We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.

“We are all broken. That’s how the light gets in.” You’ll find this quote in various places attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but it’s more likely that it’s just a slightly modified version of a Leonard Cohen lyric from the song Anthem.

We Are All Broken Progress

With the composition of this piece, I wanted to take a little trip into the past and go for something almost completely reliant on the letters themselves, with practically no flourishing. It’s a poplar style for things like posters and T-shirts, and the last time I visited it was really quite some time ago. Since then, having learnt many things regarding letter forms, I wanted to see what the results would yield.

With my recent foray into coloured work, I decided that this piece would be an ideal place to explore further. The fact of the simplicity of the letter forms means that the colours have plenty of space to breathe, and become somewhat the “point” of the piece.

We Are All Broken

It’s almost impossible to look at your own work without a critical eye, so I already know a few things that I will improve upon next time. One of which being that I will change my process slightly. I’m currently using calligraphy tools, namely pointed pens in this case, to get the paint onto the paper, but when using larger quantities that requite multiple strokes, the harsh point of the metal nib catches the fibres in the paper, sometimes leading them to create a rough surface on the piece once it has dried. The advantage of the calligraphy nibs is the supreme accuracy they offer coupled with their versatility in line width. However, the solution to this problems, I suspect, is simply to get a variety of brushes, including some that are very small indeed, which can mimic the tiny strokes possible of a nib. There’s also some benefit in looking into papers that are better suited to the medium. I currently use Bristol paper, which works wonderfully for ink, but when it comes to the far greater liquid quantity of paints, it could be better to invest in some hot pressed watercolour paper, which is designed to take the paint well and has a very smooth surface like the Bristol paper.

Take Your Time…

Here’s a piece that started out being dumped into the Daily Doodles folder on my computer, or at least the parts of it did. A doodle of the words “Take Your Time” done in a flourished style with a slight slant to the composition. After a little while the phrase came back to me and brought a few friends, and together they formed some lyrics from long ago. Twenty-four years ago, in fact. In 1991 Nirvana released the song Come As You Are, containing the lyrics “Take your time / Hurry up / Choice is yours / Don’t be late.”

Take Your Time, Hurry Up, Choice Is Yours, Don't Be Late

All four pieces were done on separate pieces of paper, and aren’t inked – they’re just pencil sketches. I took a picture of each one and arranged them digitally. After a little experimentation with some colours, I settled on going for something with a warm feel. There’s definitely a clash between the visual style and the sound of the music that the words come from, but it’s differences like that that are often the most interesting.

Stylistically, the pieces are Copperplate calligraphy with a lot of flourishing. The flourishes help retain consistency through the four sections, but also serve to fill out the spaces that make the lines different. For instance, the first line, “Take Your Time” fills its own space very well, having three four-letter words. The other lines, however, all have one two-letter word, and the second line is only two words long. Though they do make the shapes less inconsistent, I didn’t want the flourishes to force the shape of each section to be identical, as it might look strange, and it would detract from the differences in shape due to the lines. These differences are what make lettering unique and beautiful, and they also add an interesting asymmetrical negative space between the blocks.

This is one of the few forays into coloured work that I’ve done to date, but enjoyed the process and the result, so hopefully there will be a few more splashes of colour coming in the future.

A riddle

Today, I have a riddle for you. Take a look and see if you can figure it out.


The riddle, then, is who is “this man”?

Recently, I started out on a foray into the world of brush pens, and found myself going back to what had originally got me into lettering in the first place: copperplate. Copperplate is a kind of calligraphy that uses a thin flexible nib to create varying thickness in the letter strokes by applying pressure and spreading the tines, setting it apart from broad nib calligraphy like Gothic. Once I had bought a brush pen a few weeks ago, I found myself trying to recreate the elegance of copperplate without the hassle of having to use dip nibs and an ink well, and the messiness that goes along with it. However, I had the wrong pen, and it was terrible. Then, I bought a couple of Tombow Fudenosuke pens, and after an agonizing 2 week wait as they were shipped from Japan, they got here. I really can’t recommend them enough.

I’ve been practising with them for a week or two now, and I’m getting to grips with how they work. At the same time, I’ve been exploring using a bit of photo wizardry to transfer the lettering to sit on top of photographs, as you can see above. Regarding the riddle, seeing as it’s a family matter, I chose a photo of my father, taken by my mother. That’s not a hint though! You’ll have to figure out the answer on your own. If you’re really stuck, a quick google will tell you the answer, but it’s a fun piece of mental gymnastics to go through to figure out the answer, much like phrases such as “I couldn’t fail to disagree with you less” and those sentences with the same word over and over again that still make grammatical sense.

Take a look at the unadulterated version of the lettering below to get more of an insight into what the original looks like:

Brothers, Sisters Riddle