Just Wing It

Sometimes you need to stop preparing and jump in at the deep end. This weekend I went for a swim in a lake, and it turned out that the summer hadn’t warmed it up enough to really be hot enough, but the plunge is by far the worst part of it. After you get going with something, it often ends up not being so bad. Some times, you need to just wing it.

Just Wing It

So here’s a little piece that puts into practice the things I’ve been studying about formal Romans, with a little dash of Copperplate thrown in for good measure. All of that is becoming familiar ground for me, however, so where is the proof of the jumping in at the deep end? Well, I decided to finally start a little more serious experimentation with coloured work that isn’t in the digital realm. I bought some gouache and turned this piece into something colourful:

Just Wing It Colour

I’m pretty sure that that just about wraps it up for learning blue, so if I just learn the other 6 colours, I should have it all sorted out. In all seriousness, though, this was novel for me in both execution and design. Working with subtly different tones was interesting, but the experience was added to with regards to the tools used. When making something that’s simply black and white I use Rapidograph technical pens, but this piece is one of the first lettering pieces (as opposed to calligraphy pieces) that I’ve created using my traditional calligraphy tools, in the form of a broad tipped dip nib.


Calligraphy is a great example of an art that is all about the hours of practice vs the minutes, or even seconds of execution that it takes to make a piece. A skilled calligrapher has dedicated thousands of hours to learning the correct letter forms so that they can produce them swiftly at a moment’s notice. This is paying off in my own work, as sketching out Romans like these is becoming something that only takes a few minutes, and is backed up by the time dedicated to acquiring the knowledge that supports the letter forms. The process of this piece, then, is relatively simple, as the first step is shown above. With a couple of guidelines pencilled in with a ruler, the letters are quick to outline. From there, the next stage is designing the Copperplate and flourishes to surround the Romans, and filling the outlines. Lastly, I laid another sheet over the pencil version so that I could trace the letters in paint, and not to have to worry about erasing the guidelines after the paint was applied, all of which means that I end up with two versions of the piece, one graphite and one gouache, as pictured above.

Autumn Leaves

Autumn is here. The leaves are piling up. The night is getting colder. It’s getting light later and later in the morning, and I’m not looking forward to my morning bike ride in the dark, which I’m sure will start happening soon. However, currently, it’s still nice enough to be enjoying the last of the warm weather, so I thought I’d do a piece with a seasonal feel.

Autumn Leaves

I had fun fitting the design around a little drawing of a leaf, and incorporating some bits and pieces to give a windy feel, like the crossbar of the A, or the ornamentation under the word “Leaves”. I was aiming for a piece that would incorporate some of the techniques I employed in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, where I experimented with some ways to save space without making the piece seem too cramped. Here, I have made use of the convenient “UTU” in “Autumn” to nestle everything close together. I did consider joining the lower right serif of the first E in “Leaves” with the foot of the neighbouring A, but I think that the spacing works out well enough without having to do so. One of the great things about working with Roman capitals is that they retain their legibility even if you make them do all sorts of gymnastics. I also wanted to add a splash of colour, so it was nice to set the piece onto some autumn colours. I found a great tutorial a few months ago, which showed how to isolate text from a lettering piece and set it over an image, which made things quick and fun, and really sped up the process.

Here’s a little shot of what the piece looks like on paper:

Autumn Leaves Snap

In other news, this week, I have started a daily drop cap doodle, which you can check out if you follow me on twitter. I should think that I will post them all here at some point, whether all together once the alphabet is complete or in a few instalments, but if you’re curious, check back to my twitter page each day to see what the next drop cap!