For the Love of Letterforms (Part 1)

It’s competition time again! You may recall that a long time ago in a blog post far, far away I wrote about entering a competition to perhaps get into an elite team of superheroes. Well, okay, it was about 23 weeks ago, and instead of superheroes they are letterers, typographers and calligraphers. The Ligature Collective held a contest for Instagram users to submit their best work of art based around the phrase “Ten Thousand Followers” to celebrate, well, you guessed it, getting up to the 10K mark on Instagram. Long story short, I entered, wasn’t one of the 3 winners, but got an honourable mention, along with 8 other lucky artists.

The End.

Or so we thought until now…

For the Love of Letterforms Simple

Suddenly, the Ligature Collective Strikes Back with their next competition, this time in celebration of getting 50 thousand followers! I know, that’s 40,000 followers in 24 weeks, which in case you’re wondering, is just about ten an hour, or about one every six minutes. Whew.

This time, the brief was a piece of lettering of the words “For the Love of Letterforms”. The rules allowed unlimited submissions per person, so I thought I may as well go ahead and do as many as I liked. My goal in doing so was to showcase the variety of styles that I’ve become capable of using over the years and come out with several pieces that differ from each other in feel and appearance as much as possible.

With the first, which you can see above, my intention was to design something that was visually very simple. There is almost no flourishing at all on this piece, and the shape of the composition is made simply through the arrangement of the words themselves.

Here’s the second piece I did:

For the Love of Letterforms Gold

This piece uses a combination of styles, and is reminiscent of the techniques used on old certificates and official documents which employ a combination of heavy blackletter text surrounded by much lighter flourishes and Copperplate accompaniment. The other quite obvious contrast between the pieces is that this one is in gold and white paint on a black background, whereas the other is classic black on white.

Both these pieces, I feel, were a success, and I achieved with them what I had set out to do. The next two, which I will talk about next week, are at great contrast with each other in terms of complexity, but both of which were very popular on Instagram and gathered much attention. Tune in next week to find out what happens! Not only will the next pieces be revealed, but I also will have found out if I got into one of the coveted two available spots on the Ligature Collective team. Fingers crossed!

No Pressure, No Diamonds

When do you think you produce your best work? Is it when you have all the time in the world to plan and tweak and refine? It has been said that work expands to fill the time allotted, and if you’re a perfectionist, I’m sure you would agree that there’s an element of truth in the saying. It’s also said that you never grow if you never stray from your comfort zone. If your ideal working scenario is comfortable and calm with endless time, it could be that you would benefit most from denying yourself that environment. After all, no diamond was ever created where there was no pressure.

No Pressure No Diamonds Angled

No Pressure, No Diamonds! What does it mean? It means something enough to one person to have it emblazoned on their skin, in fact. This was a client commission for a tattoo that I wanted to share with you for two reasons. The first is to show off my process for tattoo design, and the second is because the subject matter is oddly fitting in this case. The brief for the piece, that is the words themselves and the layout, didn’t seem to lend themselves well to any of the styles that I have been becoming more familiar with. My love for Romans, my penchant for combining styles, tendency to create tiny details in pieces, all were at odds with what this piece needed to be. The text needed to fit within a 11.5 x 6.5 cm space (4.5 x 2.5″), it needed to be well legible at that size, and it needed to (of course) be typographically sound.

Here are some specifications that I included since the piece was being passed from one artist to another (i.e. from me to the tattoo artist who would execute the design):

No Pressure No Diamonds Measurements

In the early design stages, I had difficulty coming up with anything that would satisfy my standards. One of the main things I had to tackle was the word length. Two very short words and two quite long words. Just by the nature of the phrase, many design possibilities were taken off the table that would normally be there for phrases with more equal letter distribution. Eventually, I managed to create a small selection of designs that I had some interest in taking further. The client had requested something in a fluid kind of script, but I find it best to explore all available options before continuing because there are often solutions hidden in places that don’t seem obvious at first, and closing doors early on is a great way to get stuck. And getting stuck wasn’t something that I needed any more of with this project.

No Pressure No Diamonds Concepts

So what happens at the end of the story? Well, the hero perseveres and comes up with the best design ever, not through luck or coincidence, but through effort and hard work!

Really though, that’s pretty much what happened, minus the hero part. As it turns out, even a project that you feel doesn’t mesh well with your style, or doesn’t seem to fit well with what you would usually like to do can be turned into something you make your own, something you can really put your heart into and work on with as much enthusiasm as any other, and come out at the other end with something you can be proud to write a blog post about.

So one of the reasons I wanted to write about this project in particular was because it was a case where the pressure was on to create a piece that was worthy, and in the end I created a result I was happy with, despite the difficulties, which is kind of the point of the piece I was making. No Pressure, No Diamonds. How meta.

The Future is Soon

Lately, I have been working on composing pieces with more ornamentation and flourishes. My goal has been to get a better understanding of how to create lettering pieces that aren’t based solely on the letter forms and the shapes of the words. Doing a daily doodle has given me some nice time to focus on exploring different options, and so for this week’s piece, I’ve used one of my daily designs.

The Future is Soon

“The Future is Soon.” I’m pretty excited about the future, and thankfully, it’s coming pretty soon. At times, the future has been much further away, but at the moment, the future is the closest it has ever been. That is to say that in the past, things didn’t change much for a really long time. Nowadays, however, things are changing much more. Change is, if nothing else, interesting, and though “may you live in interesting times” is often said to be a curse, I can’t help but feel excited.

The phrase “may you live in interesting times” is said to come from Chinese, though no source has been found. The nearest related expression translates to “better to live as a dog in an era of peace than a man in times of war.” And speaking of the future, it’s likely to have the least amount of war since pretty much forever. People often say that the world is going downhill, but in fact, we live in a time of peace and prosperity greater than any other. It seems like the future will be a pretty good time to live; that said, no day is better than today.

Here are some of the daily doodles I’ve done this week:

The Future is Soon

“The Future is Soon.” The sketch I made into an inked piece today.

Winter

“Winter.” A piece I made yesterday, the last day of November, in an effort to be a little seasonal.

Do Your Best

“Do Your Best.” A little piece to motivate myself to do well, but also to know that doing your best is always something you can do if you put in the time.

Golden

“Golden.” A single word piece to practice some flourishes and some tall letters in a circular design.

In other news, I got through the first of the nice A5 Rhodia pads of paper I bought a while ago. I started on just for daily doodles and the drop caps I did in Inktober. The “Golden” sketch was the last piece in this one, with “Do Your Best” being the first of a new pad. Here’s a picture of all the pieces I made with this pad:

Notebook 1

There are 57 designs here, and the pads come with 80 pages, which means I used 23 pages for sketching, tracing, ideas and as guard sheets.

Inktober Drop Caps (Part 2)

Inktober rages on! Or at least, slowly advances from my end. Mostly, it consists of lots of sitting in a chair quietly sketching. The raging part, that’s about what you see if you search for #Inktober on Twitter. Inktober is a challenge to artists to make one piece of artwork in ink each day of October. Amidst all the pictures of monsters and anime characters, every now and then, you might catch a glimpse of some typography and calligraphy. So that’s where I come in! Two weeks ago, I posted the first half of my drop cap alphabet (which goes up to M). Though Inktober isn’t finished yet, I’m done with the alphabet and have even started on a few numbers! Here’s the second half:

Dropcap N

N: I had quite a bit of time to doodle this one, resulting in it being pretty ornate! It uses a kind of shading that is similar to hatching to give it a shiny feel, which worked out quite well.

Dropcap O

O: I spent a lot of time on this one just making sure I had the proportions of the Gothic-style O just how I wanted them. The ornamentation is quite simple, but it gives a bold effect, which is what I was aiming for.

Dropcap P

P: This one shares similar ornamentation to the N, but its form is inspired mostly by pointed pen calligraphy rather than Roman caps.

Dropcap Q

Q: The picture is taken from an angle on this one to complement the 3D effect. Lots of fun doing the shading all around the sides, but a headache to get the angles all correct on the 3D parts.

Dropcap R

R: Straight up in terms of form. On this one, I was aiming for a simple shape so that I could fit in lots of details, like little drop shadows and hatching.

Dropcap S

S: A little more abstract than others in the set. It’s inspired by calligraffiti and lettering styles I’ve seen in various places. It looks a little like a swan, but also a little like a flame.

Dropcap T

T: Keeping it simple in terms of ornamentation in order to focus on the shape and create a piece reflective of pointed pen calligraphy.

Dropcap U

U: Similar to the R, and also the A, this combines elements of each, resulting in a bold and stylized piece. It felt incomplete until I added the outline and the drop shadow, which rounded it off well.

Dropcap V

V: Using a kind of shading I did on a piece long ago which I haven’t come back to in a while. The effect is reminiscent of brush calligraphy and pointed pen work.

Dropcap W

W: A bit of a speed run, so it’s done all with one large nib width, which made for a playful, friendly piece.

Dropcap X

 

X: Aiming for something a bit nuanced compared to the W. A crisp, sharp form with some delicate ornamentation.

Dropcap Y

Y: A Gothic style with plentiful ornamentation in a style I haven’t used much in the past. Would be nice to go over some bits with gold ink if I ever got any.

Dropcap Z

 

Z: Inspired by some old Cadels. It’s the last one in the alphabet, so I thought I would get fancy and try a new style.

Dropcap 1

Bonus: 1. A Metropolis/Art Deco style no. 1 to continue Inktober. Drop caps out of the way, numbers will follow as a few bonus pieces.

Dropcap 2

Bonus: 2. Similar to the W, it’s a bold and playful piece inspired by high contrast script pieces.

Dropcap 3

Bonus: 3. Lastly, today’s piece! A swirly detailed 3. Click the picture to take a closer look at all the details.

Inktober Drop Caps (Part 1)

I recently discovered something called Inktober, which is a challenge to artists to produce one piece of work in ink each day of October. Of course, I already work exclusively in ink, so it suits me well in that regard. The daily part, however, is something I haven’t done since my Thing A Day project, which is very close to being one year ago. Back then, I had only just started lettering, and looking back on the posts, I can see so much I would change and so much that I have learnt. So nearly a year later, I find that I’m back to doing a thing a day, though this time I decided to do an exploration of styles in designing drop caps. Similar to my Days of the Week project, I took this opportunity to challenge myself to making each drop cap as different from the others as possible.

At the same time, I’ve been posting each drop cap as it comes to Twitter and having a little fun composing each tweet to start with the same letter as each day’s drop cap.

Here, I will provide a little insight into what I was aiming for with each drop cap and how it turned out.

Dropcap A

A: My goal was what is essentially a Roman capital with a healthy dose of Gothic inspiration informing it. As much as I love Gothic alphabets, the letter A always seems lacking somehow, so it was fun to inject a little of the style into something a bit more aesthetically pleasing and legible.

Dropcap B

B: I looked to create a letter B that fit well with a Copperplate calligraphy style, but had a unique formation. If you follow the stroke of the pen from the curl at the top right (which would be the starting place in writing it) and trace it all the way through the letter you can see that the lower bowl of the B is created before the upper, which is not the normal way round. To complement the odd formation, the decoration is a little Escher-esque.

Dropcap C

C: Going for a kind of 3D style, which is pretty common in lettering, but the tendency seems to be to use either a shadow or a side-on view of a raised letter. If the two are combined (which they sometimes are) then it seems that the shadow is always comes on the same side as the raised effect. In this case, I experimented with making the light source come from (roughly) the same position as the perspective.

Dropcap D

D: A straight up experiment in making things unabashedly swirly. I think that there is a lot more to explore with this style, and I revisit it with the L, later. I think I might experiment further with it in future lettering pieces, too.

Dropcap E

E: This is another example of a raised letter, like the C, but with no shadow. Instead, I endeavoured to make what looks like an inlay made of wood. If it’s hard to see in the small preview, click on the image to get a better look!

Dropcap F

F: The first really Gothic letter I did in the Inktober challenge. The A was an something I wanted to create in a space between traditional styles, but this time, I was aiming for something as more of a calligraffiti-Gothic hybrid.

Dropcap G

G: Sunday is my day off, so I had more time to add more detail and have fun. I was aiming for something ornate and fun, while still adhering to good fundamentals of Roman letter design. It’s important to spend a long time thinking about proportions and form before getting too bogged down in the details.

Dropcap H

H: Bold and strong, inspired by Art Deco power and seeming fascination with trains and forward motion. I used stippling for the first time in what seems like forever to create the effect in the middle.

Dropcap I

I: Similar to the F, this one draws most of its elements from Gothic styles of calligraphy, but its form adheres a little bit more to what we would consider a traditional hand-written capital letter I crossed on the two ends. I think that the little drop shadow outline gives it a nicer effect than what I was going for on the F, so I was pleased with how it turned out.

Dropcap J

J: A bit of an unconventional form with is a combination of a typographic J, which often omits the full curl on the end of the stem, and a hand-written style with a full crossbar on top. The ornamentation is something that I enjoyed doing on a previous lettering piece and wanted to dedicate some time to in one of my drop caps. I did take a lot longer than other letters though!

Dropcap K

K: This one is in a pretty comic-book-like style, which is something that I haven’t explored much before. The form of the letter, the strong drop shadow, and the interior shading come together to make the style, and it ends up standing out as quite different from the other drop caps.

Dropcap L

L: Having enjoyed the D, I decided to create a letter that was made entirely of swirly bits. Before filling in the outline it looked almost as though it was made of feathers, and it does a little still, I suppose.

Dropcap M

M: This one combines quite a few things I’ve done in past lettering pieces. The decoration on the inlay, the fragmented style and the raised sides are all elements I’ve used before, but not quite in this combination, where they end up creating a unique effect.

The rest of the alphabet will be along in a a couple of weeks or so after I’ve finished the Inktober challenge. In fact, I started a couple of days before Inktober, having decided on a whim to do a drop cap a day, so I will run out of letters a few days before the end of October. I’m planning on doing some number-based lettering pieces, or at the very least some ever popular ampersand practice, and other symbols. Why do designers love ampersands so much anyway? What about the poor @ sign, which never gets much love?