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┬áI 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.

The art of war (a rapidograph experiment)

This week I received some new pens which I hope to use in place of the Unipin and Micron fine liners that I’ve been using up until now. These new pens are Rotring Rapidographs, which are a kind of technical pen. What that means is that I won’t have to go out all the time to buy new fine liners, (though of course they will need ink refills,) and I won’t have to worry about the slow blunting of the tip. These pens have a mechanical tip that never dulls, unlike the felt of the fine liners, so barring them being stamped on, they should be just the same in 20 years!

The greatest victory is that which requires no battle

This piece was my first with these new pens aside from a few test scraps to get used to the different feel. I wanted to do a piece that would test out a few different uses for them, including hatching and filling in large sections. In all, they worked out really well, giving very consistent line thickness. The ink seems to be better than that of the fine liners, too, creating a much better matte surface that doesn’t seem to suffer at all from reflecting camera flashes or other lights, leading to great straight shots.

The piece itself is a quotation from the Art of War by Sun Tzu, which seems to contain a lot of wisdom. Though the quote is about victory and battles, coming from a book about war, it has quite a pacifist sentiment to it, which I found quite interesting. Of the quotes I found, this one suited my needs well. I wanted to continue to explore into the world of Gothic lettering, which is something I haven’t examined as closely as other styles, my main areas of study being Roman and Copperplate calligraphy. In this piece, there is a combination of all three! This being my first real quotation piece in a long time, I also wanted to do something with an interesting visual hierarchy so as to make it the kind of thing you might see on a poster.

Take a look at a few progress shots:


Sketching out the top half after the space was measured out.


Pencil version complete.


Half way through inking.

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.


Days! Weeks! Days of the week! I started off idly sketching the word Monday and had the idea for the series. Well, 7 weeks later and it’s finished. Here’s the last one:


Over the course of the weeks, (or the week,) we’ve had brush style, Gothic, typography, flourishes, graffiti, stippling, even an ambigram. My challenge was to create 7 pieces that were as different from each other as possible. The goal was to expand my horizons, learn how to do new things, and explore styles that weren’t just replicas of what I had done in the past. It was tough finding a style for each piece that set it apart from the others, especially towards the end. With this piece, I had exhausted the styles that I was used to doing, which eventually gave me the idea to make something that looked more like a poster. The main difference is that this piece has a lot more non-lettering elements to it. I could have had it with the word just as it is, but seeing as so many lettering pieces are simply the words sitting stark and bare, I wanted to embrace the challenge of deviation from things that are too familiar.

One of the results of having such a detailed piece is that I under estimated the amount of time it took to complete it, meaning I’m a little late in posting it, as it’s just past midnight. Next week, I have some client projects to get working on, so I will either upload some progress, or finished shots of them, or I will get back to doing some pieces that aren’t just single words, like this series has been. Come back and check it out!

Just in case you missed any of the other Days of the Week, here are the rest: