It’s never too late to learn something new, especially when it comes to the creative arts. So over the weekend I got around to diving into something I’ve been wanting to learn more about for a while now; hand lettering. I can’t say that it’s something that’s completely new to me. When I started making my own greeting cards I touched on it a bit when it came to creating texts for my cards. This sparked an interest in learning more about lettering that I kept filed away in the back of my mind for two years now. So this past Friday I headed to my local library to look for a couple of books to help me learn about the basics. Unfortunately they really didn’t have much to work with. Most of the books that were suppose to be on the shelf ended up either missing or misfiled. In the end I only walked out with two books, one on The Illuminated Alphabet, the other on Hand and Chalk Lettering. Two books is better than no books.
One of the things that has always puzzled me about hand lettering is what’s the difference between hand lettering, calligraphy and typography? For the most part, I’ve always thought of them as being one in the same with the only difference being whether you did it by hand or on a computer. But actually there are some major differences.
In brief, lettering is the art of drawing letters that is much like an illustration just done with letters where hand lettering is a subset of lettering done specifically by hand.
Calligraphy is the art of writing letters and focuses on penmanship through the use of specific writing tools. Calligraphy is used for much longer written pieces of text. Lastly,
typography focuses on the style, appearance and artistic arrangement of type for printed material.
So in a nutshell, the way I keep all of this straight in my head is lettering is drawing letters, calligraphy is writing letters and typography is arranging letters. It’s simplistic and others may beg to differ, it’s just my own way of keeping it straight in my head.
Anyhoo, I’m working to expand my drawing skills to hand lettering because I’m often inspired by inspirational quotes, song lyrics or spiritual verses that conjure up visual images in my mind that I would like to create yet I want to add some source text to give the drawing context. Also hand lettering can be really cool when coupled with some imagination. Below are some wonderful examples of illustrative hand lettering.
The saying is true, time flies when you’re having fun. Last week around this time I was packing for a mini vacation to the Lone Star State and now I’m back. Actually I’ve been back for a few days now and I’m struggling to get back into the swing of things. The trip itself wasn’t anything spectacular, I mean, it wasn’t like we went to Paris or anywhere nearly as exotic yet I feel different and a bit detached from my life before I left. My hubby and I have a friend whose been in theater for 10 years now and on our first night there we went to go see him perform in “Penny Candy” at the Dallas Theater Center. It was the first time I’ve gone to a play that wasn’t part of some class assignment and I have to say, it was a completely engrossing experience. I found myself wondering, why haven’t I done this before now? I thoroughly enjoyed the play and hope that in the future I will remember to get out from behind my drawing board and go see some of the plays going on in my local area.
The second day, which was the 4th, we spent the day in the backyard with friends doing what most of all Americans do on the 4th; grilling. It was a warm, relaxing day, spent by the pool where I had one too many ciders and dined on nothing but meat and pound cake. I definitely paid for that the next day but it was worth it.
On our last day we took a road trip to the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, where we got the chance to not only see, but feed and touch (so long as we stayed in our vehicle) a number of animals like zebras, emus, rhinoceros, giraffes, antelopes, cheetahs and much more. I spent most of my time filming but it was an enjoyable experience none the less. On the trip back we passed through Frisco where I discovered that Texas had a soccer team. Confession: I’m an American who prefers soccer, much to my friends bewilderment. Unfortunately it’s not something that’s widely broadcasted, in comparison to the likes of football or baseball, so keeping up with MLS is a bit challenging here, especially when you live in a state that lost a bid for an expansion team. Texas may get two new residents just for the soccer team alone but I digress.
Anyhoo, when I packed for the trip I took with me a sketchbook and some pens and pencils. Needless to say I didn’t get any drawing done. Nor have I gotten any drawing done since I’ve been back but I did get some pretty cool memory shots of some of the wildlife from Fossil Rim. Sometime this week I’ll get back into the swing of things but for now my mind is still on vacation.
With the upcoming holiday I can say with 80% certainty that I doubt I’ll get much work done. Hopefully I can squeeze in 30 minutes here or an hour there but I’m already tied up with plans and preparations. So I figured I’ll do a brief update on my current drawing.
So far I got the background all stippled and now I’m ready to start inking the various details. I’ve started off with working on the halo of light around the dove’s head, the design of which was inspired by an afternoon of looking at paintings of mystics and saints. Next I’ll probably delve into inking the flowers leaving the dove for last. My next update probably won’t be until the 7th, so until then, happy holidays and please handle fireworks responsibly. 😇
Sometimes you have those moments where your mind wanders and you look back over your life and you ask yourself, “If I could go back in time, knowing what I know now, what would I do differently?” It’s one of those questions that many people are sure to ask themselves, I know I have. But for me that wondering would be in a more general sense where I always concluded that I wouldn’t do anything differently. In comparison to where I started from, I feel my life has turned out pretty okay. It could use some improvements in some ways but according to statistics and social scientists, my life should have turned out far worse. So I don’t regret how things have panned out so far. But then I got to thinking, is there anything I would do differently as an artist? And that’s when I started to feel some pangs of regret. While I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I can’t help but think at times how much further I could possibly be if I had of done a few things differently. Here are five things, that if I had a time machine, I would go back and do differently.
1. Own being an artist early on. In all honesty, I wasn’t too proud of having a creative spirit. I had sensed from the environment around me that being an artist didn’t have the same prestige in the community as being a principal, a social worker, teacher or foreman. I mean, people thought it was “cute” that I could draw but it wasn’t something that anyone encouraged me to pursue or praised me for. Even when I confided in a teacher that I was thinking about going to art school, I was immediately forewarned not to go and instead encouraged to go to a university with a diverse curriculum. So, I started off my academic career as a psychology major at the local community college only to later change it to Fine Arts, which required me to put in three years to obtain an Associates degree.
2. Take a few creative writing classes. I’ve always wanted to write and illustrate my own stories. Actually I wrote a 50 page short story back when I was 14 years old that I still have ’til this day. Since then I’ve only written two more that I’ve kept to myself. But once in a while I’ll do a drawing based off of a story that I’ve kept in my head. I’ve always imagined my art being coupled with stories or poetry and sometimes even songs. But to write and to draw, especially with the type of drawing that I do, seems to be a tall order. The time it would take to write the story and write it well along with the time it would take to do the drawing sounds exhausting. And with technology seemly shortening my attention span, I’m not sure if it would even be worth the effort. There is this thing called “Flash Fiction” that’s known for it’s brevity. I’ve entertained getting into that from of writing but it’s only a thought. Who knows, maybe I’ll find some way to weave writing into my art in the future.
3. Stayed in a smaller city. I moved from a small town to a big college city and I have to say getting my foot into the art scene here is much more challenging compared to when I was staying in a small town. In the town I was living in it was easier for me to develop a personal relationship with people. The manager at the local gallery was approachable and I could talk to her without having to make a pitch or bring a portfolio just to get her attention. Yearly there was a local art fair. Applications were $25 and a table was $50. But I was young and thought a bigger city was the place to be. So I didn’t invest too much energy into trying to get known as a local artist since I was going off to a university after I finished community college. To my surprise the art scene where I live now is nationally known. People from all over the country come to the yearly art fair and for a local artist just to have a table can run you up to $1500 but first you have to serve on the art jury for a year before you can get your own table.
4. Don’t underestimate the value of a community college education. Everything I learned that has been useful to me ’til this day, I learned at community college. From drawing, to web coding and graphic design. It was practical, useful and industry based. When I transferred to university, everything became based not on practicality but theory. Even the art classes. Out of my five years there and changing majors three times, the only courses I took that are still useful to me ’til this day were Economic Botany and Traditional Cartography. Looking back I feel that much of university education is more hype than anything else. So don’t look down on community college. I’m glad I attended both and was able to experience the difference. Don’t get me wrong, going to university was great for the experience and networking but looking back I probably could have done just fine without it and not have the debt I acquired. (I was able to pay for community college with my part-time job)
5. Invest in myself. Some people seem to have this unwavering belief in themselves and what they are doing. Me on the other had, I’v always had a tendency to second guessed myself and because of that I always put more value on the opinion of others rather than upon my own hopes and dreams. I always assumed everyone else knew better than me what was the best course for me. So for some time I followed the status quo until I found out the hard way that there’s no guaranteed security in the status quo just as much as there’s no security in carving out your own path in life. It’s eye opening when all that you thought was secure gets pulled out from under you due to corporate down sizing. In the process I’ve gradually learned how to live with uncertainty and developed more confidence in my ability to handle things.
So those are the five things I would do differently as an artist if I could go back in time. How about you? What are some things you would do differently as an artist or creative if you had a time machine?
Nothing is more nerve wrecking then being in the middle of a drawing and having your pen dry out. Granted, the pens that I use, Sakura Microns, are relatively inexpensive and possible to find at a local craft store or online from Amazon, yet having to get out and go get more or wait a day or two for it to come in the mail, can slow down progress. Typically I buy six at a time so that I’m not buy pens too often. But every once in blue moon I get a dud; a pen that’s practically dried out when I get it or it dries out much quicker than usually. Instead of tossing it out I got to wondering if there’s a way to refill these things. One of my pens was sacrificed to my curiosity but luckily with some permanent ink on hand that I used for stamping and a pair of needle nose pliers, I found a way to refill my micron pens and it only takes just a few drops of ink to get the pen working again. Below is a brief video clip on how I do it. If you have some microns of your own that you haven’t thrown out yet, you can try this for yourself. You’ll need:
a dried out micron pen
a pair of needle nose pliers
some permanent black ink, which is what microns take. I used Archival Permanent and Waterproof ink from Ranger Ink or you can get in from Amazon.
a steady hand to gently pull the nib from the pen barrel.
I have yet to try this with colored ink so I don’t know how it would turn out but I suspect that things wouldn’t be any different. If anyone tries it I would be interested to know. Anyhoo, check out the brief video below on how I refill my micron pens.