Edward Ruscha, Exploded Crystal Chandelier Headache, 1987, oil on canvas, 59 x 55 inches. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Council and the Selma Pearl Acquisition Fund for Contemporary Art in honor of Katherine Hough; additional support provided by Leisa and David Austin, 20-2003.

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Get Inspired by
Ed Ruscha

Listen closely to your surroundings and write down words that you find interesting. Focus on how the words look and what they might mean when combined together. Then select a few words and create a drawing of those words.

Supplies:

  • Writing paper or notebook
  • Scratch paper
  • Drawing paper
  • Coloring supplies
  • Eraser
  • Optional: masking tape and scissors

Instructions

Step 1

Listen to your surroundings and write down words you hear that you find interesting. You might hear them during a conversation, on the TV, or over the radio. 

Step 2

Pick two or more words from your list to draw. Think about words that will look visually interesting. Try to think about your words as drawings by focusing on them as shapes and as pictures. Then think about what meanings they might take on when combined. The words do not have to make sense when combined, but they might suggest an interesting or unusual phrase, idea, or picture.

Step 3

On a piece of paper, experiment with drawing different letter styles. To create a look similar to the artist’s, choose block letters (letters that are outlined and blank in the center). Ed Ruscha used a font reminiscent of the Hollywood sign. He called this typography (the style and arrangement of letters) “Boy Scout Utility Modern,” a style he used to make his work look homemade.

Step 4

Lightly sketch out your words on your drawing paper.

Step 5

Select two or more colors to use in the background around your letters.

You might create a variegated (multicolored) or gradient field of color similar to the artist’s use by applying your darkest color on one end with firm pressure, and then slowly releasing the pressure so that the color transitions from dark to light or light to dark.

Once you have finished coloring, erase any pencil markings from your letters so that the letters are outlined by the background colors.

Tip: Cover the letters with masking tape so that the colors do not get onto the letters and then remove the tape when finished coloring.

Step 6

When your drawing is finished, think about how the words look as a work of art; then consider what they mean. Do they combine to make a phrase? What images do your words make you think of?

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