evil system of clouds rolled in and obscured my fantasy of a perfect round ball of night light floating in the atmosphere, but can truly say that this cloud system actually made that full solstice moon look even more beautiful. I could not take my eyes away from the sight of this beautiful view, which did not appear from my focal viewpoint until after 11:15 PM. What a mesmerizing scene!

Summer solstice full moon 2016 ©Jacqueline Harris 2016

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”


eye : regard


eye : regard

©Jacqueline Harris 2016

Another work forthcoming…

Seen to Scene

Seen to Scene was inspired by “The Death of the Moth,” an essay by Virginia Woolf.

The essay “The Death of the Moth” can be accessed at

The following composition is intended to be shown as a visual work(forthcoming). Italicized text within this piece is excerpted from “The Death of the Moth.”


Seen to Scene

A day at the speed of ordinary
can feel like a place
where all minutes mesh
one into the other
each fading its way out of view
to be eternally replaced by others
of a similar hue

There is a window
through which all can be seen

all is scene

and a writer who records
with her pencil
what it is that she has seen

all she sees is scene

…in her haze of thought
a movement thus happens
upon a window frame      a day moth alights

here: a first set of frames
zeroes in upon
a moment in monochrome:
a powdery exposure in beige

Seen to scene
at a point
in the time of ordinary
a pale moment is
stirred to life upon
the screen of a mind…

it is but a slight stir
and yet on this day
it is enough to trip up
the mundane tick of time

such as it is

A scene makes its way
into the writer’s eye
so that she begins to record
with her pencil (now filling with words)
and from stillness to action
articulates at the speed of thought

Pencil scratching upon paper
like a film clip clipping
from a projector
this writer knows how to spin
real into reel

A master with words
a page of pure white
springs to life at her touch:
words transform
what is seen into scene


the writer records
as the scene plays itself out
quick movements catch her eye
as she focuses away
from the beigelittlemoth
and pans out to formmovement
out and beyond the frame

word sequences begin
moving at shutter speeds

rooks…soaring round the tree tops…a
vast net with a thousand black knots
…cast up into the air…after a few
moments sank slowly upon the trees…
Then…thrown into the air again in a
wider circle this time, with utmost
clamor and vociferation…

Images resonate
as distant sounds
faint and ghostlike
carried as they are upon a breeze
tingle her senses

The plough…scoring the field…the
earth…pressed flat and gleamed with
moisture…vigor…rolling in from the
fields and the down beyond…the size
of the downs, the width of the sky, the
far-off smoke of houses, and the
romantic voice, now and then, of a
steamer out at sea…

Advance the speed of your reading
and the word images
she has composed
will spin to life
in your mind
at the speed of reel time

a scene performed:
rooks are not just said
they are flying an aerial ballet

The reader’s attention is caught:
the language
it is like optics
it is words
forming an optical allusion in the mind

each individual word strung together
amongst the other becomes a moving
image in a spinning of the scene
words whirl by as rooks in full flight

It is…
exploration at the speed of thought
for thought is action too
however inert it may appear to be

and daily life has its contingent moments

a flowing stream in flux
it is a continuous, peripheral state of the mind
and it ebbs and flows
into a sort of mementum: (memory + moment)

snapshots flickering in time

We are surrounded by the daily:
serieslike cinemaclips
constants in motion

Ever at the ready
able to see
through the monotonous hue
the writer so does
observe in wait
from her point of view
as she looks though her lens
of thought
for the moment
when she can write what she sees
reeling in images
then casting these out
with her pencil
as narrative
from a filament made up of words
that live in her mind

A plain little moth

a show of words

an act
a tiny bead of pure light
an illumination of a narrative scene
words flowing from a pencil
showing at shutter speed

Action is energy
however static it appears written on a page

a writer
a pencil
a paper
a moth
a window
a moment
a movement
a word

turning the benign
into the sublime

A tiny movement appears(insignificant as it may seem)
then plays itself out for one to see.

The scene has been recorded.

Settling upon its narrow window ledge, the little beige moth
has completed its performance. Beyond this ledge,
images retreat out of focus. The film clip ends.
The light goes out.

The pencil is gently returned to a place upon a clean white page…


– ©Jacqueline Harris 2016 –

folding light


folding light

©Jacqueline Harris 2016

Trusting the work and its process



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