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.

Wing

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.

Instagram & Gold

Recently, I got an Instagram account. Follow! In fact, it was over a year ago, but I’ve only recently started using it. There’s quite a nice little lettering community on Instagram, so I’ve been having a nice time looking at all the amazing work of other artists. There are also several popular accounts that curate the works of others who produce calligraphy and type-based work. One of them is a group called the Ligature Collective, who, to give you an idea of their popularity recently got 10,000 followers. To celebrate the fact, they decided to hold a competition to get a new member. The competition is to create an a piece of hand lettered work celebrating their 10K milestone and post it on Instagram.

The Ligature Collective Gold on Black

This is a little piece I sketched up when I had a some free time. I’ve been very busy lately, so I haven’t had much time to dedicate to the competition, but hopefully over the next week I will put in some quality design time and come up with something that would put me in the running.

This piece was quickly inked and then taken to the digital side of things. After last week’s foray into coloured work, I decided it would be nice to explore it a bit further. I love the look of gold print posters on a black background, so I decided to try to recreate the effect. I was given some gold leaf as a gift, which up until now has been set aside for a special piece at some point in the future. It served a purpose for this piece, however, even if it was only for digital manipulation: I took a photograph of one of the very delicate gold leaves to use for the colour on the inside of the letters.

Here’s the piece as it is on the page:

The Ligature Collective

And below, the gold leaf photograph that provides the colour:

Gold Leaf

In combination, they create a quite different feeling than either one alone. It’s also quite pleasing to know that the colour comes from something real. Last week’s piece was done purely through digital manipulation, whereas this time the source is a little more tangible, though only just! It would be easy to believe that this stuff doesn’t even exist. It’s like it’s only a single atom thick. I look forward to the day when I have a piece in mind that’s luxurious enough to warrant its use. Until then, however, I will have to satisfy myself with taking pictures of it.

Take Your Time…

Here’s a piece that started out being dumped into the Daily Doodles folder on my computer, or at least the parts of it did. A doodle of the words “Take Your Time” done in a flourished style with a slight slant to the composition. After a little while the phrase came back to me and brought a few friends, and together they formed some lyrics from long ago. Twenty-four years ago, in fact. In 1991 Nirvana released the song Come As You Are, containing the lyrics “Take your time / Hurry up / Choice is yours / Don’t be late.”

Take Your Time, Hurry Up, Choice Is Yours, Don't Be Late

All four pieces were done on separate pieces of paper, and aren’t inked – they’re just pencil sketches. I took a picture of each one and arranged them digitally. After a little experimentation with some colours, I settled on going for something with a warm feel. There’s definitely a clash between the visual style and the sound of the music that the words come from, but it’s differences like that that are often the most interesting.

Stylistically, the pieces are Copperplate calligraphy with a lot of flourishing. The flourishes help retain consistency through the four sections, but also serve to fill out the spaces that make the lines different. For instance, the first line, “Take Your Time” fills its own space very well, having three four-letter words. The other lines, however, all have one two-letter word, and the second line is only two words long. Though they do make the shapes less inconsistent, I didn’t want the flourishes to force the shape of each section to be identical, as it might look strange, and it would detract from the differences in shape due to the lines. These differences are what make lettering unique and beautiful, and they also add an interesting asymmetrical negative space between the blocks.

This is one of the few forays into coloured work that I’ve done to date, but enjoyed the process and the result, so hopefully there will be a few more splashes of colour coming in the future.

Where Words Fail Music Speaks

This is a little piece I threw together this week. When I say little, I mean it! It’s pretty small. The x height is about 5mm, which for calligraphy isn’t so tiny, but compared to the lettering pieces I usually do, it’s quite small.

Where Words Fail Music Speaks

What I was aiming for with this piece was to go for a relatively simple calligraphic style and try to capture the feeling that I’ve seen in lots of progress pictures of lettering pieces that seems to get lost in the final piece. During the design stages the letters are often sketched out, and perhaps filled in lightly with pencil, but usually have darker outlines. Once the piece is inked, the feel of the letters and the overall impression of the piece becomes very different. Having the outline stand out somehow makes the piece feel a lot more spacious and delicate.

This piece is in fact a quote from Hans Christian Andersen. Being a musician and an awkward English person, I often feel that words can fall short whereas music is something that provides a different kind of connection between people. I saw the quote and decided that it would make a nice piece in a calligraphic style. Compositionally it suits a piece that is all in the same style rather than a grand, type-mixing poster. The message itself is about the inadequacy of words, and yet the message is in words itself, so it also suits a relatively understated style.

Recently, I’ve been digitizing more pieces (some to come in a few weeks, too,) so I thought I would quickly throw this piece through the digital assembly line to add a splash of colour. I have a few coloured inks, so I should quite like to add some colour to the physical piece, but the colours didn’t really match up with composition, so I will have to wait until I get some other colours. Here’s the digital version:

Where Words Fail Music Speaks 2

 

Don’t be Afraid to Dream

This week is another New-Pen-Week! Last time, I got some Rotring Rapidographs, which I use pretty much the same as the old fine liners I started out with. Not much changed in the style of work I produced, but for me, the process was changed a little. This time, however, I got some Pilot Parallels, which are a kind of fountain pen for broad nibbed calligraphy. I’ve been wanting to start practising some broad nibbed calligraphy for a while now, so that I can further my understanding of Gothic/Blackletter styles, and this week allowed me the chance to give it a go!

Don't be Afraid to Dream

I found a wonderful image that displays a style of Blackletter that I haven’t seen reproduced quite the same anywhere else. The title of the image is “Williams Style of German Text”, which doesn’t seem to bring up much other than the original image, so I don’t have much more information than what you see there. I’m sure there is much to learn in exploring the style, and I’m going to spend the next few weeks trying to understand the intricacies of what makes the letters function in the way they do, but in the mean time, I took some inspiration from the style, as well as several other styles I’ve seen around the web, and came up with the piece above.

The pens came with two inks, which was unexpected, but it provided me with the opportunity to experiment with a bit of colour, which is something I’ve been purposefully avoiding in other works in an effort to focus on form. After all, restrictions are what give us guidance, and having too many directions to explore often leads to little progress. That being said, it’s sometimes refreshing to allow yourself a little deviation. These inks are black and red, though refills are available for all manner of colours, so I’m interested in getting some more in the future. In the mean time, I found neat feature on my camera that replaces individual colours in a photo for others, no photoshopping required. Here, I’ve replaced the red ink with a green, blue, and brighter red. Look how each colour creates a different feel for each piece. Colour matters!

Don't be Afraid to Dream Colours

The speckles that surround the letters were made by pulling on the tip of the nib, and letting it go, which flicks the ink on to the paper. Unfortunately, it also flicks it everywhere else, so I ended up with some red fingers, pens and surfaces. Before I did the speckles, I first drew out some guidelines for the word “Dream”, then wrote in the red parts. Once they were dry, I went over in black to complete the bottom part of each letter, then added in the Copperplate above with a brush pen. The speckles came in last because I didn’t want to get my hands so messy if I ended up making a mistake and discarding the paper!