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Week #38
This work was done by Lisa Devlin in New Orleans this year for the session “Variations on Romans” in 26 Seeds: a Year to Grow. In her own words:
“Flies” was inspired by the work of Joke Boudens. I enjoy the graphic boldness and humor of her work which she achieves by butting up images and different text blocks of various shapes, sizes and styles. Although she seems particularly intrigued with beetles and other insects, the subject matter for my piece actually was inspired by a swarm of flies that had infested my house. I found this disturbing as I recalled a passage in the Bible (Exodus 8:21). Perhaps I, too, was being punished. Or maybe I’m just sloppy.

Artistic expression helped me cope with these feelings. I started by exploring the subject through online research and sketching. I sketched and played with many ideas and, because of limited space, many of them wound up on the “cutting room floor.” It’s interesting how such profound insights can be made and expressed by comparisons to something humble or overlooked. Flies can be playful, a nuisance, evidence of dirt or incarnations of evil (i.e. Beelzebub). I liked the idea of portraying the humble fly with references from poetry (e.g. William Blake), comedy (Groucho Marx), movies (Psycho) and everyday expressions. I thought it would be fun to explore the word “FLIES” itself by writing the first two letters and then repeating the letter “i” or “e” and even drawing eyes to create the word.

I chose a process that, although time consuming, was familiar and forgiving. I first hand-lettered the Neugebauer text blocks on grid paper, drawing the letters so the lines of text touched each other.
I particularly enjoyed how the ascender of one letter could merge with the descender of another with the dot in the letter “i” adding another contrasting and playful element. I extended some of these lines into adjacent letters and added “fly hairs” to various letters in the William Blake text block (thus echoing the legs of a fly). I created a carbon by tracing each text block with tracing paper, turned the paper over and traced it again with a soft lead pencil, taped the paper to a sheet of Canson paper and traced each letter yet again (phew!). Then I drew over each letter with Micron and Sharpie markers. It was a laborious process, but one that gave me a feeling of control and allowed me to make adjustments where necessary. Using a similar process, I drew graphic flies of various sizes, traced, transferred and redrew onto the Canson sheet.

Design decisions were made by considering contrasts in size, weight and balance within the layout. But as the work progressed, I noticed that it really didn’t have the wonderful feeling of Joke Boudens’s piece because the text blocks and images were placed too far apart. A patterned background would help create unity. Thick lines were drawn in Prismacolor pencils and then erased in areas to create subtle texture. These lines echoed the design of the larger flies and generated a sense of movement. Conceptually, my goal was for the viewer’s attention to move here and there around the page—much like the movement of a fly.

“Am not I a fly like thee?”

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