Letter E

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Doggerel:  Elderly elephant educating eocene emissaries eagerly explains ecstatic explosion

Media and materials: emulsion, enamel, emery paper,etch

Style and mood: Expressionist, energetic, elusive, enigmatic

Assessment of the image so far

This image became very much materials driven, and changed considerably from my original concept to respond to images emerging from the materials I was exploring.

My original brainstorm sketches were around the idea of elegant, erratic, erect, electric, energy. Then in my colour mockup, I experimented with trying to draw an elegant elephant with letter Es. I had a number of options for materials, and started with enamel and emery paper. I found that drawing/etching into emulsion paint on an enamel tile produced some very interesting lines. And some of the accidental textures already on old emery paper from earlier sanding and photographing light shining on new emery sheets gave some quite dramatic effects when scanned – particularly the explosion from the mouth with aeroplanes in the background. These images I extended by painting elephant and other shapes in emulsion paint on the emery paper, and adding some etched explosion lines. So I decided to develop the image, then adapt the original doggerel and concept to fit, looking for suitable words in the dictionary.

I then experimented with the typefaces on the letter page to fit the shapes in the image. I like the tangle of thorny people bottom right and the entangled earthworms. Probably I could push this further.

I like the darkness of the image, and the contrast between the dumbo elephant and the dramatic mouth with explosion and aeroplanes in the background. I also like the skeletal inset creatures, and the dumb looking elephant. The main change I will make is to get rid of the irregular line in the elephant’s trunk. I will also experiment to see if embossing effects in Photoshop add anything to the enamel creatures at the front.

Brainstorm Sketches


First digital mockup


Emulsion on emery paper

For more discussion of techniques in using emulsion paint see: Emulsion

Emery Paper

For more discussion of using emery paper see: Emery paper

Enamel Tiles

For more discussion of work on enamel tiles see: Enamel tiles

Final image


Developing the spread




Adobe Typefaces

History and development of the letterform

Edited and extended from Letter E Wikipedia

E (named e /ˈ/, plural ees) is the fifth letter and the second vowel in the Modern English alphabet and the ISO basic Latin alphabet.


Egyptian hieroglyph
PhoenicianE-01.svg Alfabeto camuno-e.svg Epsilon uc lc.svg Roman E

The Latin letter ‘E’ differs little from its source, the Greek letter epsilon, ‘Ε’. This in turn comes from the Semitic letter , which has been suggested to have started as a praying or calling human figure (hillul ‘jubilation’), and was probably based on a similar Egyptian hieroglyph that indicated a different pronunciation. In Semitic, the letter represented /h/ (and /e/ in foreign words); in Greek, became the letter epsilon, used to represent /e/. The various forms of the Old Italic script and the Latin alphabet followed this usage.

Although Middle English spelling used e to represent long and short /e/, the Great Vowel Shift changed long /eː/ (as in ‘me’ or ‘bee’) to /iː/ while short /e/ (as in ‘met’ or ‘bed’) remained a mid vowel. In other cases, the letter is silent, generally at the end of words.

Other languages

In the orthography of many languages it represents either these or /ɛ/, or some variation (such as a nasalized version) of these sounds, often with diacritics (as: e ê é è ë ē ĕ ě ė ę ) to indicate contrasts. Less commonly, as in Saanich, e represents a mid-central vowel /ə/. Digraphs with e are common to indicate either diphthongs or monophthongs, such as ea or ee for /iː/ or /eɪ/ in English, ei for /aɪ/ in German, and eu for /ø/ in French or /ɔɪ/ in German.

Most common letter

‘E’ is the most common (or highest-frequency) letter in the English alphabet and several other European languages – with implications in both cryptography and data compression. It is the most commonly used letter in many languages, including: Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Hungarian, Latin, Norwegian,Spanish, and Swedish.

In the story The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe, a character figures out a random character code by remembering that the most used letter in English is E. This makes it a hard and popular letter to use when writing lipograms. Ernest Vincent Wright’s Gadsby (1939) is considered a “dreadful” novel, and supposedly “at least part of Wright’s narrative issues were caused by language limitations imposed by the lack of E.” Both Georges Perec’s novel A Void (La Disparition) (1969) and its English translation by Gilbert Adair omit ‘e’ and are considered better works.

Related characters

Descendants and related characters in the Latin alphabet

Ancestors and siblings in other alphabets

  •  : Semitic letter He (letter), from which the following symbols originally derive
    • Ε ε : Greek letter Epsilon, from which the following symbols originally derive

Derived signs, symbols and abbreviations

Other representations

NATO phonetic Morse code
Echo ·
ICS Echo.svg Semaphore Echo.svg ⠑
Signal flag Flag semaphore Braille

In British Sign Language (BSL), the letter ‘e’ is signed by extending the index finger of the right hand touching the tip of index on the left hand, with all fingers of left hand open.

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