What comes after the letter “z”?

If you’re John Stipling of Chester, England, an entirely new graphics alphabet follows the letter “z” — and it’s an amazing maze of visual-arts runes that John designs himself. Although you might not be able to read it — yet — the graphic depiction below is from the long poem, “The Root of the Matter” by Czech immunologist and poet, Miroslav Holub which includes the verse:

“… a clown’s red cap
on the flat skull of literature,
like a set of illuminated initials
after the letter Z.”

“What an interesting thought”, John thought to himself. I wonder … what does come after the letter “z”?

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“The Silence and Then, Nothing”
Media: Acrylic spray on card, using hand-cut paper template

“That was the first time I began designing my own runic symbols for each letter to the alphabet,” John explains. “It allowed me to take a line of poetry and translate it into something that was, I believe, visually beautiful and, at the same time, curiously mysterious.”

John’s fascination with “squares” actually began in primary school — the first time he was handed a piece of graph paper.


“The Lost Inscription”
Media: Hand-made paper and acrylic applied with hand-cut rubber stamps

“Instead of drawing all over it like the other children, I immediately proceeded to fill in the tiny squares by counting off different numbers to see if it made a pattern. Then, at Chester Art School, I became interested in poetry and that’s when I discovered Miroslav Holub.”

At first, John cut out templates in card and produced only work that could be seen by the shadows of white on white. He then used thin hand-crafted paper, which he cut into small squares.

“I made a set of 26 symbols cut into small rubber stamps and printed these on the back of the paper which, when turned over, glued the square to the card. “Sometimes the image produced was clear, sometimes not. I liked the randomness of this, and it somehow contrasted with the rigidness of the grid. The first ten images use this method. Later, I used oil pastels and inscribed the symbols by hand.


“The Heart of the Matter”
Media: Mixed-media metallic ink: acrylic and gouache with hand-cut rubber stamps

Another line from Miroslav Holub from the same poem reads: “Is the cross more human than a straight line?”

“This has intrigued me for years and my future work will play with this idea. Just putting some words together. Most of the work is random, so any mathematical or optical illusions are produced only be chance. “However. the symbols themselves are not random. Each symbol relates to a letter of the alphabet. “I choose a line from a poem and translate it into my own symbols — for example, an “e”might equal a triangle or an “o” might equal a square.


“The Naming of the Writers No. 1”                                                                Medium: acrylic spray on board

“My new work also has individual colors for each letter, so the look depends on the words used. “Presently I am cutting out templates in paper and using acrylic spray paint to produce the image.”

So, stand by … there’s more to come.

To learn more about John Stipling’s work or to buy some of his graphic-arts “poems”, please visit his FaceBook page or contact him by e-mail at: johnstipling@btinternet.com


zeeBigBlog met with Argentinian born, art consultant Ani Talbot Wright in the world-renowned Art District...


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  • Peggy Geddes December 14, 2016 at 9:08 pm

    What a mind-boggling concept – start your own alphabet. Brilliant!

    • editor December 14, 2016 at 9:10 pm

      A beautiful mind