The idea of using letters and text to create art has always fascinated me. It seems to blur the demarcation between letters as sounds with meaning and letters as shapes with aesthetic value.
In the Islamic world, the importance of the written word, the fluidity of the Arabic script, and caution about depicting images that might be seen as idolatrous has led to an incredible variety and abundance of beautiful calligraphy.
At one stage I dabbled with calligraphy but I didn't have the patience to master it well enough to create anything longer than a birthday card greeting. What I produced was smudgy and irregular. Now, of course, I can use the computer to produce perfect 'calligraphy' and manipulate the layout interminably without ever getting ink on my fingers or clothes. A number of web sites offer free 'word art' and word cloud creation apps, so you don't even need to install any software.
Tagxedo is one such site. Just click on 'load', (or the 'Create' button if you're on the home page) add some text, or a link to a page of text, and then play around with the various options for shapes, colours and fonts. The possibilities are endless - have a look at the examples on the site. (It's free and no sign up is required - but you will need the Silverlight plug-in installed on your browser). Here are a couple of images that I created very quickly from yesterday's blog post.