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Leo Toye Returns…

I am flummoxed how to explain from scratch who Leo Toye is… being a part of me who’s been mostly retired. Long ago… about 25 years…  he came along as my doppleganger when I joined a group of artists in Sedona, Arizona to revive an Open Studio venture. We decided to publish a newspaper each month & I wanted to become a “columnist” & since I, loving that image of an inky feather quill pen, had always wanted a nom d’plume... Leo Toye became my pen name.

It seems I have always practiced calligraphy, remembering many posters made for High School campaigns & events, not to mention all the placards & signs for the department store where I worked after classes. Early on I gave-up my cursive… picking up my father’s version of writing with a curious mix of upper & lower-case, mostly block letters, gradually coming to love writing all in caps, long before that became digital screaming. But then… I’ve always been a bit of a screamer.

Leo Toye’s name is a literal description of my visual logo… that lion on wheels. The format was graphically columnar, of course. The medium was ink, thus the title TUSCH… meaning ink, most specifically the “india ink” with which I had a rather deep relationship, using technical pens to write my journal in that permanence.

I had danced, work/playing, with graphic design those middle years [early 80’s] in Sedona, creating logos & labels for other businesses, so when we conceived making a monthly tabloid as our publicity organ, which declared a quaint anodyne to the slick-cover-magazine-culture supporting / supported by the galleries, I was there with a black & white sensitivity useful to newsprint.

 This is a drawing I made for the front page of one OPEN STUDIO issue:

Leo surfaced on my mind’s drawing table & evolved in small body of work of which I’ve always been proud. Leo could use words in a way which mixed studious years of evolution inside the many covers of my habit to journal with something attempting visual poetry. While I was angry he could be enigmatic… I did indeed like having a doppleganger to blame for my excesses!

Three of the columns:

We eventually became mired in the publishing & the group wore itself out. Leo mostly retired, yet “we” kept writing in my journal & doing the occasional bit of calligraphy or design. I still frequently refer, in many stories & much history, to Leo Toye when I’m playing with words & ink.

Now, after some long periods of neglecting my journal, in part due to having become computer literate, as they say… believing I would journal digitally. I did not, for numerous reasons, mostly because the computer seems to lack similar intimacy as pen-in-hand fosters deeply private thinking. The keyboard supposes capability of publishing, while the ink flows from my hands in very different mental processes involving more soul somehow…

I have recently returned to that inky process which I realize as being important, if not imperative. I can only allude to the many stories I would tell, but this is still just the introduction to Leo Toye, who  seemingly spontaneously resurrected himself when I volunteered to write a publicity piece for our upcoming Spring Vashon Island Artist Studio Tour. As I began making notes for an article in pencil I quickly found myself drawing the words as interactive shapes rather than sentences.

This is Leo Toye’s art, a certain visual poetry… calligraphy making a composition of literate words & drawing dancing more lively than typeset on the page.

 The work begins in pencil on paper:
Then a tracing on drafting film, also in pencil:
The drawing is then traced in ink on film:
This stage was scanned into a program & finished digitally:
Notice that the lines about “grace” were replaced by digital “ink work”:

Click the “read more” button if you would like to view the columns as larger images… 

An early column is one of my personal favorites, beginning with an apology for a “typo”… one of my typical misspellings! The drawing becomes a vertical piano keyboard while playing with word describing blacks & whites… mixing toward grays. The keys reverse color inside the dark of an approaching rainstorm [which was real as I worked on the piece], with the occurrence of a phenomenon common in hot desert atmospheres… the word virga describes a sheet of rain which also reverses to evaporate mid air. I love the fun of teach / learning interesting words… especially those which play well visually. The rain which does fall wets the rocks as the light reverses color to rights with the keys becoming black with the formula for manganese dioxide, or the darkness on the rocks known as desert varnish. The water splashes onto the creek which is the home for the frog which leaps out in finale.
CHIAROSCURO is another favorite word appropriate to Leo’s love of black & white. It describes the gray scale, particularly in drawings, from deep shadow to brilliant light. Luminous [or is it numinous?!?] becomes a descant companion in this column of only two words. Leo thought it was fun to stray from the rigidity of width… a newspaper’s layout nightmare, but then I was doing much of that work anyway, so the challenge had to be accepted.
The SYMBOLS column was spiritually political in that I was taking exception to the proliferation of those rock constructs called “medicine wheels” around the areas where I hiked. In many cases They were visually annoying to one who thought mankind was doing enough damaging change to nature. In some cases they actually became vandalism to my mind. I took up a futile cause, so I was trying to explain that I had no problem with the symbolism… the ancient glyph is used for “earth”, after all. The collection of symbols spells the word “SYMBOLS” itself, while the words “sloe gin” evolved as a mysterious reverse construct. Leo told me once what it all meant, but I’m afraid its still all a bit vague…
  
The CELTIC KNOT drawing is an invitation… an endless sentence with no set form… teaching how to use the newspaper of which it was on the cover… encouraging taking the initiative to do the tour using the map which we printed on the back page… to communicate with the artists… dancing to different drumbeats… seeing play & education with thinking eyes… all being worth the effort… are you savvy? 
Hmmm… the new Leo Toye drawing seems to have roots here, eh?