Gef's Pinacogram Gallery


A pinacogram is a portrait designed with the letters of the corresponding name.

Although I drew the first ones during the summer of 2005, and although I proposed the term pinacogram at the same time, the concept itself is not fully new. Indeed, designing with letters or digits is a known drawing exercise, and I remember that my mother (an art professor) taught it at least thirty years ago. Arabic calligraphy is also well known for its superb drawings in which one may actually decipher full verses. I rediscovered the idea in 2003 while reading an article by Alain Chevrier in the French review Formules (no. 7, p. 32), devoted to the sketches drawn by the poet Robert Desnos with the letters of his friends' names. Most of them were landscapes, still lifes, or objects, but one of them was already a schematic human face (not precise enough to look like the corresponding friend, though).

I immediately designed a few human figures with the letters of some of my friends' names (Robert Rapilly, Estelle Souche, Stéphane & Béatrice Susana), but no resemblance with their actual faces was looked for. I came up with the idea of an almost realistic portrait during the summer of 2005, and although this happens to be a quite difficult work (several hours of subtle improvements for each pinacogram), I do like the graphical result. This is the reason why I devote a Web page to this concept and my present examples. There are still very few of them, because of the time needed to design them, but I intend to draw more in the future.

To design pinacograms, a similar way of looking at the letters is required as for ambigrams. Indeed, one needs to recognize approximate letters in the face of a friend, in a similar way one needs to recognize deformed letters in an inverted word. The fact that I already designed ambigrams for many years explains thus why the idea of pinacograms was rather natural to me.

Like ambigrams again, pinacograms are constrained drawings, in which there is a limited number of lines that one may use, connected in a very special way, and for which all given letters must be used. This is reminiscent of the precepts of OuLiPo (Ouvroir de Littérature Potentielle, in French), an international group of writers and mathematicians who explore all kinds of literary constraints. I wrote many more constrained texts than I designed pinacograms or even ambigrams, but they are in French.


Notes added in January 2006:

In April 2006, the Chilean ambigraphist Homero Larrain designed a superb self-portrait as a pinacogram.
In September 2012, the Scottish illustrator Steve Carroll informed me that he also designs pinacograms – that he calls "Letterheads". Here is his wonderful series entitled "My type of people".
In February 2014, I found by chance on the Web this remarkable portrait of a cat and a mouse by the artist Margaret Shepherd.
In July 2015, the French artist Didier-Carol Porcher informed me that he is also drawing portraits with letters since 1992, that he calls "anagrams of Merlin".


Jump List

Jorge Luis Borges
Italo Calvino
Miguel de Cervantes
Dante
Albert Einstein
Aimé Esposito-Farèse
Anna Esposito-Farèse
Gilles Esposito-Farèse
Sylvie Esposito-Farèse
Gandhi
Nicolas Graner
Douglas Hofstadter
Eugène Ionesco
Claire Jallois
Jeanne
Joseph
Lili
Mona Lisa
Bernard Magné
Minois
Ian Monk
Georges Perec
Jacques Perry-Salkow
Planck satellite
Robert Rapilly
Chantal Robillard
Michel Rubin
Marcela Saadia Otero
Marina Saadia Otero
Frédéric Schmitter
Rémi Schulz
Sheila
Valentin Villenave
Alain Zalmanski

Jorge Luis Borges
Famous Argentinian writer, among my favorite authors

Jorge Luis Borges

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Italo Calvino
Great Italian novelist, and member of OuLiPo

I. Calvino

This pinacogram was designed rather quickly to illustrate the technique at a workshop.
[See also my ambigram of his name]


Miguel de Cervantes
Famous Spanish writer, author of Don Quixote, the first modern novel

Miguel de Cervantes


Dante Alighieri
Famous Italian poet of the XIIIth century

Dante

This pinacogram was designed rather quickly to illustrate the technique at a workshop.


Albert Einstein
The most famous theoretical physicist, who notably published three crucial articles one century ago
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Albert Einstein


Aimé Esposito-Farèse
French painter, theologian and educationist who was my father

Aimé Esposito-Farèse


Anna Esposito-Farèse
Portrait of my five-year-old daughter

Anna Esposito-Farèse

Stereoscopic version: try to superpose the two blobs by looking "farther than the screen", and the image will appear in 3 dimensions
[this is just a first & rough attempt to apply this idea to pinacograms].

Anna Esposito-Farèse

New version for her 14th birthday:
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size.
A lighter and more universal 'SVG' animation is also available.]

Anna Esposito-Farèse

New stereoscopic version:

Anna Esposito-Farèse

[See also my ambigram of her first name]


Gilles Esposito-Farèse
French theoretical physicist who loves playing with words, and author of the present pinacograms
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Gilles Esposito-Farèse

It is obvious that long names, such as mine, help for drawing detailed pinacograms, but shorter ones may also give interesting results.
For instance, here is a quick attempt with my initials GEF: GEF

[See also my ambigram]


Sylvie Esposito-Farèse
French literature professor and secretary who is my sister

Sylvie Esposito-Farèse


Gandhi
Indian humanist, pioneer of nonviolence and spiritual leader of Indiapendence
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Gandhi


Nicolas Graner
French computer scientist and witty player with words
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Nicolas Graner

Exceptionally, the size of each letter is here changed individually.
[See also my ambigrams of his name]


Douglas Hofstadter
Famous American scientist, author of several remarkable books on cognition, translation, mathematics, literature, art, ambigrams, and many other topics

Douglas Hofstadter


Eugène Ionesco
Famous Franco-Romanian playwright
[Click on the image to shake the genius in a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Eugène Ionesco


Claire Jallois
French painter and art professor who is my mother

Claire Jallois


Jeanne
Newborn daughter of my friend Patrice Besnard

Jeanne

[See also my ambigram of her name]


Joseph
Newborn son of my friends Béatrice & Stéphane Susana

Joseph

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Lili
Name of my daughter's favorite doll
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Lili


Mona Lisa
After the most famous portrait by Leonardo da Vinci
[Click on the image to display a 'SVG' animation scaled to your window's size]

Mona Lisa


Bernard Magné
French professor of literature, and world's greatest specialist of the writer Georges Perec

Bernard Magné

Note that the initials BM constitute a crucial part of the profile.

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Minois
Name of my daughter's cat (which means "pretty face" in French)

Minois


Ian Monk
British translator, writer and member of OuLiPo

Ian Monk

This minimalist pinacogram was designed quickly to illustrate the technique at a workshop.
Note that this poet bears his initials IM on his face, and notably an obvious capital M.
[See also my ambigram of his name]


Georges Perec
One of the greatest French novelists of the XXth century, and member of OuLiPo
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Georges Perec

Exceptionally, I changed the size of each individual letter to write the name under the portrait, to avoid the disproportion between the tiny o and the huge c.
In my other pinacograms, the names are written with strictly the same letters as the portrait, globally reduced by 50%.

[See also my four previous "portraits" of Perec, and my ambigram of his name]


Jacques Perry-Salkow
French jazzman, author of superb constrained texts, and notably of remarkable palindromes
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Jacques Perry-Salkow

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Planck satellite
European space observatory of the cosmic microwave background, named after the great German physicist Max Planck.
This pinacogram was designed with the advice of my colleague Jean Mouette, for his movie about this satellite.
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Robert

Exceptionally, the size of each letter is here changed individually.


Robert Rapilly
French educationist and artist, virtuoso of palindromic poems
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Robert

This pinacogram was designed rather quickly for Robert's birthday, and it actually cheats with the rules: Not only the initial R is built from four independent strokes, but the letters are not clearly separated in the profile. You may need to watch the animation to locate them! Exceptionally, I wrote here the name with the same size as the portrait (contrary to most of my other pinacograms in which the names are reduced by 50%).
[See also my ambigram of his name, and my first sketch with its letters]


Chantal Robillard
French author of constrained short stories and poems
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Chantal Robillard

[See also my ambigram of her name]


Michel Rubin
French zoologist who is my brother-in-law

Michel Rubin


Marcela Saadia Otero
Argentinian physiotherapist who is my sister-in-law

Marcela Saadia Otero


Marina Saadia Otero
Argentinian mathematician who is my wife

Marina Saadia Otero
Note that her last name Otero constitutes a recognizable fraction of her face: Otero

For completeness, here is a reduced version of my first attempt with her name Marina Saadia Otero, much weaker than the above pinacogram.
[See also my ambigram of her name]


Frédéric Schmitter
French creator of remarkable anagrams and palindromes
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Frédéric Schmitter

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Rémi Schulz
French modern cabalist, author of constrained literature and detective novels
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Rémi Schulz
Rémi face au lacis doré
[Frédéric Schmitter is the author of this title, which means Rémi in front of the golden network,
but sounds in French like the musical scale of D: ré mi fa sol la si do ré.]

[See also my ambigram of his name]


Sheila
Portrait of my twelve-year-old niece
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Sheila

Here the name is written with the same size as the portrait (contrary to most of my other pinacograms in which the names are reduced by 50%).


Valentin Villenave
French composer and pianist, creator of Oumupo (workshop of potential music)
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size.
A lighter and more universal 'SVG' animation is also available.]

Valentin Villenave

The size of each letter is here changed individually.
[See also my ambigram of his name]


Alain Zalmanski
French chemist and puzzle collector who loves playing with words
[Click on the image to display a 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size]

Alain Zalmanski

[See also my ambigram of his name and its 'Flash' animation]


Addendum

Although the following portraits are not pinacograms, I gather them here because they are anyway constrained drawings.
I designed them (more quickly than pinacograms) for some of my friends' birthdays.


Patrice Besnard
French researcher in pedagogical studies, magician and virtuoso of very hard literary constraints

Patrice Besnard

This reduced animation illustrates the graphic constraint: Patrice Besnard


Thibault Damour
French theoretical physicist, one the world's greatest specialists of general relativity
[Click on the animation to display a static but larger picture. A 'Flash' animation scaled to your window's size is also available.]

Thibault Damour
[See also my ambigram of his name]

Vase
Example of a well-known way to hide a profile in the shape of a vase
(The profile is here supposed to look like mine, but deformed by the perspective ;-)

Hidden profile in a vase


See also my ambigram gallery and my oulipian pages

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Gilles Esposito-Farèse <gef@iap.fr>

Last modified : March 12th, 2017