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.

Life is not a Problem to be Solved but an Experience to be Had

Sometimes it’s too easy to get caught up in avoiding the bad things that we miss all the good things. This piece that sums up the message quite well. It’s a quote that seems to be attributed to a few different people, and has a few variations; however, a message should be valued based on its content rather than who first said it.

Life is not a Problem

I have enjoyed pieces lately that make use of a single style of text and focus more on a solid composition and hierarchy. This piece makes use of a copperplate style of calligraphy, with a few extra elements thrown in. My focus was on reducing the complexity of the piece in terms of the styles used, so there are only two sizes of text, the smaller size having little decoration, and the larger with only minimal decoration (the inner white line and spur on the capitals being the only ornamentation on the letters themselves.) This meant that the piece was open to a lot of fun with flourishing and ornamentation between the text.

Here is an angled shot which has the whole piece in frame but fits it into a landscape layout:

Life is not a Problem detail

Most of the time spent on this pieces was not in the execution, though it may seem detailed, but in the planning. I wanted to make sure that the composition was solid, with good consistency throughout the piece. The word “Experience” in particular, being so long took some time to get centred well without it seeming to hang off the edge of the border. Of course, I could have made the text smaller, but my goal was to have only two sizes of text, so I wanted to stick to it. It’s often easy to over complicate something and take an additive approach to the search of perfection, but in fact, more frequently, perfection can be found through subtraction. That is to say that the more minimal a design, the better. So to in planning a piece, it is important to focus on the basics above all, as they underpin the whole piece. The execution of the piece, in the end, was relatively quick.

Here are a few pictures of the piece as it went along:

Life is not a Problem Progress

I would show you the sheet where I planned out several different ideas for the quote, but it seems to have gone missing. I’m sure it’s here somewhere, but really, you should see my desk. So many papers…

In other news, with Inktober all finished up here’s a fun snap of all the pieces up to the 31st together:

Dropcaps (Inktober)

The number was done on the 31st, which was the last day of Inktober. What about the other numbers though? Well, I started doing these drop caps just before October started, and I hadn’t heard of Inktober at the time, so it was more of a convenient surprise, really. The project continues on my twitter page! Today sees us up to zero in numbers, which means that tomorrow will probably be some fun punctuation like an & or @. After that, I’m debating whether to do a pencil sketched phrase a day or come back to the beginning of the alphabet and do some more drop caps. Follow me on twitter to find out if you’re curious!

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with One Step

About a year ago, I discovered a thing called hand lettering. Having an interest in calligraphy, I had stumbled upon something that seemed similar. Custom designed and hand drawn pieces consisting of letters and words. An art form that centred around calligraphy and typography, constructed in pencil and ink. I started to notice more about the designs of letters I saw around me, and took an interest in what made something a good or bad design. Soon, I began making my own lettering pieces. I didn’t know much, at that point, and looking back now, I can see how far I have come. At the same time, the further I go, the further I see I have to go. Each new thing learnt opens doors and makes me ask new questions.

The Journey of 1000 Miles Begins with One Step

This is a piece I’ve been planning for a couple of weeks now, but only just got around to creating a final version. Having enjoyed making a few pieces that would suit a poster/T-shirt design, I have been keen to make some more in a similar style. I did experiment with some of the fun sign painting space saving techniques that I used in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, but in the end the piece was better suited to a more standard layout. However, I did take the chance to combine script letters with Roman capitals, (here the J in Journey, and the S in Step). Keeping the decorative style the same helps the letters look like they belong where they are, and allows their differences to add a bit of flair to the piece without standing out too much.

In other news, Inktober will be drawing to a close soon, and with it my daily drop caps will have their second instalment ready. Today saw V as the latest piece, so you can wait expectantly for next week to see what they all look like, or check out my twitter page to see daily updates of each piece. Recently, I have also been studying Italic calligraphy in an effort to learn more about the origins of script style lettering and the finer (or in this case blunter) points of broad nibbed pens. As such, you may see a bit of a shift towards Italic inspired styles. Up until now, I have preferred to base script pieces off Copperplate, (as you can see with this one), but I think it would be nice to see how some Italic pieces will fare.

Shoulders of Giants

This week, I have been focusing on a lot of things, which sometimes leads to not managing to find a good direction in any one particular thing. However, knowing this, I took a couple of days over the weekend to put aside all other projects and work on a single piece. I think it worked out for the best, seeing as I didn’t distract myself with anything else. The piece is thematically similar in some ways to The Greatest Victory, which I wanted to create a poster-like piece with, and I did the same with this one. It’s a quote originally by Bernard de Chartres, but which is more often attributed to Sir Isaac Newton, who wrote it in a letter as it is phrased here.

Shoulders of Giants

With this piece, I focused my efforts on creating something with a minimum of styles. It’s too easy to get carried away with adding in everything that you’ve learnt, but that often leads to something that is too muddled: something I struggled with in my early pieces, and still do sometimes. Here, however, there are only two styles: Copperplate calligraphy and Roman caps. The challenge then, past restricting myself to the use of only these styles, was to find other ways to explore them. Roman caps, particularly, can seem very much like the basic, standard letter forms, and that’s because they are. Because of that, however, you could say that they are too normal, so I took some inspiration from old sign painters’ inclination to use interesting ligatures to fit words into small spaces, with the U in “Further” tucked under the F, and the OU in “Shoulders” arranged in a little stack.

Other than that, I also concentrated on creating a piece that was mirrored in its composition, and didn’t have ornamentation of too many different kinds. I liked how the Copperplate worked out in the previous piece, so I included it here too, which gave me more steady hand practise with lots of little lines.

Here are a couple of close ups:

Shoulders of Giants Detail 2

Shoulders of Giants Detail

And just because I enjoyed the negative version of last week’s piece so much, I thought I would give it a go with this piece too. It turned out quite well, and it really does create that chalk-board effect!

Shoulders of Giants Negative

 

All Will Come Right

Last week, I did a piece that was part of a Churchill quote. This week, I have done the second half! The two pieces are designed to fit in a square shaped layout, and be displayed next to each other. Eventually (perhaps not next week, but at some point) they will be joined by a third piece which will fit beneath them, being twice as wide as it is high, so that the whole ensemble creates a larger square to complete the whole quotation.

All Will Come Right

I’ve inverted it here to give it a nice chalk board style look. It’s visually very similar to the piece last week (of course, that’s the point!) so to create a little contrast, I thought it would be nice to see it in white-on-black. It’s so simple to make it a negative, and it almost feels like cheating, because you end up with something that feels so different. Sometimes I see work done by others and I can’t tell if they’ve done it on black paper with chalk or or some other white medium or whether it’s a simple inversion, so it’s interesting to finally get round to doing so with a piece of my own.

Here are the two pieces in the same photo so you can compare:

Lift Up Your Hearts, All Will Come Right

The goal was to make these pieces resemble each other as much as possible. The obvious choice is to have them structured the same, and to used the same styles. Of course, the similar sentence structure is not only useful as a tool of great rhetoric, but also helps with keeping the two pieces the same. It’s simple enough to see that the styles are the same, and that the banner in the middle is the same shape with the same Tuscan font, but there are also a few other structural similarities that I’ve worked into the pieces to keep them consistent. For instance, the underside of the first line swoops down, then up, in order to match the banner beneath it. Both pieces also have a semicircle in the centre at the top, and have a similar shape at the bottom with the leg of the H/R respectively.

Lift Up Your Hearts

Following on from last week, this week has seen a lot of broad nibbed calligraphy practice, which means burning through paper at an alarming rate! The good news is that I bought 20 nice A5 Rhodia notebooks a few weeks ago, half of them with a dot-grid pattern and the other half plain. The dot grid is great for sketching out ideas without having to worry about marking out boundaries and guidelines; unfortunately, the spacing between the dots don’t quite match the width of any of the broad nibbed pens I bought, so it doesn’t help too much with calligraphy practice.

Lift Up Your Hearts

This piece is the first in a two (maybe three) part series that I’m going to do. The plan is to have them structurally as similar as possible. This one is half of a sentence spoken by Winston Churchill on June 12, 1941 in his speech to the Allied Delegates. I first heard it when it gained some popularity due to being auto tuned into a funny little song, but the meaning of the message stuck with me. The full phrase is “Lift up your hearts; all will come right.” It’s then followed with “Out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice will be born again the glory of mankind.” It’s stirring to think of the context in which those words were spoken. The Second World War had been going for two years, and would continue for another four. Knowing what we do now lends a feeling of gravity to the words, but I feel it’s a message that holds meaning in many contexts.

Here’s a shot that is a little closer and shows the banner and the Tuscan style lettering of the word “your”.

Lift Up Your Hearts Detail

The piece has quite bold and simple shapes on the top and bottom, so I kept the banner from being too detailed so that it doesn’t distract from other elements, whereas usually I like to include a bit more detail. The main reason I’m keeping it as simple as it is, however, is that for it to work side by side with the next piece in the series, being too detailed could make the composition look too busy. I may make a 3rd piece with the phrase “Out of the depths of sorrow and of sacrifice will be born again again the glory of mankind,” which would be a wider piece to fit beneath the first two above.

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!

Never give up & never surrender

Here’s a little piece I did just recently. Something motivational which should help to look at any time it seems like it would be easier to stop trying with something. When it comes to finding inspiration, it can be a problem for many people, so this is a nice little mantra. Never give up! Never surrender!

Never give up & never surrender

Surrender to what, though? It’s not exactly a battle, is it? Well, maybe it is, in a way. A battle between the person who wants to get things done and the temptation to give up. One thing that you can say for certain about successful people is that they would say “No” to the question “Did you ever surrender to your doubts?” It can seem daunting when you’re trying your hardest and feeling like you’re getting nowhere. They say “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, which is a neat little cliché. The reason things become clichés, however, is because they’re true. If it weren’t something that resonated with a lot of people, it wouldn’t get said again and again until it was over used. I, on the other hand, am not building Rome, so what am I building? At the moment, it s a portfolio. But it’s also consistency. I’m holding myself to the promise of weekly updates, and though they may end up a few hours late some weeks, I’m not going to let myself fail. I will never give up, and never surrender, even if it seems like it would be easy to do so. You are also not building Rome, unless you are, in which case, well done. But if you’re not, what are you building? What won’t you give up on?

Non-Zero Days

A commenter in a thread on reddit once posted some advice on how to keep motivated and strive towards your goal. One of the main points in his post (which was full of value) was that if nothing else, every day should be a non-zero day. By that, he meant that even if you only take one step towards your goal on any given day, make sure that you take at least that one step. Even if it’s the smallest thing you can do to get yourself to where you want to be, it means that your day is not a failure. The advice stuck with me, so I made a piece around it.

Make Every Day a Non Zero Day

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been focusing on producing pieces with a focus on detail and intricacy, and while that is my style, and not something I want to abandon, I felt like making something a bit bolder. To achieve this, I chose to have the piece contained in a circle, and for the letters to be white on a strong black background. To keep things stylistically simple, I stuck with only two styles: copperplate inspired brush pen script and traditional Roman letters.

With this week’s project, I also wanted to design a piece that I would like to see on some merchandise, such as mugs or posters. It would be exciting to have some things to sell with pieces printed on them, so I thinking of starting to build up some pieces that would work well in that medium. This will be the first of “poster suitable” pieces, which would be something easily printable by a letterpress. As you can imagine, I’m sure, some of my other pieces would be too detailed to be printed easily on a reasonably sized poster, and you would need a very large mug indeed to accommodate them!

In other news, I have a new camera, so all the old photos of my work are likely to be replaced soon enough. I’ll wait until a nice sunny day (which is all the time!) and take some nice photos in the sunlight. That may include this one, as I unfortunately left it a little (very) late to catch the sun for the photo today.