The sight of a crossword affects not just people like us who solve or set. The stark geometry of its grid, the passion it inspires in people who engage with it, are subjects of fascination to artists too.
A few crossword-driven works of art for you to savour, with commentary by the artists.
1 Crossword Puzzle [Ink wash drawing by Max Ferguson]
The scene is of a man in a pub in London, whom the artist Max Ferguson chanced upon while traveling through the city in 2004. By the look of it, the solver is battling a particularly fiendish cryptic.
Most of Max Ferguson's paintings are in oil paint and highly polished, with true-to-life colours. It's probably fitting that this one, centered on a crossword, is in monochrome. He says:
This was rather challenging as ink wash has to be done very quickly and is a very unforgiving medium. When I am about to begin a new piece I think about what medium / size would work well for that particular image. In this case I felt a small (10 x 12 inches) ink wash drawing would be well-suited.
This drawing is available at the time of writing this – visit Max Ferguson's site for more.
2 Crossword Puzzle with Lady in Black Coat [Gouache by Paulina Olowska]
Gouache-on-canvas artwork from Paulina Olowska's exhibition 'Au Bonheur des Dames' (The Ladies' Delight) at Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, in 2009. Photo from another angle here shows the imposing size of this work.
3 Dad's Crossword [Oil/linen by Duane Keiser]
Duane Keiser made this painting as part of his popular A Painting A Day project in 2013. The painting is of a Washington Post grid, which his dad solves almost everyday. As Duane puts it:
I don't think he even reads the news anymore in the paper-- he pulls out the crossword and throws the rest away.
Hands up all of you who do the same? [My hand is raised!]
Describing the thought behind the painting, Duane says:
There are a couple of things that attracted me to this scene: in comparison to the now ubiquitous digital media, newsprint has a kind of warmth and intimacy to it now. I zoomed in close to the subject to give a sense of being lost in concentration while the outside world momentarily disappears. Lastly, I liked the calligraphic aspects of the marks and the geometry of the crossword juxtaposed with the curves of the glasses.
It was a challenge to keep the structure of the crossword but not get bogged down in unnecessary detail. I was mostly interested in the visual rhythm of the words rather than simply copying them. You can almost read the words, but not quite - it is what you'd see if you glanced at it.
4 Crossword Tools [Oil painting by Sarah Lytle]
Coffee, reading glasses, and a pen – 'crossword tools' as the artist calls them. Sarah Lytle is not a coffee drinker or a crossword person (she prefers the Sudoku!) – this painting was prompted by her mother's tools of choice. Sarah describes her mother as a crossword fan who can solve the hardest of puzzles.
She must have her glasses, her morning coffee and her pen. I can see her sitting at the breakfast table or curled up in the chair, glasses perched on her nose, newspaper folded in half to the puzzle, working away. It makes me smile thinking about it.
5 Red Tomatoes on Crossword Puzzle [Watercolour by Carolyn Watson]
At artist Carolyin Watson's home, garden tomatoes were laid out on newspaper on the floor to ripen, when she was struck by the contrast of the red over black-and-white.
I loved the way the red of the tomatoes was reflected into the shadows and how the black of the newsprint was darker in the shadow.
This led to a series of watercolors of vegetables placed over crosswords.
These tomatoes eclipse the clues too, in making the grid fills: VINE, RIPE, HOME, GROWN, TOMATO - and the US-style grid gives neat placeholders for the words on the left hand side.
Another interesting painting from the series is Red Peppers on Crossword, which looks as if someone abandoned solving midway and started doodling on the grid instead.
The originals are sold, but you can buy prints and request for commissioned originals of the peppers on crossword with customized grid fills.
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- New York Times Election Day Crossword
- A Puzzling Difference between Crossword Solvers and Non-Solvers
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