The Illuminated Alphabet Competition

Inspired by Corita Kent's Circus Alphabet. Just announced: Bob and Roberta Smith to judge!


  • Exhibitions

*Update 18 April: We are thrilled to announce that artist Bob and Roberta Smith will judge the Illuminated Alphabet Competition! Scroll down for more information.*

If you try to pick a field to categorise these things I make, it's illumination, like the old monks did, of taking a word and joining it with something that is visually exciting. It shows a kind of reverence for what the word says.” Corita Kent

Inspired by Corita's love of font, typography and illumination, we're challenging you to illustrate the alphabet, one letter a day, from 1 April.

Corita made her own alphabet, shown in full in Corita Kent: Power Up, which was in turn inspired by modernist poet e. e. cummings.

If you've been to see the exhibition, you might have wondered why the exhibition labels were in all-lowercase lettering, while eagle-eyed visitors might have spotted lines of poetry incorporated into Corita's prints. Both are the influence of e. e. cummings, a lifelong inspiration for Corita.

Corita shared cummings' belief that there was no distinction between popular culture and 'high art'. The circus exemplified this:

"Let us never be fooled into taking seriously that perfectly superficial distinction which is vulgarly draw between the circus-show and 'the arts'... damn everything but the circus." e. e. cummings

This was the kernel that grew into Corita's Circus Alphabet.

How to take part:

  1. Draw, paint, ink, print, stencil, collage, Photoshop... use whatever medium you choose to create your square illuminated letter.
  2. Take a high resolution picture or scan of your work.
  3. Share your letter each day on Twitter and/or Instagram with the hashtags #IlluminatedAlphabet and #CoritaKent and tag us @IllustrationHQ. We'll repost a selection of our favourites.
  4. Send your complete illuminated alphabet formatted as a single JPG to by 10am on Tuesday 30 April.
  5. We'll announce the winner and runners-up on Friday 3 May.

The prizes:

One winner will win:

Three runners-up will each win:

Everyone who sends their complete illuminated alphabet will receive complimentary tickets to Corita Kent: Power Up.

*Update 18 April: The judge*

Bob and Roberta Smith is an artist and activist whose best-known works include Make Art Not War, now in the Tate collection, and whose recent exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts, The Secret to a Good Life, explored the history of women artists. Much of his work consists of painted signs and brightly coloured typography.

Bob and Roberta Smith studied for his MA in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, was an Artist Trustee of Tate between 2009 and 2013 and is currently a trustee for the National Campaign for the Arts and a patron of the NSEAD. He has recently been elected to be a Royal Academician. In 2013 he launched the Arts Party, a group of artists and organisation campaigning for arts education in schools.

Bob and Roberta's colourful works in typography and his spirit of social activism make him a natural successor to Corita Kent and we are delighted to have him judging this competition inspired by her work.