Playing with a visual alphabet

vis-alpha-a-b-c-d
I am struggling to know which of the (currently) 33 memory experiments to work on at any given time. At the moment, I am playing around with designing a visual alphabet along the lines of those used in the Renaissance. I’m not going to attempt anything like the Renaissance masterpiece in the top image!

Below are some versions from  the German Dominican Johann Host von Romberch who wrote about memory methods (among other things) around 1530.

rhomberg-grammatica
Here’s one of my first rough sketch for M:

m-marmoset-mine
I will be doing mine as a continuous strip in a ‘concertina’ booklet that folds out. I want the characters / animals in my visual alphabet to interact with the next or previous animal to give an easier link for memory (which the marmoset doesn’t at the moment).  I hope it will get to the stage I don’t need the letters, just the sequence of images. I want to use this as a memory aid for temporary lists, talks and so on.

I am using any animals or mythological characters I can come up with and playing with the way it will look with the illuminated letters. I am not totally happy with my list of animals / characters. I want more dynamic interaction between the character and the next in line. My artistic skills are limited but I shall just have to work at it!

A: Arachne
B: Bird of Paradise
C: Cat
D: Dragon
E: Emu (not really suitable)
F: Frog
G: Griffin (that’ll test my art!)
H: Hydra (lots of curvy snakes – that’s staying!)
I: Imp
J: Jester
K: Kingfisher (mmmm? maybe too sedate?)
L: Lion
M: Marmoset (I have that one working, so cute!)
N: Neptune
O: Owl (of course!)
P: Phoenix
Q: Quetzalcoatl (too obscure? Too like Phoenix?)
R: Raven
S: Spider (MUST be a spider, given my addiction)
T: Toucan
U: Unicorn
V: Vulture
W: Wyvern (or is that obscure?)
X: Xanthorrhea (plant, dull – HELP!!!)
Y: Yorkshire terrier (HELP, that was nearly as desperate as X)
Z: Zeus

Some of these have a mythological feel while others don’t. Does that matter? ANY suggestions and ideas very welcome.
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UPDATE – 12 December 2016:

Thank you for all the comments, messages and emails. I am updating some of the choices above:
E is staying as the emu because it has stuck so hard when I use the list.
G is now a Ghost, a woman in a long white dress (as is mandatory for ghostly women)
K is a Kiwi. I use the visual alphabet for memorising bird lists when we are out birding. So much easier than taking a notebook out constantly. It is very confusing when we see a kingfisher and it isn’t in the K-place. My drawings of kangaroos or koalas would simply make you all laugh – they are really hard to draw.
W – the argument below for a wombat is too convincing to ignore. Wombat it is.
X is Xerxes of Persia with his long curly beard. Not well known but far better than a Xanthorrhea plant which no-one has heard of anyway.
Y is now a yak. Of course. How silly of me (as was pointed out by a number of correspondents).

I start art classes this week to work on the visual alphabet, and the other memory experiments which need art, such as the medieval manuscript (I love being ludicrously ambitious) and the bestiary. My new teacher did advertise that he will help with individual projects. I suspect he didn’t mean medieval memory experiments.

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14 Responses to Playing with a visual alphabet

  1. Marie Belfield says:

    I notice you’ve got arachnids for A, which aren’t sedate by any means but antlions, of whose existence I have only recently found out about, are positively ruthless! This little clip could help ignite your memory cells! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWkfAyfBDHE

    • lynne says:

      Hi Marie,

      I agree that antlions are amazing. Thank you for the link. How cool! If I was any less an arachnophile I’d be very tempted to change.

      I have Arachne for A, the weaver who Athena turned into a spider in Greek mythology. I have an obsession with spiders as a result of overcoming my arachanophobia – hence my book “Spiders: learning to love them”. Any chance to bring spiders into the frame and I jump at it. So they get S for spider and A for Arachne. The ‘S-spider’ will be the animal while Arachne will be the Greek mythological character throwing her spun web over the B (bird of paradise).

      I have started linking each of the letters and the updated list of characters. I will do an update blog here soon.

      Thank you so much for your interest!

      Lynne

  2. Eileen Walder says:

    What an amazing challenge you have set yourself but such a beautiful expression of your artistic talents. It will be such a wonderful book when completed.

    • lynne says:

      I must admit that I dream of a lovely result which might be publishable, but I don’t think that i have the skills to do it. It will be fun to try!

  3. Avril says:

    I am amazed what the internet can hold. I only thought of X-Ray fish. But google says http://allfeathersfurandfins.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/x-hmmm.html

    There’s got to be some inspiration for you there, Lynne. Have fun! 😀

  4. MST says:

    Y is for Yak, surely.

  5. Jean Jacques says:

    Wombats for w because I saw my first live one a couple of days ago
    I had only seen dead ones before
    As in road kill 🙁

    • lynne says:

      I must seriously consider wombats. I adore them. We used to have them breeding in the bush on the property where I used to live. So glad you have seen one. Adorable, aren’t they?

  6. john dennithorne says:

    Cant help, only praise I am afraid. You truly are a remarkable person.

  7. Hilary Kerrod says:

    Kingfishers? Sedate?? Have you never been dive bombed by the little sweeties???

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