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!

Prepare Today for Success Tomorrow

A little while ago a client contacted me requesting a lettering piece. Surprisingly enough, I make more logos and digital pieces than physical lettering projects that get sent off in the mail. This client, however, wanted a custom lettering piece to give as a gift to someone special. The phrase was “Prepare Today for Success Tomorrow”. After many iterations, many design elements, hierarchy re-shuffles and composition tweaks, the piece was designed and inked as you can see below:

Prepare Today for Success Tomorrow

After that comes the part where you have to wrap it up tight and leave it in the hands of the postal service and international shipping companies, and hope that nothing terrible happens to your creation as it hurtles across the ocean. Thankfully enough (and predictably enough) the piece made it there just as it had left and everything was well.

Here’s a little close-up on the detail:

Prepare Today Detail

Though editing and digital manipulation were not part of the commission, I enjoyed working on the piece enough that once it was gone I couldn’t help but do a little more, so I took the piece into the realm of ones and zeros. Several weeks ago, I did some experimentation with using a photograph I had taken of some gold leaf to replace the colour and texture of the letters in a piece, and set it over a black background. The effect turned out well, so I used the same technique on this piece. I used the same gold colour, as it suited the piece’s luxurious style of flourishing.

Prepare Today For Gold Leaf on Black Background

I also experimented a little with adding a wooden texture. It gives a different feel to the piece than the gold does, and I can’t say that one suits it better than the other, just that they would serve different purposes.

Prepare Today For Wooden Texture

It’s Never Too Late to Start

It’s been an interesting week for me. Coming back home from visiting family in another country was going to be fine, but unfortunately the trip back was interrupted by some surprise friends in the form of kidney stones and a cold. In addition to that, my wife suddenly had a new job start, all of which meant that I didn’t get round to doing a piece for this Monday’s blog post. So I could have though it no big deal, and just put it off until next week, but I’ve had a piece that I wanted to do for a while now on the back burner that fit what was going on quite well.

It's Never Too Late to Start

It’s never too late to start. Well, for me, I started pretty late. Past the deadline, in fact. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t get done. Sometimes it’s too easy to fall into an all-or-nothing mindset where we think that if we slip up or miss something once then there’s no point carrying on. This can often lead to us abandoning the things we had previously told ourselves we would do, whether it be working hard, exercising, or sticking to resolutions. How many people make resolutions each year only to end up not sticking with them? Probably most. And how many of those failed attempts begin to fail right before we give up entirely? I’d say probably most again.

So this piece is me saying that even if I’m late I’m going to keep doing it. I won’t give up just because I hit a bump in the road. Sometimes starting is all you need to do to be able to keep going and get something done. And it’s never too late to start.

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.