Push Your Boundaries

This has been a very busy week for me, so there’s no new design this time round, but that means that it’s time to revisit an old piece!

Push Your Boundaries Vector

This is another piece that I would like to see made into a poster or something similar in the future when the situation calls for it. Along with this one, at some point, I hope to produce 2 or 3 pieces in a similarly sarcastic style, which will poke fun at the slightly over-used phrases that seem to crop up time and again in the lettering community (looking at you, “Hustle Hard.”)

This piece was also done to keep my vectorization muscle toned and sharp. When it comes to vectorization, the size of the text makes no difference, really. When making the original hand executed version of this piece, the larger letters took more time than the smaller letters, simply because there was more ink to put on the page. In a digital setting, however, it’s the other way round. The section that took the longest on this piece was the “I can’t tell you what” line of Copperplate, which on the original only took a matter of seconds, in fact, seeing as it was executed in actual calligraphy. That being said, there are a few tricks you can employ, especially when dealing with a script like Copperplate. The way it is constructed is so geometrically precise that many of the shapes can be recycled from one letter to the next, or even from one design to the next. In this case, once the basic oval, lead-in curve and lead-out curve were vectored, it was only a matter of applying them to the right situations and then adding in the rest of the bits and bobs that make the letters different from each other. To give you an indication of what that all means, take this example: the oval that makes up the O is the same as the first stroke of the A. The second stroke of the A is the same as the lower half of the T, and the first stroke of the Y is the same as the second stroke of the H. In this way, you can save some time and also assure consistency across the piece.

Once that’s finished, it’s simply a matter of splashing on some colour and some vector textures to give it more natural look, and it’s finished!

For the Love of Letterforms (Part 2)

Last week I showed the first two pieces I made for the Ligature Collective’s “For the Love of Letterforms” competition, the winner of which was to be announced on the 27th. Curiously, no winner has yet been announced, so we’ll just have to wait on that, for whatever reason. Hopefully they haven’t forgotten. Regardless, here are the next two pieces that I made for the competition!

For the Love of Letterforms Illusion

This first one is done in my own style of illusion script, which is an effect that I haven’t seen anywhere else around the web. If there’s anyone else who does this style, I would be very interested to see their work, but as of yet, I can only assume that it’s not common at all, perhaps even being unique to the couple of pieces I’ve used it on. Either way, this style has been very popular on Instagram, and this time I combined it with a very simple monoline sans serif, which sits unobtrusively atop the letters. The particular spacing of the ascenders in the word “letterforms” meant that there was the right distribution of emptiness so that the sans serif could be evenly spaced for consistency.

For the Love of Letterforms Ornate

The second piece I did was in the same style as the very first piece I ever submitted for the Ligature Collective competition series, which was to celebrate their 10K milestone earlier this year. The piece was popular on Instagram, and though it didn’t win the competition, it came in as a runner up and got an honourable mention on their page. The piece combines bold and simple letterforms with a focus on legibility with a highly ornate style of flourishing that informs the piece’s overall composition, and is used to shape the outline of the piece as a whole.

I wonder why the Ligature Collective has remained silent about the competition so far, and when their announcement of the winner will be. So far, they’re a day late, but hopefully they will make an update soon, whether it be to give a reason for the delay, or to announce the winner. Fingers crossed!

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!

A little calligraphy update

The letters in the piece this week are something I can’t take credit for. I didn’t invent them, I didn’t design them, I didn’t create them. All I did was pen them, after a long time studying what they should look like. (All right, I took a few liberties, but that’s the gist of it.) These letters are traditional calligraphic Roman capitals, Capitalis Monumentalis, or Roman Square caps, as they are sometimes known.

Roman Alphabet Angle

One thing I can take credit for, however, is the composition and colour work. These timeless letters have existed for thousands of years, and have remained almost entirely unchanged. Since two thousand years ago, there have come into existence all sorts of weird and wonderful scripts that look strange and illegible to our modern eyes, so it’s nice to think that the script that those oddities stem from is in fact one of the most recognisable and frequently used scripts that there is. The Roman capitals that all modern Latin letters are based on can still be seen in their original forms in Rome, on things like the Trajan Column, a monument which is a source of inspiration to calligraphers the world over when studying these ancient letters. They were carved into stone just under two thousand years ago, and since, there they have remained for all to see. The stone has stood the test of time, and in the same way, so too have the letter forms themselves.

Roman Alphabet

The study of Romans is something that can’t be done in an afternoon. It’s something that takes place slowly over the course of years. My journey in this area of study started relatively recently. I discovered a few resources on the topic when I first began lettering, read them over, gained a passing familiarity with the subject, and then thought there was nothing more to learn. Later, I found that these forms weren’t simply something that were used in lettering: they were actually produced through calligraphy. The letters I had been carefully drawing out could, in fact, be executed in single, swift and masterful strokes of the pen or brush. After a quick stroll through the woods of Italic study and the copse of learning Foundational, I quickly found my way to the massive and ancient forest that is understanding Roman letter forms. While I have not explored every valley and mountain that this forest covers, I have made several journeys through it from side to side, taking in as much as I can on each pass, and have become familiar enough with it to want to share with you this little piece.

There is so much I could say about this piece, and about Roman letters in general, but I will leave it at this to keep from getting bogged down in the details, and let the letter forms speak for themselves. Hopefully my little splash of colour will help add a little of my own personal style into these ancient characters.

We’re all gonna live for ever

We’re all gonna live forever!

We're all gonna live forever

Well, not really. That would be terrible, wouldn’t it? Aside from the personal boredom and increasing cynicism that would start to affect everyone, one of the most important ways in which society changes is with the refreshing of generations. People, as it turns out, don’t really change that much. Old ideas get pushed aside when the people who hold them disappear, not because those people stop holding certain views. What, then, might happen if we suddenly all start to live forever? Well, for one, this lettering piece will become true. For another, a drastic change in the birth:death ratio would mean that world population would quickly increase to the point that we would need to colonise other planets. And lastly, those with power and riches would find ways to keep them indefinitely. But hey, I think I’d trade that for my lettering piece becoming relevant, wouldn’t you?

This piece is a first for me, because it includes lowercase (or minuscule) Romans. But surely I’ve done that before, haven’t I? Well, yes, I have, and usually you would just call them typographic lowercase serif, but in this case, it’s not lettering modelled after a typeface, it’s the original, real-deal calligraphic forms, which the typefaces themselves were modelled after. The words “LIVE” and “forever” were both done with lettering, meaning that they were constructed through a numerous series of strokes (that is to say that they were drawn, not written), whereas the first three words are calligraphy. Calligraphy is an all-or-nothing kind of affair where you only get one shot at getting it right. It’s quick to produce, but when the letterforms are executed in a matter of seconds, any tiny mistake in hand motion affects everything.

The theme of this week is my attempts to combine lettering and calligraphy. Calligraphy is a skill that requires a lot of muscle memory in order to properly reproduce the correct letterforms every time, and so, unlike lettering, consistency is something that comes only after much, much practice. Here’s another piece where I have combine calligraphy and lettering:

Push Your Boundaries Gold

Here, the first three words, “Push Your Boundaries”, are lettering. They were outlined in pencil, inked (or in this case painted), and filled. Everything else, however, is calligraphy. The sans serif Romans were done with the same flexible pointed pen that was used for the Copperplate, which while was planned out in pencil initially, was executed in two or three minutes, using pressure and nib control to achieve the correct line weighting.

Less obviously in this piece is a mixture of different media. The piece is done in gold paint, but some of it includes some ink too. The subtle drop shadow on the words “Push Your”, and the radial lines below them, were made with a mixture of gold paint and black calligraphy ink. The ink was used sparingly, as black is very powerful, and the piece being gold-on-black in the first place meant that if it were too dark, it wouldn’t show up at all. The ink, however, gives it just enough darkening to fit well as background ornamentation that doesn’t steal focus from the letters themselves.