Texture: Alex Gutzwiller

Lynda Barry uses full-colored pages filled with texture in her book What It Is? Barry creates texture with combinations of text, written word, drawings, paintings and photographic collages depicting nature and childhood memories to tell Barry’s story and to ask questions about imagination and creation of design. By using these textured collages, I feel sets the mood of the book and helps to reinforce Barry’s points as images and words seem to stand out from the pages. Additionally, this artistic style of Barry’s helps the reader to think about the many questions she asks as these certain images stand out from others as a result of the textured collages layered on or juxtaposed to painted, hand-drawn and photographic images. As stated in Graphic Design: The New Basics, “Texture is the tactile grain of surfaces and substances” including textures “in our environment” that help us understand things around us, which are the elements Barry uses to create her book.

For example on page 7, Barry explores the passage of time and the changing of seasons through the use of texture. In the upper right hand corner an alarm clock sets the tone about passing of time. This man-made clock stands out visually with its’ hard, clear and smooth glass next to the contrasting soft images of blowing natural grasses and twigs. With the words, “Don’t Be Alarmed” on the clock’s bells, Barry seems to


What It Is? by Lynda Barry, Page 7.

tell the reader enjoy time’s passing. At the top of the page, Barry uses a collage of child’s writing about seeds from 1951. Manipulating the surface paper Barry gives it the textured appearance of being crumbled and aged with dark shadings. By combining the idea of seeds on a faded 1951’s paper the reader thinks about changing seasons and time passed. The center image uses the digital textures of blowing grasses in the wind and an overlaying painted red-winged black bird perched on a stiff branch. The stiffness of bird and branch and blowing grasses creates texture by placing these contrasting textures side by side (stiff/bendable). The bird also appears to be catching seeds made out of round dated postal stamps falling from the top of the page down to the bird’s peak. This center image is also a physical and virtual textured space combining environmental designs with typed descriptions of seeds traveling over and over again, making Barry’s questions about time passing stand out. Lastly, Barry explores the ideas of tides that change with passing hours. In the lower right corner Barry again uses a man-made object like the bumpy hard steel-valve, next to contrasting soft nature images of flowers and bubble, dot-like water. “Turn to Open… Then” on the valve tempts the reader to turn the valve and feel the texture of quick flowing water from a pipe. The fish on lower right is a bottom feeder and with the collage of the tree over the fish, I feel creates the look and texture of mucky mud associated the ocean’s floor where the fish lives.  Page 7, from What It Is? is one page of many throughout Barry’s entire book that uses the design techniques of texture to tell her story, ask questions and cause the reader to look over the entire page as Barry created images stand out purposely by manipulating surfaces, contrasting textures and with the use of physical and virtual textures. In this way Barry places meanings and connections between all images on the pages of her book.

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