Letter M

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Mystic messiah meditating menhirs

Initial brainstorm sketches



keywords: Magic, malleable, manipulate, marionette, maquette, meander, metamorphosis, mind, mobile, monumental, mosque, mother, mudra, music, myth, mystery

materials: Monoprint, marble, montage, macrame, magazine, mahlstick, mehndi, mesh, metallic, modelling, matches

papers: masking tape, marble paper, matt paper, Masa (woodcut), metallic paper

doggerel variants:

  • Moaning magicians metamorphose mountains making meanering mess of menhirs
  • marionette magician mesmerises meandering misty mountains metamorphosing monumental menhirs

Initial design ideas

My first ideas were based on an experimental collage I had done for my printmaking course using cut shapes from a waste linocut paper, inspired by Cornish folk tales (image on the left). This was reflected in my colour mockup from my sketches in Procreate (image on the right).

Marionette matches

I liked the idea of ‘marionette magician’ and thought of using matches for this. I experimented with laying them out, cutting them, and seeing what different types of expression I could get with straight lines making different ‘M’ shapes. When put into photoshop I could mask this into a coloured marionette figure (see below).

Masking tape menhirs

I have frequently used masking tape for caves and rock shapes, so I thought this would work well for the menhirs. I tore the masking tape and stuck it onto paper in some rough ‘Ms’ and scanned it in colour and black and white. The black and white image looked OK in the scanner, but did not transfer well to jpg in Lightroom. The colour image was much better.

Metallic paper

I then started to look at how I might work with metallic paper. Originally I had been thinking of monoprinting on top – using magenta ink on the green to match the colours starting with M as closely as possible. But the ink was transparent, so it would not show clearly. I suddenly noticed the light falling on the sheets, as misty mountains. From there I started experimenting with a completely different idea. Unfortunately it was cloudy, but I could get a range of different shadow shapes. I love the mysterious light effects – these could be further enhanced through experimenting with exposure, contrast and then clarity for texture in Lightroom to produce the images below. I was particularly intrigued by the face that appeared in the last image and thought this might be the basis for a new direction.


I started to make montages in Photoshop using the match photos, metallic paper photos and masking tape. But this produced outcomes like the image below, and I was not sure I could make this mixture work – at least not in the time I had available. I


Using blend modes and trying to match the colours. But in the process I produced other images I also liked. I thought I would have to go either with the matches idea, and maybe try some monoprints and metallic paint, possibly some macrame etc. But time was running out and I had become increasingly interested in the metallic paper, which worked fine with masking tape. The ‘Ms’ being more subtle and implied in the shapes, rather than obvious as in the case of the matches.

Producing these images required a lot of experimentation with layering, blend modes, masks and gradient masks. I also duplicated the head and flipped it to make the body, masking it into shape. Some of this still need a bit of refinement. When I pasted the image into the InDesign page in the square format I decided I preferred the crop below, and experimented with cropping the other images as well.

But this image did not really fit my initial doggerel. So I thought of some better words to match the image:

Melancholy mystic meditating misty menhir mountain memories

A bit New Age, but never mind. I do find the shimmering water and misty face quite beautiful.


Colours beginning with ‘M’;M_colour

Adobe typefaces

Typefaces beginning with M: Minion Pro, Myriad Pro, Mistral, Chose Mongolian baiti partly because of connotations with mysticism (exotic??)


Wikipedia article

Egyptian hieroglyph “n” Phoenician
Etruscan M Greek
Roman M
PhoenicianM-01.png EtruscanM-01.svg Mu uc lc.svg Roman M

The letter M is derived from the Phoenician Mem, via the Greek Mu (Μ, μ). Semitic Mem probably originally pictured water. It is thought that Semitic people working in Egypt c. 2000 BC borrowed a hieroglyph for “water” that was first used for an alveolar nasal (/n/), because of the Egyptian word for water, n-t. This same symbol became used for /m/ in Semitic, because the word for water began with that sound.

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