“Letterscape” Calligram Art Activity: Text Art Exploration

What is a “Letterscape”?

A “letterscape” is what I call a landscape drawn with text. More accurately, a letterscape is a form of calligram, a piece of text in which the design and layout of the letters creates a visual image related to the meaning of the words themselves. 

This calligram activity is part of a broader lesson on calligram poetry, which is part of an even bigger series on Surrealism. You can find both here:


“Letterscape” Calligram Art Activity: Text Art Exploration


calligram letters cape text art
Source: Alliance Francaise Calligram Competition

Objectives:

For this project, students will create a “letterscape”. To do so, they will sketch a preparatory drawing which will then be filled with written words.

Materials for exploration:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Pen
  • Erasers
  • Optional: Text references (books, poems, magazines…)

Preparation: 

Choose what source will students use for their written text. 

  • Will they copy from a book?
  • Will they use famous poems?
  • Will they write their own?
  • If they are not a confident writer yet, consider using simple words or even just letters and turn it into a fun exercise of spelling and calligraphy. 
Biggest Calligram in the World, part of the permanent exhibition of the Valencian Museum of Ethnology.
Biggest Calligram in the World, part of the permanent exhibition of the Valencian Museum of Ethnology.

Exploration Process:

Introduce calligram poetry to students. According to the age group, this can take from a few minutes to one or more lessons. 

Introduce them to their text source. If they will be writing their own poetry, plan enough time for that to happen. 

Have students draw their preparatory sketches with pencil and write the text with markers or pens. The pencil can be simply erased later on.  

 

Kids can also work in groups to create a stunning collective work.


Further Exploration:

Letterscape art could be a useful exercise to practice descriptions, as students could write about particular objects while outlining their shapes.

One possible variation is to use a book of choice as inspiration: students will create an original illustration, but instead of using lines and colors, they will fill it with text from the book.

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