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.
For my first piece back to lino carving, I think this turned out pretty decent. I’m not quite ready to get back to doing pointillism just yet, so I’m currently mulling over a new design for another carving, so stay tuned. 😊
In the process of working on my current Sun mandala carving, I got hit with a Japanese aesthetics bug. The last two days I’ve been learning about the principles and concepts of aesthetics and beauty that has permeated Japanese culture throughout history and present day.
So after two days of personal study, half asleep in the twilight of this morning, this design formed in my mind for possibly a future set of 5×7 linocut carvings. It’s nothing I plan on doing anytime soon but rather just an idea I want to keep around for when I need a little break from pointillism.
The kanji on each panel together represent the word “bijin”, meaning “beautiful person” but is mostly directed towards women so it also means “beautiful woman”. In Japanese art, paintings and drawings of bijin were called “bijin-ga”, a particular genre of Ukiyo-e paintings. The Ukiyo-e genre of art flourished in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries where artists produced woodblock prints and paintings of such subjects as female beauties, kabuki actors, sumo wrestlers, landscapes, historical scenes, folk tales, flora and fauna and erotica. This obviously isn’t a representation of an actually bijin but it does seem to fit the flora and fauna category of the Ukiyo-e genre. Personally I just have an affinity for the word bijin but I can see hints of the elements of the bijin-ga and Ukiyo-e genre in my own work. Most of my subject matter is focused on beauty, women and flora. Maybe I was a Japanese painter in a former life. That’s a nice thought to hold on to. 😊
I have a confession, I have a background in graphic design…and I hated it. Hearing the word “kerning” makes my skin break out in hives (figuratively). A great amount of my graphic design studies consisted in learning typography and needless to say, I was about as passionate about typography as anyone can be about watching grass grow. I wanted to draw not learn about letter spacing and typefaces. But because everybody said you can get a stable job in design and every affordable college and university in my state seemed to be discontinuing their illustration curriculum, I found myself unwilling being funneled towards graphic design.
I ended up graduating with a degree in Urban Planing with intentions of getting a masters in Landscape Architecture, which is another story in itself. But life got a hold of me and I found myself in the Health Administration field wiling away my days scanning medical records while periodically doing freelance work designing logos and brochures. Surely not the glamorous life of creativity I had dreamt of in my younger years but as the saying goes “It paid the bills.” The wonderful thing about experience is its truth. When you’re young, you’re idealistic and a bit naive. It’s not until you truly experience a thing that you realize whether it is right for you or not.
Looking back, I’m glad that I didn’t become a designer, I probably would have been miserable regardless of the pay. I really like the freedom of doing my own thing and being able to experiment. And this recent carving was just that, an experiment that turned up a new interest: lettering. I had been thinking about trying it out for a week here but I had some hesitations due to my distain and past experience with typography. But to my surprise I didn’t know that lettering and typography are two different things. Back in college my professors talked about them as if they were the same but to my salvation I stumbled across this wonderful article that explains the difference and put my nerves at ease. In a nutshell lettering is simply drawing letters and that’s right up my wheelhouse; drawing. I was fearing that I was gonna have to learn all the specifics of typography all over again just to design and draw letters for my carvings. I’ve been spared the horror. With relief I can continue to indulge my new interest. I’ve been looking for some kind of over all focus for my linocut work and nothing has really appealed to me. I feel this will be a good fit. I’m always collecting quotes, short sayings and inspirational words. Why not carve them?
This recent carving was a first attempt and it came out pretty decent. I have some work to do learning to draw letters but I’m sure it won’t be long before I’m drawing up some nice pieces.
Taking a breather from drawing and working on a little lettering design carving. I’ve been thinking about getting more into typography and lettering for my carving designs, so here’s my first attempt. Something simple. Nothing too fancy.