Thursday, October 14, 2010

Arkham Sanitarium Patient File

The industrious Mr. Able of the Able workshop, the alter ego of artist Julian DiMarco, sent over these shots of his Arkham Sanitarium patient file. All of the documents he used are available here under the "Arkham Sanitarium" label, and he has some helpful advice for finishing them off.

"I used Photoshop to make the text with my laser printer on the form - I then took the form, attached a photo I printed out on photo paper to it, and then ran the whole shebang through an inkjet printer to get the 'stamp' effect. I was going for a really textural feel with the medical file - I tried as much as I could to work through the 'process' of how a file would be treated and the physical feel of it different papers used for different documents - a lot of times I see pictures or stamps and the like that are all printed in one layer...there's no sensation there."

I prefer to reproduce handwriting by hand, but I think his approach of using computer generated text has some huge advantages. The sad truth is that I have terrible handwriting and normally have to coerce my significant other into doing any prop writing I need. Based on my conversations with some other prop creators this isn't an unusual situation. Not to launch a huge debate on learning and manual dexterity development, much less my potential sexism, but I think the methods used to teach cursive writing, and the age at which it's taught, aren't as effective with boys as girls.*

One of the advantage of forms like these is that a handwriting font isn't as jarring as it would be in something like a letter. The clearly marked lines and regularity of the entries make the inhuman precision of a digital font far less noticeable. A handwritten note requires some subtle misalignments and jitter to look natural.

Mr. Able also brings up a good point about layering and it's impact on sense impression. Traditional theatrical and film props are primarily concerned with looking good, but well done live action props are so effective because they embrace all the senses. One of the reasons I produced so many different documents for the Arkham Sanitarium project is to make it easier to produce a visually and tactiley interesting final product.

* Harriet Hanlon, Robert Thatcher, and Marvin Cline. Gender differences in the development of EEG coherence in normal children. Developmental Neuropsychology, 16(3):479-506, 1999**

** Sweet fancy Moses, I'm footnoting a throwaway comment in a discussion of fake patient files. I need help.


Alex Kaeda said...

"Sweet fancy Moses, I'm footnoting a throwaway comment in a discussion of fake patient files. I need help"

I'm told that checking yourself into Arkham Sanitarium is an option. You know, I heard they serve continental breakfasts, and have an amazing swimming pool for relaxation... They might be able to provide just the help you need . . . .

Raven said...

Thanks to carpal tunnel, even after surgery, my hands are no longer in the shape they were (no feeling at the fingertips), but 40 years of calligraphy has still given me some pointers to pass on:

Every single time I get back to calligraphy after a lapse, I need to re-train my hand (or hand-eye coordination). I take a pad of lined paper and start filling every alternate line with Old English lower-case "o"s, the elongated hexagons, using either a chisel-tip felt-point or preferably a metal calligraphy pen (ideally Speedpoint, which forces you to use it properly). Any deviation from true angle or proportion shows up immediately in a row of hexagons. When those look regular, I practice other shapes: mounds and valleys of mmnnuuvv; forests and draperies of yyllhhbbggqq; the horizontal swashes in Ts, Ls, Zs, Fs, Es; the circles and curves of Os, Gs, Cs, Bs; and then lines of actual ligatured words and sentences. Does the spacing look right? Am I neither cramming nor isolating the letters? Do the connecting lines meet up without a gap? (Harder for me these days, my fingertips are imprecise.) After a couple of pages practice, I'm probably ready for the real thing.

Now I'd go through that with the upright Old English font, just to re-train precision and proportion, even if the upcoming project used something completely different, like curvacious Uncial or slanting Italic. I would then also want to spend some practice time with the actual font (too, as well, additionally!) before setting pen to the final parchment.

In the case of reproducing Mr. Able's handwriting font, just having a sample printout on an underline, followed by three empty underlines to fill in with copies, would be excellent practice. A page could probably hold four or five such segments. If after filling those three lines you're not satisfied with the result, print another practice copy. When satisfied, fill in the actual form.

Yes, that's time-consuming. Satisfactory amateur forgery is time-consuming. The alternatives are (1) unsatisfactory amateur forgery, (2) professional forgery, (3) using a computer font [which many people think of as a subset of 2, but I suspect you realize is a subset of 1].

Raven said...
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Anonymous said...

Any idea what font he used for the handwriting?