Sonora-based artist Phil Vance creates incredible typography portraits rendered entirely in hand-written text. Drawn to pattern, texture, and color, the artist describes his process as “cross hatching but with words.” From Einstein to Mark Twain, each portrait from the In Their Own Words series pays tribute to Vance’s favorite historical and artistic figures.
To form the contours, shadows, and details of each word portrait, Vance writes inspiring quotes from each subject thousands of times in different sizes and layers. Vance tells My Modern Met in an email, “I started to imagine painting portraits where you could look through the subjects skin to see inside of them and read their thoughts.” He continues, “I got really wild with the de Kooning, Picasso, and Escher portraits. They are some of my favorite artists so I wanted to pay tribute to them in my own way while exposing others to some of their wisdom.”
Feeling that using black pen can sometimes appear flat, Vance has recently started to explore the possibilities of using color. For one of his most recent portraits—of Batman’s The Joker—Vance spent more than 100 hours painting quotes from The Dark Knight. Similar to a pointillism painting, from afar the hand-written typography blends together to create the image. Close up, the viewer can notice countless words and sentences in differing shades. Vance reveals, “I like to think of the color portraits as a sort of mashup between my word rendering and Chuck Close’s optical mixing.”
Find more of Vance’s work on his website, where his growing portfolio includes abstract cities and landscapes, illustration, and digital art.