“Well, know that as I worked with them, with the numbers, I grew away from the stencil. I made the statement earlier that all of my calligraphy is connected with either the Gothic or the Roman stencil. With the numbers that’s not true. Now, I could have invented, I could have designed very fancy, handsome numbers myself. But again I chose not to. I simply found—I don’t know if it was in the loft, but all I had to do was look in a stationery store—I simply discovered the businessman’s calendar and thought that the numbers had a kind of robustness and a kind of, you know, crude vigor to them which I liked. And so all my numbers paintings are based on the numbers from the businessman’s calendar, a found object. I did, however, make certain refinements. It turns out that when you fit a given number in a circle, sometimes you have to tuck in a serif. And you have to squeeze in the bulge of a ‘5,’ or something. So, although I didn’t want to, I found myself refining these numbers. And, yes, I got fascinated with the play of the background against the foreground of a ‘5,’ in particular. And that momentarily was fascinating but that certainly is not what my number paintings are about. My number paintings are simply a celebration of the fact that we have something as marvelous as numbers and that they are an incredible invention and that they should be celebrated, which goes back to other aspects of my work.”
— Robert Indiana
Excerpt from Donald B. Goodall, “Conversations with Robert Indiana,” in Robert L. B. Tobin, William Katz, and Donald B. Goodall. Robert Indiana. Austin: University of Texas, 1977.