George Orrimbe

Vocalo-colorisme (vowel-colorism) is a painting method that uses words as source material determining the color and shape of a visual composition.

Here’s how it works: first, choose a text, study each word, defining its first vowel; next, replace each word using the color defined by that vowel, following a code number 1. This cipher could be the one described by A. Rimbaud in his sonnet Voyelles, with a slight change: white is replaced by yellow, and therefore1 2

A is black
E is yellow
I is red
O is blue
U is green.


The color code is fundamentally arbitrary until it is chosen by the translator/artist. Any permutation of this code is allowed. Consistency is desirable.

Naturally, any kind of text may be used: advertisements, newspaper articles, administrative rules, scientific papers, literary texts or Holy texts. Texts in all languages are suitable, whether its vowels are written or not.

What about the shape? In the first stage, the shape is given by the shape of the word as it is printed in the text, as in the following illustrations:

Le Monde, 11.05.81

A Movable Feast (French text), 4 pages, E. Hemingway

This method may be applied not only to translating texts but also to transforming the title of the works of a particular writer into a real portraiture.3 4

How to compose a Vocalo-colorist Portrait. Choose a writer you like, list the titles of his or her works in chronological order. Using the letters in the subject’s name to designate the shape of the portrait and using the list of titles to define the features in the portrait (hair, forehead, nose, eyebrow, eye, ear, mouth, cheek, chin et neck), transcribe the subject into this adapted visual language. In other words, to realize the composition, two separate codes must be used: a first code for colour (as described above), a second code for shape. For example, this code can be based on the quantity of vowels in each word, phrase, verse line, or sentence (depending on the complexity of code desired). For example,

A word of a single vowel could become a circle
Two vowels, a rectangle
Three vowels, a triangle
Four vowels, a square
Five Vowels, a five-point star
Six Vowels, a six-point star                    and so on…

In the example given, George Orwell’s portraiture is based on that code and the following titles.

Hair: Down and out in Paris and London
Forehead: Burmese days
Nose: A Clergyman’s daughter
Ear: Homage to Catalonia
Mouth: Coming up for Air

1Le Super marché de Mr Orrimbe, Exhibition, galerie J.C. Riedel, Paris, 2-30 juin , 1983

2Peindre les mots, G. Orrimbe, Carnets trimestriels du Collège de ‘Pataphysique, no. 23, 15mars 2006 pp 35 et 36

3Portraits littéraires vocalo-coloristes, G. Orrimbe,Le Correspondancier du Collège de ‘Pataphysique, no. 1, 2007 pp 89-94.

4 Portraits Vocalo-coloristes, G . Orrimbe, 47 p. Au Crayon qui tue, éditeur, 2007.