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.

May You Live in Interesting Times

This week’s piece is something I did for a daily doodle a little while ago. I liked the design, so I decided to only show off a part of it when I posted it at the time and save the rest for an inked piece. Here’s the full version!

May You Live in Interesting Times Angled

When I first started making lettering pieces, I focused a lot on learning about letter forms, in the same way that someone learning the guitar might focus on getting the notes to sound nice. While nice notes and good letter forms are important, lately I’ve been more interested in exploring what makes the composition of a piece work well. Every note in a piece may sound perfect, but if they’re in the wrong places, or they don’t complement each other well, then the piece isn’t going to be a success. In the same way, if the hierarchy and combination of styles in a lettering piece aren’t properly thought out, then the piece will fall short of where it could.

At the same time as all that, I’ve been experimenting with more ornamentation if my pieces, which also helps the composition as a whole. Of course, I have always liked using lots of ornamentation in lettering, but I’ve been including it lately with more of a mind towards using it to tie pieces together. Here are a few examples from my daily doodles this week.

Be a Better You

Be a Better You

Live in the Moment

Live in the Moment

Custom Hand Lettering

Custom Hand Lettering

L’appel du Vide

L'appel du Vide

But of course, I still take the time to practice some good old letter forms. Here’s a Gothic piece, Take Care:

Take Care

I’m going to take a week off from doing daily doodles because of travelling, staying with people and Christmas stuff, but inked pieces will still be coming out at a rate of one a week.

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.