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.

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?

Auto pilot engaged

Sometimes I have one of those days when I can’t quite get my mind in gear. Wouldn’t it be nice to just have an auto pilot mode? Well when you have a timetable to stick to, sometimes you just have to do it anyway! Searching for inspiration can be tough, so in light of that, I made this piece this week:

I can't brain today. I have the dumb.

I can’t remember when I heard the phrase, but it’s suited the feeling. I decided to make a light hearted, quick piece that wasn’t too complicated. After all, it’s been a pretty hectic week! Last week I did the words of the week challenge on the lettering subreddit. This week, there was a drop cap challenge, so I decided to do a bit of a speed challenge! I tried to focus more on the fluidity of the lines and less on minute, precise details. I often get bogged down in the details of something, so once I zoom in, it’s often hard to zoom out again and look at the piece as a whole. Maybe it’s a trap a lot of perfectionists fall into, or maybe it’s just me, but the solution is to force yourself out of the usual conditions so that you can’t succumb.

Dropcap N

Having some lovely Rhodia dot grid notepaper really helped in diving straight in and not over thinking things. More time that I’m willing to admit usually goes into measuring out the space on the page before I even make a pencil mark for most pieces. Sketching out the design took about half an hour, followed by roughly an hour for inking. That’s much faster than the turn over for a typical piece of mine, so I’d say that the challenge was a success. I’m pleased with the piece, too.

Aside from those two pieces, I also wrapped up a little client project for a tattoo design this week. The brief was to have the word “Ruby” in a similar style as Monday. The dimensions to work with turned out to be perfect for the word. As it was just for a basic design, the client opted to have a slightly less detailed piece than Monday, so you’ll notice a few dissimilarities.

Angled shot small

The next lettering challenge isn’t up yet on the lettering subreddit (where are you mods?) so I don’t know if it’s something I’d like to do next week, but I’m thinking that I might make a thing of doing the drop caps, which come up every fortnight. I think it would make a good series!

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.

The best time is now

Still on catch-up mode here, so this one was done a while ago, but it’s not too old. This one wasn’t a piece for a client, just one that I decided to do on my own steam, just like in the good old days of Thing a Day.


After a few variations, I settled on going for the old words-within-words style. I did something similar for Tomorrow is a Dream, but this one is a little different. I think that when you first see it you read the word “now”, of course, because it’s so big. Then comes the rest of the sentence, which is finished by the word “now” again. So in a way, it reads “Now. The best time is now.” It has more impact and helps the message, I think.

This piece also has an element that I’ve wanted to try out for a while in it. Imagine that the words “the best time is” simply make everything behind them turn the opposite colour, creating what looks almost like a checker board pattern. The challenge with it is that if you were to simply follow along the guidelines in the picture below, you wouldn’t execute the design successfully.


The problem arises when you consider following along the pencil lines with a fineliner. In fact, when you look at a pencil outline like this one, you only see the line. But when you look at the finished piece, you don’t so much see the line as you see what is contained or excluded by the line. Because of this, you need to think about the thickness of the stroke that is created when you draw along a line. In fact, it’s drawing ON the line that is the mistake. To allow the negative space, or the white spaces, be the same proportion as their black counterparts, you must always make sure to draw around the surrounding edge, and never on the line itself, unless you want the white parts to become too small. Take a look at the picture from a silly angle to see what I mean:



I’m working on a big logo design project at the moment, but luckily I’m having the time to post bits and pieces here and there to try to catch up with myself, but it might take a little longer to get a post done about this logo, though when it arrives, there will be a lot to talk about, as it’s my most detailed piece yet, by far.

The Urban Orb

Second in my series of “What was going on a month ago” is a post about the a bigger project that I did. The client wanted 3 things: first, a logo for a series of youtube videos consisting of the words “The Urban Orb”, second, the text “Next Episode” to be shown at the end of each episode during the preview of what will happen next time, and third, a large number of quotations and phrases to be edited into the videos, but to be done in calligraphy, not lettering.

The Urban Orb

The Urban Orb is a streamer who usually broadcasts himself through streaming websites like, but in this case, he wanted to have a series consisting of a challenge run through of the game Dark Souls uploaded to youtube. Though he was unsure exactly which colouring/texture was going to work out best once the videos were edited, we settled on the outline of the project, and I started work. In the end, the client received several different versions to test out on the final videos, allowing for legibility, unobtrusiveness, and thematic consistency. The logo was designed to be easily read, unique in its ligatures, and styled to match the feel of the game it is used to watermark. In the end, to blend unobtrusiveness and legibility against all backgrounds, the final version consisted of a solid black outline with a semi-transparent white fill, allowing the logo to be constantly visible, but never stand out harshly in the way that a solid colour would do.

Next Episode

The Next Episode text was done in a similar style to The Urban Orb logo, but was designed to fit a much larger space. The text was originally intended to be in a calligraphic style that would interact with the ornamentation around it, and though it was sad to leave some of the calligraphic designs by the wayside, I think that the increased legibility and thematic consistency is worth more than the ornamentation’s interaction with the text. As it stands, the text is nested within the ornamentation, which also continues up to surround the in-game interface, thereby integrating the text with the aspects of the game.

Nietzsche Quote Blog Upload

Executing the calligraphy was a very different task to the design and execution of the lettering. To start with, calligraphy is more of an all-or-nothing process, where one mistake in a quotation can mean that you must start again. Some quotations were much longer than these three, so a mistakes could mean that double or triple the time would be needed to get it correct. I used traditional dip nibs and ink to write these – black ink on white paper. Once they were completed, I scanned them into the computer and colourised them digitally, though they are not vectorised, of course, which would take more than one man’s patience worth, I think.

In all, this project was wonderful to work on, not least because I was exposed to so many inspiring quotations, some of which I had read before, but many of which were new to me. Most were on the topic of perseverance, success and failure, which certainly helped me continue past making a mistake towards the end of a long quotation!

Thing a Day (Day 7)

It’s here. Day 7. I feel like I should have some grand words to write. Some great insight. Instead, I’m sitting here with orange peel on my lap. The good news is that I fixed the computer, so everything should be tip top from now on! The other good news is that I designed AND inked a large piece today, which is more than I had planned, but I thought that finishing the final day with a pencil sketch would be a let down. And the best news is that it’s nearly bed time! I stayed up far too late getting this finished.

Well, anyway, let’s take a look at it.

Fortune favours the bold.

Fortune favours the bold! Or at least, let’s hope it does. And yes, it’s the British spelling of “favour”, what can I say. As for what happened with this piece, I can say that it’s an idea that I had yesterday, and everything was going smoothly until the word “the” became unstuck in time and space and refused to settle back into normality, therefore making it impossible to fit into the design. Fortunately, I had the bright idea of placing it within a ribbon. As you can see, the dots around the edge are to keep it in. Let’s just hope it doesn’t slip out of the end.

Thing a Day. What can I say? It was pretty tough to keep up to my own standards, and it certainly used up vast chunks of time, but I would certainly say that it was worth it. Thing a Day will stop now, and I will upload on a less (but still) frequent basis. It will also give me more time to explore things that are more experimental.

Lastly, I can say that Thing a Day will be back! Sometime in the near future, there will be more things, and more days, and they will go hand in hand.

Thing a Day (Day 1)

Thing a Day (Day 2)

Thing a Day (Day 3)

Thing a Day (Day 4)

Thing a Day (Day 5)

Thing a Day (Day 6)

Thing a Day (Day 6)

Thing a Day! Here it is, my thing for today. Today’s thing started out as the underdog, the discarded idea, the shunned orphan of the lettering world. Fortunately, a kind man came along and lifted him from the slums of his relegation in the back of a notebook and put him into the sketchbook for inking.

Tomorrow is a dream.

I had the idea yesterday, but didn’t see how it could work out well in terms of spacing. I needed to have the word “tomorrow” very tall and thin for the proportions to fit, but it seemed lanky and weird when I first tried some sketches. Feeling discouraged, and for want of anything else to do for today’s thing, I decided to give it a proper sketch out anyway. It was . . . OK.

Here it is in vanilla form.


It didn’t seem to work all that well to me, so I knew I needed something else. What I ended up trying was something that I initially thought might ruin it, but there’s no point not trying when it’s just the work of a single day. In the end, it seems that the you can never know until you try, and fortune favours the bold.

On another note, you may notice that my header has been upgraded in image quality. I couldn’t stand how terrible it looked, so I borrowed someone else’s computer to upload some photos from my camera. It worked out great! Hooray!

Tomorrow is the last day of Thing a Day, so I’m hoping I’ll be able to come up with a good one! Come and check it out.

Thing a Day (Day 1)

Thing a Day (Day 2)

Thing a Day (Day 3)

Thing a Day (Day 4)

Thing a Day (Day 5)

Thing a Day (Day 7)

Thing a Day (Day 2)

Whew, what a day. Broke the computer, burnt my finger, and ran out of pencil lead! However, first things first: yesterday’s completed thing!



Setbacks aside, I’m on my way to having thing 2 finished. Seeing as the computer is out of action, I’m having to post from the iPad, so photos aren’t going to be so great. (Updated now!)

Today’s thing is a small design, meaning I’m aiming to have it done completely by the end of today. That’ll make two complete things in two days! How novel. Anyway, here’s proof of my homework. Let’s just hope the dog doesn’t eat it and make things worse…


It’ll be a few days (or weeks!) before my computer is back up, so site updates might be slow in general, but Thing a Day will be a priority. It might be hard, but if I take my own advice, everything will work out. Stop Hesitating!

Thing a Day (Day 1)

Thing a Day (Day 3)

Thing a Day (Day 4)

Thing a Day (Day 5)

Thing a Day (Day 6)

Thing a Day (Day 7)