• Katie Hughes

Spotlight: My Signature

I‘ve never been a fan of my handwriting. From consciously changing the way I write my “a”s in sixth grade (from the round o-like a to the a that looks like this -> a), to studying calligraphy for years and crashing a calligraphy convention as a 15 year old who was attending the debate camp at the same college campus, I’ve always had a fascination with the written word, and how it’s written. But I hate my handwriting. Doubly so for my signature. My written signature is a combination of my parents signatures, I can see aesthetic features from both in the same way that I see their faces in mine. Not to say any of these signatures is bad but there’s nothing inherently fun or artistic about my signature - which is not very me. (Perfect for legal documents, bad for paintings.)

As with all things I draw and design, I wanted my signature to also be different and recognizably “me.”


My junior year of college, I drove down to Monterrey with my best friend and roommate from college. A tattoo-possesser herself, Julia wanted to accompany me on my inaugural journey to the ink shop.

Three little dots in red, green, and blue adorned my left hand, and matching ones in cyan, magenta, and yellow speckled my right. I picked the tattoos out when I was 14 - back when I was still convinced that I wanted to be a physicist. Protons and Neutrons, the heavy-weight particles that make up atoms (compared to electrons) are both composed of three particles each, called quarks. Each quark can be one of six flavors - charm, strange, top, bottom, up, and down. But that’s not all - unlike positive and negative charge, each quark has a color. If you know anything about the Pauli Exclusion principle, which means that no two electrons in the same orbital can have the same spin, then you have the same kind of idea about quarks. In each neutron or proton there are three quarks and each color must be present - red, blue, and green. For anti-quarks which make up antimatter, anti-red (cyan), anti-blue (yellow) and anti-green (magenta) anti-quarks must all be present. For Quantum Chromodynamics, the field that covers these issues, the colors themselves are meaningless - particles aren’t actually colors or at least not colors we can see. But for me, I loved learning that a shorthand way of denoting properties of sub-atomic particles in physics was analogous to principles in art. When you’re a kid, you probably learn that the three primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. For subtractive color (the color theory of pigments, paint, dyes, and physical colors that you can manipulate with pencils and brushes), these are the primary colors because they can supposedly mix to make all the other colors of the rainbow (for anyone who’s tried to make that perfect shade of magenta or sea foam, you’ll know this isn’t necessarily true.)

But for additive color (the color scheme used for light itself), the primaries are red, green, and blue. Pixels use RGB and if you’ve played around with photoshop, you know that digital images are made with mixtures of these three colors - add them all together and you get white light; add subtractive primaries together and you get black mush. What about the anti-colors? CMYK is the color model for printing (which you’ll know if your printer has ever run out of cyan ink and then you can’t print black and white photos). It combines the primaries cyan, magenta, and yellow to produce the colors of the rainbow - adding in black as well. For printing, CMYK was convenient for producing dark rich tones, and has been in use for at least 100 years. It’s just so convenient that the anti-colors of the standard primaries (red, blue, and green) match with CMY. Another fun fact is that in human eyes, we have three kinds of cones (which are cells for receiving color - rods receive black and white Information). The rods correspond to different wavelengths of light to - you’ve got it - red, green, and blue. Other animals have different numbers of rods and mantis shrimp have 16 (13 for colors we can’t even process.)

Before I go off on a tangent about color, light, perception, art, and physics, what does this have to do with my signature? Well, a few years ago I was asked to sign some pieces of art. Unhappy with my signature, and not wanting to have it on display on my artwork which I liked, I decided that my tattoo would make a good one. I put it at the bottom right of each canvas and print. One day I may finally sit down and stylize a signature I like from my 11 years of calligraphy experience. But no matter how much my written signature changes, my artistic signature will never change - it’s literally tattooed on my body. My logo for my art page on Instagram, started about a year ago (@blakat_designs) features a three-eyed cat with eyes the colors of quarks - blue on top, green on left bottom and red on right bottom. The blue of clarity stays in its rightful home as the third eye, and green and red battle it out for the normal eyes - green being my natural eye color in real life, and red being my passion. Earth, Wind, Fire, RGB, etc. etc.

Thanks for taking a little bit of time to learn about my personal design!

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