3D beveled lettering just makes my eyes sizzle and dance but I’ve never understood why certain lines don’t align with others, why the shadows are where they are (sometimes they aren’t consistent with the imaginary light source), and when the interior lines connect at a triangle vs a quadrilateral shape. This topic is especially hard for me because my brain cannot envision 3D objects. Do you remember all those pictures of flat shapes on those standardized school tests and you’d have to choose what it would look like all folded up? Yah, did NOT do well on those portions (or any portions…). So I had to get my husband and my IG friend Kiki (@the.kiki.b) to help me figure out how to even draw the “3” to introduce it for this week’s topic! After that, it still took me hours to throw it together and after ALL that, I still don’t like how it looks. My husband kept saying “Think of it as a roof, this ridge goes up, this goes up, yada yada yada”. So this week I’m going to dive into this demon of a letter. It may take me more than a week, I’ll keep ya posted. WISH ME LUCK!
Have you been as eager as I have been for Kiki’s report back on this question??! Well, with no further ado, take it away Kiki!
With all of the Procreate letterers out there, you might start to think that the only way to make really great letters is with an iPad. While I'll agree that working digitally has its benefits, I don't necessarily think it's the best (and it's certainly not the only) way to go. The best lettering artists/typographers I know work almost entirely on physical media - paper, windows, glass, walls, what-have-you - and totally slay.
So now you want to know how YOU can make your non-digital lettering as epic as freaking possible, and I'm going to tell you ALL. THE. THINGS.
First and most importantly: PRACTICE, dammit.
I've been lettering since before anyone called it hand lettering or thought it was a fun hobby. Parties 5 or 6 years ago were always a blast.
Them: "So, Kiki, what do you do?"
Me: "I make hand-drawn typography."
Them: “What’s that?
Me: “I draw fancy letters.”
*blank stares, crickets chirping*
(By the way, this still happens sometimes. Just the other day I had to explain to someone what hand lettering was, and at the end of the conversation they’d decided it was the same thing as calligraphy and I was too tired to care anymore.)
The point is, I've been doing this for a long time. These days at least most people know what hand lettering is. In the meantime, I've had the chance to try all kinds of pencils, paints, markers, gel pens, inks, papers, typefaces, techniques, artistic styles, desks, chairs, lamps, and anything else you can think of. All this trying (and all the fucking up that inevitably comes with it) has taught me a LOT.
Now, you don't have to put in as many years as I have to get pretty good at lettering, but the point is that you DO have to put in the hours. You have to train your hands, build up calluses, get blisters on your calluses (seriously, it's a thing), try things, spill ink, cry, scream, and dance in your desk chair while you work. You will not get better just by visualizing awesomeness (surprise!). Get used to the idea.
Buy the best supplies you can afford.
That doesn't always mean the most expensive - there are plenty of good art supplies that are real bargains and are just as good as (if not better than) expensive brands. You don’t have to spend a fortune on art supplies to start drawing - and you definitely don't have to buy all the fancy brands everyone else is talking about. Wanna know a secret? A lot of those popular brands are all hype.
So what should you have in your pencil case?
A few .5mm mechanical pencils with various grades of lead; they don’t need to be expensive pencils, since the lead is what counts most. The only requirement is that you can draw comfortably with them. 2H, B, and 2B is a good selection of lead to start with (I HIGHLY recommend Pentel Ain Stein leads - they are hands down the strongest I’ve ever used, and you get 40 leads for the same price that other brands charge for 10 or 12. Pure magic).
Various erasers, including a large one and an eraser pencil (Koh-I-Noor is my favorite eraser pencil).
A triangular protractor and a compass.
Some black fineliners (and maybe a black brush pen for filling large areas; try to stick with the same brand/type as your fineliners). Pigma Micron and Faber Castell Pitt Artist pens are a couple of good ranges that include brush pens.
A white gel pen for corrections. I prefer Uniball Signo over Gelly Roll - far better coverage and smoother ink flow.
Optional - some metallic gel pens for making things fancy. I personally find that Uniball Signos are the best in this category as well.
You'll go far with those basics. If you'd like recommendations on specific tools or would like some tips on markers or color inks, drop me a line any time at email@example.com. I don't get paid to endorse any brands - I just know what works well.
Now, on to the actual doing.
Ditch that cute little A5 notebook you've been doodling in and don't touch anything smaller than A4 ever again. It's easy to shrink down large drawings and retain lovely detail and crisp lines, but it's impossible to blow up small ones and keep them looking nice. It's also impossible to fit as much detail onto small paper, and every little wobble or rough line is amplified by about a billion times in a small sketchbook. When you work on A4 or A3 and take a snapshot to post to Instagram, all those tiny imperfections (which are a part of anything handmade) are smoothed out nicely when you shrink it down to a little square on a pocket-sized screen, or scan your work and make a greeting card from it.
Take your time. Sketch properly before inking. Draw guides for your baseline, x-height, cap height, slant, etc and stick to them. If your letters are meant to be a consistent size and weight (and they are), make them consistent. Don't be lazy and then say "Oh, that's part of its charm! It's got character!" because we both know you want to make it look as amazing as possible, right? Be precise. It can either look hand drawn, or look totally professional with just a little extra effort.
Use a damned ruler.
Your ruler is the single greatest tool at your disposal - I'm not kidding. Use it to draw all those guidelines I just mentioned. Then, when you're inking, bring that bad boy in first to draw any horizontal lines. All the straight bits that are on the same level get done in one go without moving your ruler (hard to explain, so here's a picture). That makes sure you get insanely precise-looking letters that will be the envy of Instagram.
Pro tip: if you get those nasty little ink pools/smudges under the edge of your ruler, you're using it wrong. See how it slopes down from a thick middle to a thin edge on one or both sides? That's there for a good reason - flip it upside down to lift the edge of the ruler off the paper a tiny bit and prevent those icky little messes. Some rulers even have a special pen edge which is cut away on the underside, and there are those wooden rulers with the metal edge - which, you'll notice, is also raised off the paper. Mind blown, right?
Remember that old adage "Measure twice, cut once?"
Well, it applies here, too. Sketch each word out quickly on scrap paper to determine its size, shape, and approximate center so you don't run out of space at the end of a line or end up with words in places you don't want them - because then if you want to fix it you'll have to draw it all over again, and we all know nobody wants to do that. Pro tip: tracing is the analog version of Ctrl+C. It's totally ok to draw each word separately on extra paper and then trace them onto your finished layout so you can position them perfectly with minimal effort. Tracing isn't cheating when it's your work.
Take your time inking.
There's seriously no rush (unless you're on a deadline, in which case, cut corners elsewhere but don't rush your inking).
Straight bits get done first with your ruler for maximum neatness. Then connect any curves to the straight lines - much easier than trying to line up a ruler to attach a straight line to an existing curved one. Your curves should be a series of teeny tiny strokes - it's much easier and smoother than doing a whole line in one go.
If you're using a brush pen or ink and a brush to fill larger areas, don't feel weird about taking the extra time to outline the area in pen first - it'll save you a lot of stress and potential messes, especially if you're not super confident with a brush yet.
Use thick outlines. Start them thin, then gradually build up using small penstrokes. This gives you the opportunity to smooth over any wobbles and make your lines look super sharp. Bonus: thicker outlines show up better in photos and look more professional as well.
When all your ink is done, touch up. Take your white gel pen and cover up any uh-oh moments - jagged bits, ink blots, wonky curves, etc. White ink is rarely the same color as your paper, but that's ok - when you edit your photo it will blend right in and no one will be the wiser.
Finally, photography and editing.
This is where some serious magic happens. You don't have to be a professional photographer, make amazing flatlays, have an army of daylight lamps and softboxes, or get a really expensive camera. Your phone's camera is just fine.
You'll want some bright light (daylight is best, but I can't tell you how many times I've had to photograph in the middle of the night) and if you can use a couple of softer light sources, you'll avoid having a lot of sharp shadows or bright glare on your artwork. Holding a large sheet of white paper up against a light source will diffuse it nicely so you'll get soft, even lighting. If you have one of those adjustable arm desk lamps, point it up at the ceiling to reflect the light all around when it's photo time.
Editing is the really crucial bit, but again, you don't need anything fancy. Your phone and Snapseed (free photo editing app) will do nicely. Some tips for getting the best results:
Stick mostly to adjusting highlights, shadows (low values give you a nice deep black), warmth (keep this adjustment small!), and saturation. Sometimes you'll have to do it a few times to get the results you want. There are plenty of times where Highlights +100 just isn't enough.
Use the Brush tool to brighten up darker areas by selecting Exposure +0.3 and building up gradually. I start with a large area, hit OK and then repeat several times while making the brush area smaller with each progressive edit. This way you avoid getting a sharp line dividing a brighter and a darker area.
If you're new to editing like this, be patient with yourself. It just takes a little practice.
If you don’t believe editing is that crucial, these will change your mind. I haven’t exaggerated the before shots in any way - this is exactly how they’re shot.
I learned so much from this post, holy crap! Snapseed? Had never heard of that! Lettering large? I had a feeling I should bail on my small sketchbook but kept pushing that thought to the back of my mind and then would get frustrated that no one could see the amount of detail on my Instagram pics! GAH! Duh!
Thank you so much Kiki, for teaching us such valuable skills! Go and follow her if you’re not already, she is a rockstar! (@the.kiki.b)
This week I have the special honor of having an amazing, talented gal — Kiki B as a featured artist!! She is the queen of precision and because of that, she receives this question a lot: How do I Make My Pen & Paper Lettering Look Digital? If any of you do not own an iPad (Hi, me.) or Adobe software or you do and just don’t know how to use them, stay tuned!! Kiki is going to reveal her tricks and tips to making the old fashioned way of lettering look stunning! I seriously cannot wait!
As I research all of these questions, I'm noticing a pattern: typography is not as black and white as I once thought! Spurs are definitely in the gray area, that is, at least MEDIAN spurs. Spurs are "actually the piece that extends from the curve in a letter. The best examples of these are the top and bottom of the "C" and "S". Spurs are smaller than serifs and beaks, which makes this one of the smallest typography terms." (Source: https://www.freelancer.com/community/articles/define-typography-20-typography-terms-you-must-know)
From what I've gathered, the term "Median Spur" is not used by everybody. There was an entire Typophile.com thread I found where people were discussing what to call said "doo-dads". Here's the list for kicks and giggles...
- Lateral Spurs
- Tuscan Bulges
- Tuscan Flourish
- Diamond Thingies (lol)
- Interlocation Spur
- Interposition Spur
- Lateral Thorn
- Bilateral Spur
- Broadside Thorn
So what is the origin of these "diamond thingies"? They're most closely associated with Western Type (hence the desert scene I did in the spurred letters of my piece) but they first appeared in a very different location: France! "By the end of the seventeenth century... gone are the irrelevancies of calligraphy, replaced instead by the spurs, beaks, serifs and terminals of modern typography. ...when a committee of French academics was convened to study the formation of the perfect roman letter." "Louis XIV incorporated this committee into the Académie des Sciences, the council he organized for the staggering undertaking of recording for posterity an account of all the realms of human endeavor, the first of these engravings became the conceptual basis for a new series of types made for the exclusive use of the crown: cut by Phillipe Grandjean beginning in 1694, these are the romains du roi, the King’s romans." (Source: https://www.typography.com/fonts/didot/history/).
One of the most conspicuous characters in the romain du roi was the spur halfway up the left side of the lowercase L! "This flourish has calligraphic credentials, appearing on the stem of all ascenders in the gothic lowercase in both written and printed form." (Source: https://www.typography.com/fonts/didot/history/).
"So strong were this detail’s connotations that the ‘spurred L’ was preserved for generations by typefounders who served the French crown." (Source: https://www.typography.com/fonts/didot/history/). While we can see that the median spur on the 'L' was created waaaay before Western type, I couldn't find if median spurs were plopped on other letters too. There was a discussion about the origin of median spurs on Reddit where a user says the style is called Tuscan and it originates from wood type in the later half of the 1800's. Maybe median spurs for the other 25 letters excluding 'L' did originate from wood type but I can't confirm or deny it and I kind of doubt it (merp!). Trying to find information on these bad boy ornaments proved difficult. I hope to be able to buy Rob Roy Kelly's book "American Wood Type: 1828-1900" someday and maybe that'll help clear things up for us.
So if there's not a lot of information on the "diamond thingies", how do we know how to use them? The best advice I have is to just experiment. I know, I know, I hate that answer too. But I found this list of typefaces with median spurs and they're all over the place! Some have diamond spurs, some have curved spurs that definitely look more like thorns or a wave. Some have just lines, some have concave squares, some have bifurcated serif things (WTF is bifurcated?! Click here!) And that's just the spur shape itself! Some typefaces have the spurs on the outside of the bowl and on the inside of the counter. (My 2 cents would be if your typeface is condensed, don't put the median spurs in the counter—it diminishes legibility.) Aaanyway, you get my point. These median spurs are slippery as far as rules go but hell, just have fun with them. They're small but they pack a punch when you use them in your hand-lettering. :)
Remember those pointy things in the middle of letters that I was wondering about in the first art-to-art post? Well, I did find out that they're called spurs! Let's see what else I can find out about this fun doo-dad this week!
Fortunately, this week's answer was easier to find than the previous week's! The answer to the question: How do I do retro lettering? Break lots of rules. :) Hahah much like the chunky retro script from last week, other fonts that are retro inspired breaks some rules. Here are some of them:
- Bouncy Baseline. 4 out of the 5 examples you'll see here have a bouncy baseline which means that none of the letters sit on the same line. (To find out more about baselines, click here). When you'er lettering yourself, don't go too crazy with the bounciness because we still need the word to be legible!
- Inconsistent thick and thin strokes. This is a chance to have fun! You're not tied down to consistency here! But again, there is a balance that needs to be maintained! You want the letters to look like they belong to the same (albeit dysfunctional) family.
- Pointy triangle serifs with little to no brackets. This probably is not the most technical of terms but it helps me get a visual in my head so I hope it works for you! If you're not sure what a bracket is, click here. And for a serif definition refresher, click here. I found these types of serifs all over the place while I was researching and let me tell ya: they're a hoot to draw!
- Hairline serifs. I noticed in my research that most of the big headline text had the pointy triangle serifs while the subheads were in this hairline serif font. There's no bracket with these kinds of serifs which makes life a whole lot easier!
- Simple, left-justified, Georgia-like font. And to throw everything off that we just learned, you can also go for the simple look that's reminiscent of primary school books like See Jane Run, etc. To get the characteristics down, just Google "Georgia font" and you'll see where the thick/thin strokes are, how the terminals are treated, strict baseline, etc. If you use this look in your lettering, it's always nice to pair it with a retro-styled illustration above and/or to the right of the text.
And that does it for this week! Please let me know if you have any questions you'd like me to research! And I hope these posts are helpful for y'all! I know they've helped me so far. :)
We've learned how to make our illustrations retro and we've learned the rules for that beautiful, chunky, retro script but how do we put the cherry on this cake and create typography that looks like it's from 1940-1970? We can't only do the chunky script (unfortunately). So what are the little elements that we can use to make our hand-lettering look retro? I'll snoop this week and report back on Sunday! Over and out!
Guys. Holy cannoli, this week's question was really hard to answer. I found myself in the depths of font research from 1850 and so desperate for answers that I somehow found the courage to send DMs to a couple of major typography Gods just hoping that they'd answer and to my surprise and huge appreciation, they responded! So let's dive in.
We'll start with the description of script: "Script typefaces are based on the forms made with a flexible brush or pen and often have varied strokes reminiscent of handwriting. There are many different classifications including Brush Script, English Roundhand and Rationalized Script. However, the broadest forms of classification are Formal Script and Casual Script. Formal Scripts are based on the developments and writings of 17th and 18th century handwriting masters such as George Bickham, George Shelley and George Snell. Casual scripts developed in the 20th century as a result of photo-typesetting and are more varied and the inconsistencies appear to have been a result of using a wet pen rather than a pen nib.” (Source: http://www.designishistory.com/1450/type-classification/) Since we're not using a wet pen OR a pen nib, this might not be helpful to us. But Scott Biersack (@youbringfire) said: "Script essentially refers to letterforms that are joined together by a single movement of the hand. But, in this case, since we're drawing, it will be the buildup of pencil strokes. It will consist of many, many strokes that will be made to develop and refine the letterforms... rather than completing the letterforms in one movement as you would with calligraphy.” (Source: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/hand-lettering-scripts-swirls-flourishes--cms-22560)
The Formal Scripts (just FYI) include the following:
- Copperplate (term applied to the English roundhand script)
The type of script we're concerned about right now falls under the Informal Script category. [Informal script]..."is much more flexible. It has some roots within formal script, such as letterform construction, but it has the ability to be completely unique from its origin.The overall speed, composition, color, size, and other factors vary with informal script. Altering the width, angle, size, contrast and other characteristics of a letterform can create unique informal script letterforms.” (Source: https://design.tutsplus.com/tutorials/hand-lettering-scripts-swirls-flourishes--cms-22560)
So now that we understand what exactly the definition of "script" is, how does this help us understand how to recreate the chunky, retro style script? Well, to answer that, I had to find the origin of it which was near to impossible. So this is the point where I got desperate and just straight up DM'd Scott Biersack and he was so gracious and responded so promptly! He said, "To answer your question, I personally don't know the exact origin of that style but I'd say it possibly could have been Italian Spencerian script..." So on to researching Spencerian script I went!
Let me give you a snippet of what I found in the book "Spencerian Key to Practical Penmanship" by H.C. Spencer, Pratt R. Spencer. "The shade upon t and d is heaviest at top, tapering gradually to the lower turn. The shade of the small letter p is the reverse of t, commencing on the ruled line, and continuing to the base of the letter. When two p's’, d’s’, or t’s’, come together, the first is shaded while the second receives a half shade only. These letters have the preference in shading, hence, small loop letters, immediately connected with them, are not shaded; for example: th, dl.” DID YOUR BRAIN BREAK BC MINE DID. What I translate that into is "memorize how each letter should look because each one will be different and then those rules will change depending on what comes after it so GOOD LUCK WITH THAT." I know there might be typographers reading this thinking "yah, that's typography for ya." Which yes, it is. You have to be aware of different factors like that when creating a font but dude, I just want to know why it's ok to put the thickest part of the letter at the bottom sometimes.
Fortunately, Biersack recommended I read this interview with Ken Barber (@typelettering) where he discusses learning from the past to do better now. (If you want to read the interview, here's the link: https://medium.com/type-thursday/learn-from-the-past-to-do-better-now-c94dfcffde2a). It didn't quite answer my questions so I went directly to the source. Barber was amazingly gracious with his responses. He said, "As far as I can tell, this style stems from a drawn version of exaggerated American handwriting developed for advertising during the late 19th century. The original Coca-Cola logo from the 1880s is a prime example... if you want to get SUPER technical: it's a stylized version of Spencerian display lettering." So I was wrong when I called it a brush script—definitely not that!
Now, if you look at formal Spencerian script and the retro script we're discussing, there's very few similarities between them. This really frustrated me at first. But then I realized that if I learned anything from reading that mind-numbing Spencerian book, it's that you're allowed to push the limits of typography. You're allowed to fiddle with letters. That's both the beauty and the irritation of hand-lettering when you're trying to learn!
Ken Barber said it well in his Medium.com interview: “Considering that the letters’ forms have long been established, it makes sense to examine traditional models. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for interpretation. Spencerian lettering from the 20th century is a good example of the evolution of lettering: the style is based on classic English roundhand, but its incarnation during the late 1960s and early 70s bears little more than a slight resemblance to its origins. When you consider the history of letterforms, how one idea is built on another, it’s only natural to look back in order to move forward." (Source: https://medium.com/type-thursday/learn-from-the-past-to-do-better-now-c94dfcffde2a)
To move forward and progress with your own hand-lettering in this particular retro script style, below are some tips from one of the masters, Ken Barber.
- Crank up the weight
- Lower the contrast
- Soften the terminals (If you're wondering what a terminal is, check this out: https://typedecon.com/blogs/type-glossary/ball-terminal)
And lastly, this solid gold nugget of wisdom on how to master this style and hand-lettering in general, "It's really a matter of understanding overall color, which is the general visual texture of the piece of lettering. Color is influenced by four factors which are volume, spacing, contrast, and proportion. The trick is handling all of those factors consistently. Which means the volume or the fullness of the strokes is consistent, the spaces inside and between the letters are consistent, the contrast or variation in stroke thickness is consistent, and the relative sizes of the letters are consistent. If you apply those metrics to the lettering in question, we should see that for the most part they are handled uniformly to create overall cohesiveness in the lettering. That's the best guide for lettering like this that is a little off the beaten path." - Ken Barber.
When it comes to hand-lettering, I'm 95% self-taught. I did have a head start because I majored in graphic design and learned typography rules and terminology but as I dive deeper into the hand-lettering world, I see more and more of those strict typography rules broken and it's ok! Sometimes! And other times it's not ok! This is the paradox of art that drives me nuts... but I digress.
This week we're focusing on chunky, retro, brush script that is so cute! But makes no sense to me! I took a traditional calligraphy class where I learned the basics: the thick strokes are where the calligrapher pushes DOWN. The thin strokes are the UP strokes. You got a baseline and an angle that the letters all consistently sit on. So knowing that this is the foundation for script fonts, pretty sure chunky, retro, brush script is breaking so many rules, right?? The thick strokes are on the bottom of the letter and they're soooo thick! The thin strokes are where you would normally be pushing down. The baseline is bouncy and the angle is almost non-existent. So what are the rules for this type of font? Are there any? Is it mass chaos out there? I will research this week and report back! Stay tuned!
"Everything old is new again." For the past few years, retro styled illustrations (and furniture and typography and clothing and and and...) have been trendy, making that adage spot on. But what makes an illustration look retro?? Is it the simplicity? Well, not exactly, because there are plenty of simple line illustrations out there that don't have that sentimental feel. This sentimental feeling I'm talking about had puzzled me for awhile because I couldn't put into words how to recreate that emotion—until now! I spent the past week researching illustrators that have perfected this style and reading articles about the limitations these illustrators had and how they brilliantly worked within them. So let's dive in to some simple bullet points that make retro-inspired art easier to put your finger on!
- According to www.productivedreams.com: "Limited use of colors is the prominent trait of retro designs. Full color printing was very expensive in the past. This prompted many designers to limit the use of colors in their designs. Two toned coloring was predominantly used by retro designers. Sometimes designers selected a focal color and blended it with few selected colors to create a unique theme.
- Subtle use of textures and noise in the background and certain individual elements in the illustration helps in creating a visually appealing retro design.
- Distressed textures
- Halftone textures
- Dry brush textures
- Overprinting refers to the process of printing one color on top of another in reprographics. (Thank you Wikipedia). Have you ever noticed that the spots of color often don't line up with what they're supposed to? It's like the paper shifted during printing (which is I'm sure what happened). See the image below and really pay attention to the witch's hair, the green skin, and the socks! You can easily recreate this in your pieces just by being loose and carefree with your coloring!
- Retro style illustrations are very simple. Eyes are usually very small: just filled in circles, open circles with filled in pupils or arches up or down to show happiness, snootiness or sleeping. Chins, mouths and noses are the facial aspects that are exaggerated.
- Common elements that add playfulness to retro style illustrations are:
- Asterisk stars
- North star type stars
- Hollow ovals
- What I like to call "Boomerang" shapes (See in Derek Yaniger's image)
- Some things outlined loosely, some not outlined at all. (See that the petals in the flowers are not outlined at all while everything else is in a shaky, inconsistent line in the following image).
- Very flat, 2D
- Fingers that look like there are no bones in them.
- Hair is treated as a solid shape or showing every strand.
- Limbs are exaggerated with pointy or very curved corners.
That about does it for tips I found to master the retro style of illustration! I hope that this was helpful and that it only makes your love and appreciation for all different styles of art grow!
The #arttoart question this week is one I've pondered for a long time: How do I make my illustrations look retro? I love the style but have never really been able to confidently say I know what characteristics make something look "retro". And by "retro", I mean roughly 1940ish - 1960ish. Some may argue that I should call it Midcentury but I'm not going to open that can of worms. Let's just simplify and call it retro. If you have any comments or questions to go along with this, please share! I'll report my findings on Sunday night! xoxo :)
KelseyAnneArt introduces "art-to-art." A place where we can have heart-to-hearts about art. <3 (Really proud of how many times I got the word "art" in that sentence). As long as I've been an artist, I've found myself frustrated about art rules that you're taught and then a few years later, you're taught about all the great artists that broke those rules and why it was mind-blowingly awesome. I never knew (and still don't) when it was ok to break the rules and when I looked like an idiot for breaking said rules. I thrive on boundaries, on black and white, on definitive guidelines. Blame my Libra-ness.
On top of that, the art world can be a scary place. You put your heart and soul into a piece, it's your baby, you name it, you nurture it and then you reveal it to the world and the response is... less than desirable. Maybe this is just me coming from a graphic design background, but we artists can be snobs. Hear me out: we're very critical, i.e. blasting people for using Comic Sans or God forbid PAPYRUS. I know full well that they're fonts that are never used for the right purposes BUT a lot of people don't, and what are their resources for knowing WHHYYY? So whatever level you're at as an artist (or plumber or accountant or CEO), we can all probably agree that we're emotional, sensitive, squishy creatures that don't want our artwork babies to be judged harshly by fellow, critical peers.
So how is anyone supposed to get better?? I realize that I might be out in left field here but I've always felt like there's a lack of safe havens for me to ask a question about art and get a direct answer—whether it be about hand-lettering, illustration, art supplies, etc. You're probably thinking, "Just Google it." But it's not that simple. How do I ask Google a question that sounds like this: "What's that ornament in the middle of letters that look like little pointy things that some hand-letterers use?" (This is a legitimate question that I have and still haven't been able to find the answer. I've been hand-lettering for 6 years. NBD).
If I haven't made it clear already, I am FAR from being an authority on anything even though I've dedicated nearly my entire life to art. So my mission with "art-to-art" is to pose questions that either I have or that you have! And dedicate a week to trying to find the answers through the Internet, through speaking with other artists, through comments from readers, etc.! I will present the question every Monday and report back every Sunday night. This is meant to be a collaborative effort where no one feels like a schmuck, everyone has a voice and we just learn together! So leave a comment with any questions about art that you may have and we'll start a running list of topics to go over. Let's do this!
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Nothing like a Throwback Thursday! As a few of you know, I love Halloween a lot... maybe too much. And to celebrate that glorious holiday and make the feeling last as long as possible, I create a Halloween inspired doodle every day for the month of October. I've been doing that for 3 years now! I gotta say that this year's theme was my favorite. My personality was really jam-packed into everyone of these illustrations and I just had a blast making these. The theme this year was a daily drop cap with vintage inspired illustrations to go along with them—I called it Halphaween. It was so fun to see which ones were people's favorites. It definitely surprised me. The top favorite was the letter M for Mummy! Second place went to N for Nightmare and third place went to R for Raven. The least favorite was C for Cat. (And I thought the internet was made for cats, shrug!).
On Sundays, I took a break from the drop caps and created signs that I liked to imagine you would see back when things were simpler and you had to walk for miles around your neighborhood to get the right amount of candy! None of this trunk or treat mumbo jumbo. These took a lot more time and I wanted to pack them full of detail which also made laying everything out a fun challenge.
Thanks again to everyone that left feedback and stuck with it for the entire 31 days! You guys make it all worth it! xoxo
Three years ago (what, that's so long ago, I'm so old) I wrote about "Finding Your Style as a Designer." While I don't think I'll ever be 100% committed to one style, I have found one that speaks to me, one that I'm naturally drawn to and one that makes me proud to look at once the piece is all done. This alone is a landmark for me. It has been like living with writer's block since high school art class. But not anymore!
The style consists of loose, thin, black inked outlines, free and haphazard brush strokes and a subtle dry brush texture to bring out the shadows. If this style were to have a message it would be, "Hey, forget about staying in the lines so much."
This style of painting paired with my love of typography and hand-lettering is producing some great results. I'm just over the moon about this recent success! If any of you are like me and have struggled for years trying to find your individual artistic voice, I hope you find some comfort in the fact that I get you. I soooooo get you. All I can suggest is to keep sketching daily. And keep looking at other artists and deciding what speaks to you from their styles and why.
I really WANT to love the woods. I yearn to love hiking and sleeping under the stars and all the romance and great photography opps that come along with it. But once I'm in said woods, all I can focus on is bugs, mosquitos, swat them!, kill them all!, cold, so cold, sleep on rocky frozen ground, hunger, peckish, birds in the morning that are just ungodly loud, etc. Sure, call me high-maintenance. (But in the moment I'll be super defensive and in that same moment my head will be telling me "Yes, you straight up ARE high-maintenance. Accept your identity." It's a constant battle. Cherish your sanity.)
I do love nature from affair and in small bits though - taking drives through the canyon, picnics, looking at nice nature pictures.. you know. And my goal is to really learn to look past the bugs and the damn birds and the cold and be able to have a fun adventurous time. I'm working up to that.
This is a long introduction to my most recent hand-lettered piece. There's this song by my most favorite band in the world and it makes me feel alive and woodsy. It's called "Meet Me in the Woods" by Lord Huron. I decided I just needed to doodle out the feels that song creates in my bod and came up with this. It's a FREE downloadable desktop background! (And you're welcome). It's 1024x768 for standard computer screens. If you have screens that are 1920x1080, here you go. And if you have a huge 2560x1440 screen, here ya go! If you have another size not included here, no worries! I'll make it for ya! Chalk it up to my charitable spirit. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the size you want and I'll email it to you. And thank you for following Kelsey Anne Art.
Halloween is one of my top holidays. I love the colors, the creatures, the stories, the CANDY, the pranks, the chili cook-offs, the memories, I could go on and on. To help spread the Halloween spirit, I decided to create a Halloween doodle every day and post it on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. It was a happy coincidence that #inktober was going on at the same time. I got really great positive feedback and it was just so fun to do this, I hope you enjoy!
We're in the midst of autumn, ladies and gents and with that I've been pondering a lot on layers. Yes, I know that was quite possibly the lamest thing you've ever heard me say, but hear me out. Layers are a staple of fall fashion—a plaid collared shirt under a chunky sweater, so just the collar and parts of the sleeves are poking out all under an amazing leather jacket. Or maybe awesome lace looking tights under thick boot socks which are under some awesome boots! LAYERZZZ!! Ok, I digress, but see how important layers are for fashion? They're just as important for graphic design—and not just the Photoshop kind of layers (that's the type of joke my dad would make.... what have I become).
So what exactly do I mean by layers? Obviously you can't just sandwich a bunch of elements together and call it good. There has to be a happy medium. You can't have too many layers because then it becomes chaos and unpleasing to the eye. Especially if your layers are textured. So keep that in mind. When I say "layers", I mean, different shapes, flourishes, a small amount of textures, etc. all intermingling together, with some well placed overlapping. This is why retro logos are so successful: because they're fun to look at! (See the "Go Retro with your Logo" blog article I wrote ). We as human beings like to be rewarded for looking at something. I believe layers do that. Layers entertain the eyes. Layers are also what set apart the good scrapbookers from the bad ones. Little details that add dimension and charm to a scrapbooking piece or graphic design piece or fashion piece! That is where the reward is for 'dem ol' eyeballs.
If you're ever faced with a new graphic design project, consider what icons, shapes, curly Q's, and whatever else you can work into it during the brainstorming stages to make it a success.
Here is a logo I've been working on for a local fraternity. They wanted a lot of information packed into one logo so what did I do? I layered. :) With the ribbon across the front for the fraternity's name with a second, smaller ribbon on top of that for "Kappa Psi" , all resting on top of the badge shape. It's fun to work in shadows into the logo too, which I did here. I didn't just pick "Drop Shadow" in Illustrator, I made it have a line texture which looks more legit (in my humble opinion). Using that solution also was a great way to mimic the line texture I used in the mountains to keep the whole logo cohesive. An example of little extras/details I slipped in there was the herb/plant element in the bottom—it also serves as a sort of foundation to ground all the elements. The grinding bowl was a small but powerful way to show (instead of just tell) that this fraternity was a pharmaceutical fraternity. The frat loved it and my next step is adding some color to it! Look for it on my "logos" page in the next week! It's all in the details peeps!
That's all for now! Thanks for reading!
Along with figuring out who I was (if I had a sense of humor, if I was a girl the popular boys were going to pay attention to, if I was the straight A student or the rebellious kid, if I was going to live my life as a white, pasty girl or fake bake, etc.) in seventh grade, I was also figuring out what my handwriting style was going to be. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think most seventh-graders worry about making their handwriting memorable and cute and feminine and serious and responsible—all at the same time whilst timing how long that hot boy looked at them to see if it was a romantic lingering look or just a casual glance. So yes, I’m quite quirky.
I played with the descenders on my Y’s. Should I have it curl? Or have it become sort of the underline, going straight under the word? I toyed with making the dots of my I’s and J’s hollow, and that just looked childish. I couldn’t possibly have that as a young adult. Perish the thought. After seeing how a girl wrote her 8’s in choir class, I decided that no longer would I write them out like a vertical infinity sign, no. Instead, I would stack two perfect circles on top of each other to form my 8.
Just like my middle school exploration into finding my trademark handwriting, we as graphic designers are always searching for our unique style. But is that what we should be looking for? The argument is on going.
Many famous and talented graphic designers say that having your own uniqueness is very important because you need it as a way to stand out. Brazilian designer, Guilherme Marconi, elaborates, “That’s why clients, agencies and the people that buy art always choose you. You have created a style that they want for their next ad, or on their walls at home.”
On the other end of the spectrum, other graphic designers that are just as famous and talented say that trying to establish your own look is not important at all. Brian Smith concludes, “A designer’s style being important is totally irrelevant. The importance of the designer to express his or her self supersedes any particular style he/she chooses to adopt.”
A lot of other graphic designers say both are vital; being unique, but also being versatile enough to know what a specific brand needs or to embrace current design trends. Also, once you have found your niche, it might be easy to just relax in comfort, but we mustn’t do that! We should always be challenging and stretching ourselves to create new designs and new uniqueness.
For me personally, I am going to continue trying to polish my own style when it comes to personal work. The idea of someone being able to look at one of my pieces and say, “Hey! That’s a Kelsey!” just makes my little heart do flip flops. Granted, I may have to change my name to something a lot more hip if I want that to happen. And when it comes to client work, I will strive to deliver the look that I feel the specific brand or client needs to be successful.
To figure out your style, I suggest the following:
- Study art history, from prehistoric cave drawings to today’s trends. See what you gravitate to and then imitate the images you saw.
- Get away from the computer and put a paintbrush, or heck, even a crayon in your hand. Sketch something and make it look as close to real life as possible. Then from there, simplify. And from there simplify more. See what you come up with.
- Experiment! Experiment with different textures, colors, shades of colors, perspectives, materials, etc.
- You’ll be naturally drawn to certain styles, so figure out what those are and then make them yours by adding your own personal touch – whatever that may be. For me personally, I wish I could’ve lived in the 50s. I just love everything about that time. Along with that, I love retro graphics, so that’s what I’ve been trying to get better at.
What do you think the key to being a sought after graphic designer is?
And more importantly, what should my new, hip name be?
Businesses and organizations often opt to throw it back and create retro-inspired designs. This takes many consumers back to the good ol’ days as retro designs fill them with nostalgic fondness. Retro logos are no different as they appear dependable, long lasting, classy, and friendly all at the same time. So how do you create a retro logo? Well, to answer that question, it helps if you understand a couple things.Read More