Edward Ruscha, ‘Pay Nothing Until April’ 2003
Edward Ruscha
Pay Nothing Until April 2003
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© Ed Ruscha

As a boy, Ed Ruscha was keen on drawing and painting, collecting stamps and coins and creating his own cartoons. At the age of eighteen, he and a friend set off in his car and drove across the USA. They ended up at art school in Los Angeles, California. While studying there, Ruscha had various jobs working for a printer, painting signs and designing magazines.

Los Angeles was the home of the Hollywood film industry. This was a very different place from Oklahoma, where Ruscha grew up! He was really inspired by the colourful billboard signs he saw all around him in Los Angeles. He began making paintings and drawings full of words and experimenting with different styles of fonts.

noisy and curly words

Ruscha often finds words for his pictures by jotting down words spoken in films or on the radio. He’s interested in different fonts and how words can be arranged on the page. Sometimes he puts them against blank backgrounds and sometimes against a picture.

Ruscha experimented with different font styles, including words that look as if they had been ‘poured’ onto the canvas and some that appeared to have been ‘folded’ or ‘curled’ from cut pieces of paper.

Here's something funny that Ruscha has said about his work:

‘I’m dead serious about being nonsensical.’

So Ruscha was dead series about creating nonsense!

have you ever?

Have you ever thought about the colour and size of words when you are writing them down on a page? How are they different when you are writing a story or designing a poster? Do you consider whether to have them in CAPITALS or bold?

This is what Ruscha was very interested in!

Edward Ruscha, ‘Standard Study # 3’ 1963
Edward Ruscha
Standard Study # 3 1963
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland
© Ed Ruscha

Ruscha wanted to make a record everything he saw.

He wanted to make a book that contained photographs on Los Angeles’ most famous street, Sunset Boulevard. To do this, he attached a camera to a moving car, capturing all the houses, shops and businesses as he drove down the street.

what do you see?

Have a go yourself!

When you are in your car, bus or train journey or on your walk to school, make a list of the things you see on the way. These could be shops, restaurants, trees, signs or cars.

Don't miss a single thing out and see how long your list is!

Fancy more art facts and activities like this? Check out Modern Art Journal by Mary Richards.