Live in the Moment

A little while ago, I did a quick sketch of a design for a daily doodle, which I decided to make into an inked piece this week.

I’ve been taking a while off from doing a piece every day because of travelling and visiting family, but I’m still keeping up with weekly updates on inked pieces. Fortunately for me, I have lots of designs available to play with from having done so many daily pieces. Here’s the initial sketch:Live in the Moment

With this piece, I wanted to make it look like something you might see on a badge or fabric patch, so I started by choosing the shape I wanted to go for, then working around that to fit in the lettering and the ornamentation. The phrase is pretty short, and the length of the words lends itself well to giving the piece a sensible hierarchy.

Be A Better You

It’s around this time of year that people start thinking about what their New Year’s resolutions will be. Though it’s better to make serious lifestyle changes rather than half though out plans just because of the time of year, I thought I would make a piece pre-empting the following year.

Be a Better You

This piece started out as one my daily doodles a little while ago. I enjoyed experimenting with the composition, and used a similar layout for another piece at around the same time, but felt that this one went well with the phrase, so I decided to ink it.

There are a few new elements in this one that I haven’t explored much in other pieces. First of all, it’s one of the few times I have used a monoline style (“BE A” and “YOU”), where there is no real difference in the thickness of the strokes. While I tend to think that a high contrast between thick and thin strokes looks better, there is certainly a place for monoline styles, and here it’s in the less important supporting elements of the piece. One advantage of this is that thin hairlines on letters can often get lost, or hard to make out at smaller sizes, thereby decreasing the legibility of the piece.

The second thing to talk about is the decision to join the ETT in “BETTER”. It’s a bit of an old sign painting trick to join a double T together and save a little space, but I decided to take it a little further and have the serifs of the E and T but up against each other and share a bit of the same space. It’s not really a necessary technique, seeing as I have as much space as I want to play with when designing on blank paper, but it adds a little interest to the piece, and lends a hint of the old sign style lettering that you can sometimes still see painted on the gable ends of old buildings (at least in Europe – I can’t speak for elsewhere.)

With Christmas so close, and days spent travelling and shopping, daily doodles have taken a back seat, and I’m taking a couple of weeks off from doing them. Fear not, however, for they will return soon enough, at the start of the new year.

Merry Christmas!

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.

Daily Doodles

At the moment, and for the foreseeable future, I’m doing something called Daily Doodles. That means that I’m creating one new piece of lettering, sometimes in ink, usually in pencil, always in a day. Last week I wrote a little about it as an addendum to my Create Create Create post. This week, I started putting a bit more time and thought into the pieces – not necessarily in the execution of each, as a day isn’t a long amount of time to create something, but in the exploration of styles, and composition. Sometimes I get so carried away with finding new styles to use in lettering pieces that I don’t ever spend enough time actually exploring a style before I move onto the next. It’s partially due to curiosity about the possibilities, but also due to not wanting to produce things that seem too lacking in variety.

They say that it takes 10 000 hours to become good at something. And that’s a lot of hours. A lot of time doing the same thing over and over again, rehashing, going over, trying again, failing, and learning what to do better next time. Because of that, I decided that using my time doodling a new piece each day would be well spent not only exploring new styles, but exploring styles I’ve used before. Here are a few from the last week:

Air

Air: practising Roman capitals, the root of the letter forms we use today. Though originally a form of calligraphy, the historical records of them are stone engravings. The letters are still written today, however, with broad edged pens and brushes, and hold a lot of mysteries. Unlike learning some Italic or Gothic script, Romans require some difficult techniques to pull off through calligraphy. Sketching them, of course, is easier, providing you know how they are meant to be formed. (Let me give you a hint: that’s the hard part. Hence the practise.)

Beauty in Truth

Beauty in Truth: some experimentation with flourishing and ornamentation in a Copperplate style. I also incorporated the style of B I used in my Drop Cap a Day Inktober project.

Trust

Trust: a Gothic piece, drawing inspiration from several scripts that I’m sure have names, but I can’t remember right now. Though Gothic scripts are pretty straight forward, and easy to sketch in pencil especially, I’m still finding plenty to learn with each piece.

Alive

Alive: some more simple Copperplate calligraphy style letters here. I used ink and pencil on this piece to give it a little drop shadow to make it pop. The effect works quite well, and makes me consider investing in some grey inks to get a more reliable and lasting medium that gives the same feel.

Earth

Earth: similar to the Air piece in style and ornamentation. I think it should be a letterer’s mantra that you can never know too much about Roman capitals. And if you do, please start teaching others.

Be Your Own Hero

Be your own hero: combining two styles here – Copperplate and Gothic. The composition came out as I wanted, but I can’t help but feel it would be nice if the words had allowed for a letter with an ascender at the end of the last word so that the Copperplate would be nested between the Gothic on each side.

Better Together

Better Together: sometimes simple & elegant is all you need, and what better way to achieve it than a Copperplate-style script piece? It’s my wife’s birthday today, so I made her this little sketch to show her my appreciation, and took the time to doodle out some flourishes while I was at it.

Some of these pieces might pop up again later, or elements from them, at least, in later posts. I’m thinking of making a piece around the Earth/Air/Water/Fire “elements” after having watched a TV show called Avatar, so the other two will probably be along at some point, but they may be in a different style as I explore ideas for the piece. As always, if you’re interested in staying up to date with these daily doodles as they come, follow me on Instagram.

Create Create Create

What if you had to make a new thing every day? It might be easy to start with, but after a little while, you would run out of ideas. Maybe you’d struggle to think of new things to make. You’d wish you hadn’t wasted good ideas when your execution wasn’t good enough to do them justice. You’d get burnt out and get fed up with doing it and eventually give up. Now imagine if you had to go running every day. At the start, it would be hard to do, and you would feel like you were no good at it. After a while, you would start to feel some improvement; maybe you would be able to run a little further each day, or a little faster. Eventually, you would be much better at running than you were before.

The thing is that creativity isn’t how I described it in the first paragraph: it’s just the same as how I described running. The more you practice something, the better you get. The more you do something, the more your brain understands how it works and how to do it. When it comes to creative things, there isn’t some magic element, some mysterious gift, some much-coveted spark. It’s all down to practice. Do you want to get better at something? Then do that thing a whole lot, and soon enough, you will find that you are seeing improvement.

Create Create Create

Recently, I’ve been focusing on improving creativity though practice. I don’t wait for an idea to strike, or motivation to come along and help me out. Instead, I look to discipline and structure to guide my way. The nice thing about that is that motivation is fickle, and sitting around waiting for it means that more often than not you don’t get anything done, whereas discipline is something that you can build as a habit over time, and strengthen every time you do exercise it. As part of my learning, I’ve been studying calligraphy in order to better understand the roots of lettering. This piece combines 3 of my favourite styles: Copperplate, Gothic, and Italic.

Having a piece with just 3 words, each in a different style, could lead to an inconsistency in the structure. To counteract this, the piece finds consistency through ornamentation, form, and subject matter. Each word has the same left facing shine to the letters, the ornamentation is self reflective, and the words all say the same thing. The repetitive nature of the words also implies the importance of not just creating one thing and being done with it, but creating as a process that continues independently of the pieces being produced.

Create Create Create Detail

Aside from exploring calligraphy, I’ve been dedicating some time every day to making a pencil sketch every day of a few words or phrases. If they turn out well, I may recycle the ideas in inked pieces, and if they don’t turn out well, then I have learnt something valuable in making some mistakes. Here are a few from the last week:

Nihil est Fortuitum

A request someone posted to reddit: Nihil est Fortuitum – Nothing happens by chance. I took the challenge because I liked the phrase; after all, it is true: cause and effect are in everything!

Silence

Silence: Using the composition and the negative space to add some expression to the word.

Balance

Balance: Experimenting with a 3D effect, some drop shadows, and a Gothic style I’ve been experimenting with, which was also seen in Break the Rules.

Don't Look Down

Don’t Look Down: Some simple Italic, and some fun with linking the letters together. Though Italic is quick to perform with a broad nibbed pen, I find it takes a long time to sketch just right with a pencil, unlike Gothic styles and Copperplate, which seem easy to reproduce in graphite.