Dym Sans Bold

Typography – it’s a lovely word : “ the art and technique of arranging type in order to make language …” . Signs, Text ( proper text that is, the sort that is printed in books) , packaging and so on, they all contain examples of typographical style.

Most people go through their everyday lives unaware that their buying habits and responses to the the world are dictated by typefaces. As our tastes change, typefaces go in and out of fashion. Here are some examples:

Unfashionable – Cooper Bold, just too Seventies, Comic Sans ( beloved of Playgroups everywhere), whenever I’m presented with a anything written in Comic Sans I feel deeply patronised, it says to me, even a child can understand this. It can also say “you will have fun”. I used to work for someone who sent out nasty memos in Comic Sans – talk about mixed messages!

Have a look at this website http://www.comicsanscriminal.com/   . Other faces with a “do not use” sticker attached are; Broadway (Art Deco, now very “yesterday”) and Old English (“we need something that’s looks “old”, ah, this one will do.”

Gill Sans “The Boss”

There’s only one fashionable face at the moment –  Gill Sans, as seen in the ubiquitous  Keep Calm and Carry…  signs .Despite over use, its a wonderful style.  Thankyou Eric Gill. Thankyou also for Perpetua, a very elegant face.

A familiar use of Gill Sans

Eric Gill

The dullest, most functional typeface is Arial, beloved of teacher handouts, In the past I have been told at various learning establishments that this typeface must be used  because it’s easy to read.  Typeface Fascism.

Homemade signs with DIY typefaces, are rife on the Marsh. I have begun (why?) to collect examples.  You might think there are better things to get worked up about, but this is the face (literally) we present to our visitors. These appalling examples of signage make us look like uneducated savages. Dawbed signs for “Snak bars”  “Accomadation” and “Kaff”  are amongst recent sitings. I call it “Dym Sans Bold”.

The origins of the Dungeness font a bit of care has been taken by the Fishermen

On a brighter note Dungeness artist Paddy Hamilton has noticed a prevalent style of signwriting which seems to be particular to the fishermen of the area. It’s strange but the redoubtable harvesters of the sea appear to have an inbuilt genetic ability to write decent signs. To this end Paddy has developed a typeface which he has appropriately named “Dungeness”. Like all good typefaces it evokes a certain vernacular that is peculiar to fishermen. To quote from his website  –  “The premise of the DUNGENESS FONT is to  create a useful font, derived from the many hand painted signs along  the coastal roadside, promoting the fishermen’s beach produce, businesses and services offered at Dungeness.” http://www.paintings-for-sale.net/font-dungeness.html have a look at Paddys’ excellent web pages.

“Dungeness” Font

Back to my  “bete noir”… can people  please take more care with their notices? Some  signs are no better than the graffitti and “tags” that upright citizens get so angry about. All I ask is for amateur typographers to take a lead from  the fishermen typographers. Have a little more care with your lettering work and help improve the face .that we present to the outside world.

NB.  For anyone who wants to read a really good, amusing book on typefaces, try “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield.

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Mr Tubbs builds a Water Tower,

Mr Tubbs’ Tower

I love the Water Tower at Littlestone, it’s so quirky and odd, its shape defies logic, its a bit unbalanced (I can relate to that 🙂 )

This odd landmark was built in 1890 by Henry T Tubbs (great name) to supply water for a planned new resort including the Littlestone Golf Course. Mr Tubbs also built the Marine Parade and the Grand Hotel  Unfortunately the tower didn’t function properly and the water was found to contain too much salt to be of any use.  Henry had also planned a pier, ( so you’re not the first, Councillor Tillson) but this was never realised and the pier was built at Eastbourne instead.

The tower is constructed in a gorgeous orangey red brick which positively glows in the evening sunshine. It’s sort of squeezed in the middle, it narrows at about the third story and its appearance changes depending on your viewpoint. At the top there is a sort of turret, giving the building a slightly military look. The military used the Tower during WWII as a lookout post and they made some changes to the structure, partly the reason for its slightly wobbly look. Apparently some of the additions have been knocked off and now lie in the garden. The Army have also added a substantial concrete stairway inside. Without cement, I think  WWII would have been a totally different affair.

The Tower features in many pictures by Paul Nash and is also shown in the painting at the top of my Blog (this is by Richard Eurich  who I think was a great painter).  www.richardeurich.co.uk  . More of Eurich another time.  I imagine that Nash liked the Tower because it provided a focal point in what is a pretty featureless vista ( the nuclear power station at Dungeness was only built in 1965.)

Paul Nash “The Wall” 1923(Tower top left)

When I first arrived in Dymchurch nearly six years ago, I was very drawn towards this building, it’s my kind of structure. I’m given to producing tower like ceramics and whilst I was teaching at a prison in the North West of England I produced a piece of work with an uncanny resemblance to the subject of this post.   People often ask whether it’s inspired by the LIttlestone Tower, but I have to say I had no knowledge of the building when I made the sculpture.

My “Watertower” ceramic piece

This little story might look like a blatant attempt to publicise my own creative output, by creating a tenuous link. How could you possibly think that?

Whatever your opinion about my tower sculpture, go and see Mr Tubbs’ magnificent Littlestone Water Tower .  Please respect the fact that  it’s a private residence now. But what a great place to live!

An interesting Block of Concrete

In the 1970s the Tate Gallery bought a sculpture called “EquivelantVIII” by American Minimalist sculptor Carl Andre. “The Bricks” as they became affectionately known, caused national outrage. In this country we love being indignant about artworks, don’t we? “Waste of taxpayers money” ,”Could have built a new hospital”, “My 4 year old could have…” etc   and so on….

Those pesky bricks… Equivelant VIII Carl Andre Tate Gallery

I’m digressing slightly, I want to talk about a block of concrete that appeared as the subject of a Paul Nash painting in 1922. as far as I know there was not (and never has been) a public outcry against this particular artwork. In fact it was well received and Frank Rutter of the Sunday Times called it ” One of the best oil paintings Mr Nash has yet exhibited.”

When Nash arrived for his 5 year stay in Dymchurch, he was, as most people know, in a poor state of mind. His experience of the atrocities of war first hand left the artist with what was diagnosed as “War Strain”. He saw the quiet little village as a place to recuperate and to reinvigorate his artistic ideas.

Nash spent many hours on the seawall working, thinking and gazing at the constant ebb and flow of the daily tides. It is said that on occasions his wife Margaret would have to go out and remind him to return home.

At the High Knocke end of the seawall there is an outfall, part of the Marsh drainage system, there is also another outfall near the main slipway (see earlier Blog).  Above the High Knocke outfall there lies an enormous concrete pier or platform, this forms the point at which the outfall joins the wall. Nash became interested in this block and by his own admission struggled to paint it in relation to the curves of the seawall. Eventually he wrote that he had;  ‘ found a way to solve the equation of that damned block house and the curve of the steps and the curve of the sky’.

The end of the steps today

The final result is an odd painting. The green fronted monolith sits defiantly. It has no real features, but despite its anonymous nature, it has a sort of anthropomorphic presence and sits dominantly in the centre of the picture, like a giant man-made full stop at the end of the seawall steps.

“The End of the Steps” 1922

My belief is that the large block we see today at  the end of the original concrete seawall is that same feature,  its algae covered surface provides an interesting, organic contrast to its entirely man-made form.

Some people might find it hard to relate to Carl Andre’s Minimalist creations, however, seen in real life they do what they say on the tin, they occupy a space in an interesting way, they define a physical  area and they have an insistent prescence, purity and a life of their own.

Admittedly, Nash’s  “End of the Steps” is a difficult piece of art , but it’s a painting of our steps, our block of concrete,and our Seawall. I’m fascinated by it.  Because of Nash they all have a secure and permanent place in the History of Art.