Illustration

Fragile Things: Part Three - A Broken Egg by Leslie Fandrich

Part Three of my Fragile Things series is here!  Part One is herePart Two is here. This is the final part of the series featuring my photographs of fragile things, with hand-lettered text from Neil Gaiman's book of short stories, Fragile Things, overlaid on top. Working on this project has been enlightening and I really appreciate these final thoughts about the nature of fragile things.

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Fragile Things: Part Two - A Heart by Leslie Fandrich

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Part Two of my Fragile Things series is here!  Part One is here. This is a three part series featuring photographs of fragile things, with hand-lettered text from Neil Gaiman's book of short stories, Fragile Things, overlaid on top. These photo illustrations explore the nature of fragile things. I myself am going through a fragile time right now, my Mom is dying of cancer, and I have found working on this project to be a great way to meditate on what I am going through and what it all means.

From the Introduction:

Hearts may break, but hearts are the toughest of muscles, able to pump for a lifetime, seventy times a minute, and scarcely falter along the way. Even dreams, the most delicate and intangible of things, can prove remarkably difficult to kill.

From the story Strange Little GIrls:

The view changes from where you are standing. Words can wound, and wounds can heal. All of these things are true.

From the story How To Talk To Girls At Parties:

We wrapped our dreams in words and patterned the words so that they would live forever, unforgettable.

Hearts may break, but they are tough. It's something I need to remember right now. Resilience, perspective and a legacy. That is what Neil Gaiman's words mean to me. It's why I write and make art. Writing and making art make me stronger, give me perspective and hopefully, it will build up into a legacy that I can leave to my family.

Part Three is coming in the following weeks! Stay tuned for that.

Fragile Things: Part One - Feathers by Leslie Fandrich

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A few months ago I was inspired to photograph objects that are considered fragile. As I was working on the shots, I remembered that Neil Gaiman published a collection of short stories called Fragile Things. It was a book I didn't remember reading, so I picked it up from the library and I found that I was familiar with many of the stories from other sources. There are some good ones in there. Some of them are creepy, but still so good. Gaiman is such an amazing story teller.

I came across so many great quotes that I decided to hand letter the ones that were specifically related to fragile things and overlay the illustrated text onto the images. This is the first image of a three part series and I'll post the next two separately in the following weeks. 

From the story Strange Little Girls:

She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon.
You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.
She only looked away for a moment, and the mask slipped, and you fell. All your tomorrows start here.

From the story Instructions:

Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found.
Trust ghosts.
Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
Trust dreams.
Trust your heart, and trust your story. 

I've really enjoyed working on this project and it's given me new insights into fragile things. I love these sentiments about identity and trust. You need focus and passion. You need to trust dreams, hearts and stories. It's about knowing and trusting yourself. And above all, do not lose hope. Ever. What you seek will be found. For a seeker like me, that statement makes me feel so good. It assures me to just keep at it. I will get there eventually, I will find what I am looking for.

The short story Instructions, became a lovely book of it's own illustrated by Charles Vess. I bought it for my kids and this story/poem is pure magic. It's all the best advice from fairy tales. Your kid's adventures and imaginations will most surely be inspired by reading it.

What is your favorite fragile thing or fairy tale?

Part Two - A Heart is here.

Yearlong Creative Projects by Leslie Fandrich

Oh how I admire yearlong creative projects. The dedication, the planning and the thought that goes into these just blows me away. I'd like to do my own someday, I think, but for now I will just admire them from afar.

Check out this video. Jonathan Britnell shot video every single day last year and used one second from each day to make this incredibly moving portrait of his life.

Amazing, right?

Last year, Amy Turn Sharp wrote one poem every day, and Lisa Congdon posted an illustrated quote to her blog every day. I loved those two projects and they were so inspiring to me throughout the year.

This year, Lisa is teaming up with Maria Popova from Brain Pickings (one of my favorite places to find cool new ideas) to publish the site The Reconstructionists. It launched today with four portraits and biographies of incredible women who changed the way we see the world. Read more about it on Lisa's blog.

Each Monday they will post a new portrait and I'm looking forward to seeing who they will feature. Joan of Arc? Nora EphronMarie CurieAmelia Earhart? This is such a brilliant idea, I wish I had thought of it myself!

I did some research for my son's science fair last year and I was amazed at the small number of women scientists I could find information for. I used Jane Goodall and Mae Jamison in the materials I prepared and it got me thinking about how we present role models to our young girls (and boys too!) It's so important to present a balanced view of both genders (and all races) so that we can all find someone we can see ourselves in. Hopefully this site will go a long way to making role models for our girls more accessible.

Are there any year-long creative projects that you know of? Are you doing one yourself? Please let me know in the comments!

xo

Charity Water Fundraiser: Custom Artwork! by Leslie

Last year, the attendees of Camp Mighty reached our goal of raising over $20,000 for Charity Water, and partially funded a drilling rig that was sent to Ethiopia. I was so proud to be personally responsible for $550 of that amount, with the fantastic support of my family and friends. I got an email in June that the rig had been fully funded and was on the ground drilling. Here's a picture of "Camp Mighty Team 2" written on the side of "Yellow Thunder." Isn't that awesome? We helped do that!

I'm returning to Camp Mighty this year and that means we are attempting to raise $20,000 for Charity Water again. It's a huge amount of money and we can't do this alone, so once again, I really need your help! You might remember why the efforts of Charity Water are so important:

"Water changes everything. Join Us."

I am responsible for fundraising at least $200 of the total this year, but I know we can raise more than that, can't we?

This year I have decided to give away a *custom piece of art* for EVERY $20 donation made in my name. (That means if you donate $40, you get two!) By custom, I mean your favorite color, your favorite face and you favorite three words will all be combined into one fabulous 4x6 piece of art.

All you have to do is go to our Camp Mighty Charity Water fundraising page, hit the blue "DONATE TO THIS CAMPAIGN button", enter in a donation amount for $20 or more, enter your first and last name and put "for Leslie Fandrich" in the comment section. That last part is super important so I can track all the donations made for me. I will mail you (probably before Christmas, so you could get these as gifts!) a custom piece of art that will include, as I said above, your favorite color, a drawing of you or someone you love and up to three words. Here's an example that I did for myself: Gold + my face + "Sparkle and Shine" = Awesome reminder of what I have to do each day.

Your custom art will be painted and drawn on a 4x6 inch piece of 140 lb watercolor paper. I'll use watercolor or liquid acrylic paint and archival Micron pens. It's perfect for framing however you choose. (The frame above is NOT included.)

Here are some combinations you might want to consider:

  • Blue or Pink + your baby's face + your baby's name = Adorable keepsake.
  • Brown + your dog + speech bubble with "I LOVE YOU" = A reminder of what Buster is thinking all day.
  • Pink + YOU + "Survivor" = Proud breast cancer survivor.
  • Red + your Grandma + "Kick Ass Grandma" = Unique and slightly inappropriate Christmas gift.
  • Silver + Dr. Evil from Austin Powers + "One Million Dollars" = Financial goal and favorite movie quote all in one.

You get the idea, right? Good. Now go donate $20 to one of the best charities on the planet, don't forget to put MY name in the comment area of the donation form, email me (lesliedf at gmail dot com) your preferences for your custom work of art and feel awesome that we are helping to bring clean water and beautiful smiles to people like this:

Charity Water is a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit, so all donations made directly to the organization are tax-deductible.

Thank you so much for all your support! This is a great cause, one that I know I will continue to support in the future. It's such a wide spread problem, and such an easy fix.

GO CAMP MIGHTY!

Paradox: Inequality is the Result of Abundance by Leslie

I love this animated illustration that my friend Agnieszka helped create for Norton Sociology. It is narrated by sociologist Dalton Conley who is the author of You May Ask Yourself: An Introduction to Thinking like a Sociologist. This video explains the concept of social stratification.

Interesting stuff! I have always loved sociology and especially how these concepts help us understand the communities that we live in. One of my favorite things about Star Trek was how it was able to explore different societal structures and see how different models might play out and what problems might present themselves. There is no perfect society. There are always problems. But I find it very interesting to consider different ways of doing things and how that might affect the world that surrounds us. 

A Feather by Leslie

Have you seen the movie Dumbo recently? Do you remember the scene where the birds give him a magic feather to help him fly? I was thinking about that when I drew this feather. Dumbo could already fly, but he just needed a little confidence. 

I feel that way sometimes. Like I have all the skills and talents required to do great things, but I just can't quite figure out how to get off the ground. I get a great idea and I start working on it but it just doesn't go where I want it to, or it ends up being more work that I anticipated. I focus on one thing and something else suffers. I rebel against rules and constraints, while still trying to figure out the formula for success. 

All of these courses and conferences I have been attending have stirred up so much good stuff, about what I love and who I want to be, but I feel like there are so many different possibilities that I can't make up my mind about which one is my best shot. At the Mom 2.0 Summit, Stacey Ferguson did one of the 7 minute talks and explained that it's ok to be multi-passionate. I don't have to choose just one path and I can pursue all my passions at once if I figure out the common thread and a way to make them all work together and complement each other. That is what I am trying to do.

I think I have also reached the point where I need to define WHY I am doing these things. What is my end goal? What is my success matrix? I believe it has grown beyond simply having a creative outlet and doing this for my own personal fulfillment and enjoyment. I want to inspire people, I want to build a community, I want to make some money. When I wrote my piece for BlogStar, I think I came the closest I have ever been to defining why I write, take pictures and make art.

I want to fly, I just need a feather to help me get off the ground. It will be that magic thing that sets me apart, the secret ingredient, the awesome idea. It feels like it is on the tip of my tongue, I just need to grasp it. I know I will get it, I just have to keep working at it. Re-assessing, re-evaluating, re-calibrating. I just need to keep learning, creating and connecting and one of these days it will all coalesce into something amazing. 

The Dresden Dolls performing "Pierre" by Maurice Sendak by Leslie

One of my favorite creative cross-pollination efforts is The Dresden Dolls performing Maurice Sendak's Pierre. It's so good:

I've loved Maurice Sendak's stories since I was a six year old girl sitting in the dark public library theater watching the animated Alphabet Soup with Rice on the big screen. It's one of my early memories and I'm so sad that Sendak is not with us anymore. I love everything that he has done, and now my kids do too. The Night Kitchen is one of our favorite books, despite it being one of the most controversial children's books, and not only do the kids love to hear it, but I love to read it. Of course, we also love Where the Wild Things Are, which is a classic and now also a movie.

These stories and drawing have been a part of my imagination for years and while Maurice Sendak will be missed, his work will remain to inspire us forever. What I love the very most about him though, was that he was a misfit. Watch this piece on him where he says they asked him to do Wild Things 2 and he simply said "Go to Hell." He is also an inspiration for those of who like to take great leaps. He says "You have to take the dive." You may crack your head open on the rocks, or end up the most inspired you have ever been, but you have to take the dive. Well said!

Rest in peace, Maurice Sendak. xo

Advice to Myself: Appreciate What You Have by Leslie

I have been saying this to myself all week. It's been a tough one. I have a restless soul, I like change and I am always seeking the next thing. This drive brought me to the US from Canada, it gives me the ability to take risks and it had me constantly rearranging my room when I was a kid. It's something that I am proud of and that makes me who I am, but sometimes it overwhelms me and I have a difficult time appreciating what is right here in front of me, now, in this moment. I have to remind myself to be content, to be grateful for the way things are now and to appreciate what I have.

I sometimes get so caught up in thinking about the future that I spiral into a place where I am unhappy that things are not where I want them to be yet. It's the ugly side of setting life goals and having an idea of how you want your life to be. I don't feel content; I want a house with more space for my family, I want to have a successful career, I want the pressure of parenting to ease a little. If I focus on those things too much though, I forget that the little house we have is pretty sweet, I can take time to relax and read a book, and my children are at that beautiful, perfect age when life is a wonder and ice cream is the best thing in the whole world.

Do you take time to look around and really appreciate what you do have? How do you balance feeling content with your life and also wanting it to grow?

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This week's type is drawn from a 1921 version of Narcissus by Walter Tiemann. It's an ornamental typeface that was drawn by Tiemann for the Klingspor type foundry based on inline capitals first cut by Simon Pierre Fournier in about 1745. A modern version is available at Linotype.

The photograph was taken in my parent's backyard last year while my whole family had a bubble blowing frenzy. My family can be crazy fun like that. I love the metaphor of the bubbles, that they are fleeting and will soon be gone. Live in the moment my friends. Enjoy every second, even if things are not exactly how you want them, and maybe especially because of that. Camera Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon EF 24-70mm L lens. Camera Settings: 1/800 sec at f/3.5, ISO 100.

Advice to Myself: Stay Curious, Keep Learning by Leslie

This bit of advice might be one of the most important that I tell myself. Without curiosity and learning there is no growth or forward motion. Children are exceedingly curious, it is one their defining traits. They are always asking why and how because so much is unknown to them. At some point though, some of us cross a threshold and stop asking those questions. I hope that I never do. I sometimes say that going to school taught me how to learn, how to study things and build on my knowledge. My college education fueled the ten years that I worked in NYC. When I got pregnant I began the learning cycle again with every book and class I could get my hands on about pregnancy and parenting. Now, I am entering into a another new period of learning, taking online courses and attending conferences to learn about social media and developing a creative career in this new era. Today I am starting the 5 week ecourse Get Your Paint On and I'll be attending the Mom 2.0 Summit at the beginning of May. I love this kind of learning, it's at your own pace and flexible enough that I can do it as a parent. My go-to place for learning has always been books, but taking courses online or in person at conferences has accelerated things dramatically and really improved the network of people around me who are doing the same thing. In addition to art, design and social media, I also love to learn about history, science, literature and pop culture.

As I mentioned before, for me this series is an act of learning in itself. As I draw these letter forms I learn about the subtle differences in each letter and font, I look up the history and learn about the people involved. I could easily use the computer to typeset these graphics in a few minutes, but I love the process of drawing them by hand; pencil sketching each letter, outlining with a Micron pen, filling them in with a black marker. It's very satisfying to make something with your own hands and it's an important first step for me to make if I am going to be doing more hand lettering. I also discovered a new hand letterer this week, Sean McCabe, and I love his work. He's also got a section called learn, in which I was happy to discover his hand lettering process is similar to mine and he's also rocking the Micron pens, which I love and first learned about from Danny Gregory.

How do you stay curious and keep learning? What do you like to learn about?

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This week I hand drew the text based on Helvetica. In the interest of learning more, over the weekend I watched a documentary called Helvetica and I wanted to base this week's illustration on this workhorse of modern design. The documentary was filled with renowned graphic designers, critics and type designers (Massimo VignelliRick Poyner, Michael Bierut, Matthew Carter, Wim CrouwelTobias Frere-Jones, Jonathon Hoefler, Hermann Zapf, Erik Spiekermann, Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister, David Carson) giving their opinion about this ubiquitous font. There are two sides to the argument, one is that type should be neutral and not get in the way of the content, the other is that type can and should have a voice and contribute to the message. Words used to describe Helvetica in the movie were all over the map: neutral, modern, idealistic, precise, boring, perfect, urban, everywhere, corporate, socialist, hated, loved, beautiful, easy, thick around the middle. It seems everyone has an opinion about it, depending on their experience, taste and goals for their design. Whatever the opinions of designers though, the truth is that it has been the most used font for the last 50 years on everything from corporate logos to subway signage to garbage trucks. It is an integral part of life in the city and our experience of modern design.

The photograph was taken of the Unisphere at Flushing Meadows–Corona Park in Queens, New York. The park was the site of both the 1939 New York World's Fair and the 1964 New York World's Fair and the Unisphere was built as the main symbol of the 1964 Fair. It was also built on the original site of the 1939 Perisphere. I was lucky enough to attend the 1986 Expo in Vancouver, Canada when I was 11 years old. It was the greatest vacation my family ever took. Talk about learning. Now I have an itch to go to another one, based on the list, I'll have to wait at least 3 years. Don't think I'll be going to the one in South Korea this year, but maybe to Expo 2015 in Milan? I love the Milan EXPO logo, I am so into CMYK colors right now. I'd like to point out that there hasn't been an Expo in North America since the one I went to in 1986. What's up guys? Edmonton, Alberta in Canada had a pretty strong big going for 2017, but it didn't receive the federal funding that it needed. Can we bring it to North America soon? I'd love to take the kids. Camera Equipment: Canon PowerShot SD600 way back in 2008! 

Advice to Myself: Take a Deep Breath by Leslie

It's amazing what taking a deep breath can do for fear, for anger and for anxiety. It's something I do when I get nervous, when I lose my patience with the kids and when I am trying to relax. I've also been trying to teach my five year old son how to harness it's power. We will sometimes do deep breathing before he goes to sleep, or if he is upset and crying. We also used it very successfully when he was nervous and fearful about getting stitches. Before the doctor came in we practiced our deep breaths. I told him to breath in through his nose, and out through his mouth. We did this until he felt calmer. When the doctor came in I talked him through it and we did the deep breathing together while she was treating his cut. He stayed so calm and relaxed, without yelling, crying or having a panicky moment at all. I was so proud of him.

Deep breaths are a huge part of any meditation practice or martial art for a reason, they center you, calm you and allow you to focus on being in control. I'm think most people naturally take a deep breath when coping with stress, but sometimes we need to remind ourselves to slow down and breathe when we feel our emotions spinning out of control. If we feel angry or anxious, the best thing we can do is count backwards from 10, take some deep breaths and tackle the situation a little calmer. In addition, if you intentionally focus on deep breathing for a few minutes a day when you are already at ease, you are likely to feel calmer and will be better able to cope with the challenges that your day may bring. Being aware your breathing is an integral part of meditation and it's something I'd like to practise doing more.

Is deep breathing something that you are mindful of in your life? Do you remember the last time you used it to cope with stress, ground yourself or stay focused? Please share in the comments!

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Hand drawn lettering for the words "Take a Deep" were inspired by a 1925 version of Garamond from the Stemple Type Foundry. You can see a modern version of Stemple Garamond at Typedia. Lettering for the word "Breath" is based on a typical Roundhand from the later part of the 1800s. Rather than draw it with a calligraphy pen, I outlined it and filled it in.

The photograph was taken at Nauset Beach in Orleans, MA on a family vacation to Cape Cod a number of years ago. Camera Equipment: Nikon D70 (which I have since sold) at an 18mm focal length. Settings: 1/640 secs at f/13, ISO 400.

Advice to Myself: Listen More, Talk Less by Leslie

If I ever want to learn something new, empathize or otherwise understand something that I haven't experienced first hand, the surest way is to listen more and talk less. I ask questions, I do not judge and I open my mind and heart to things that are often different from what I know. I listen to the stories, the history and the context to gain an understanding and to walk in someone else's shoes. Listening more and talking less is also a great approach for new situations, conferences, jobs or any social gatherings. I don't want to be the person constantly talking about themselves. If I am curious and interested in other people and their unique perspectives and experiences, I find myself learning and growing so much. It's my ticket to kindness and understanding.

In my own life, I have heard this a few times when someone that I know is struggling with a problem or situation and rather than just listening, I try to think of ways that they can solve their problems. Usually these people just needed me to listen. Problem solving an emotional situation often ignores how that person is feeling and the result is that they feel judged. I try to hold my tongue, step back and let them lead. This has also been a good strategy for me recently while I've been learning about the business of blogging and putting myself into huge social situations. It doesn't mean that I am a quiet mouse in the corner, but it does mean that my focus has been on learning and observing, rather than leading, directing and judging. Eventually, once I learn the ropes, I can transition into a leadership role confidently.

Do you have examples of when you have needed to listen more and talk less?

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Today's hand lettering is drawn from an 1816 sample of William Caslon IV's "Egyptian", which was the first sans-serif typeface for printing and was only available in all caps. Hand lettering had been done in sans-serif for a while, but this was the first metal typeface that you could print with. It was not very popular and sans-serif did not begin appearing for a number of years. You can now purchase a newly drawn version of the Caslon's Egyptian typeface from Font Bureau. Here's a fascinating discussion about digitizing the font and it's history on Typophile.

The photograph is of a white lily that my husband bought me for Valentine's Day. I chose it because it is "open" and the stamens look like they are flowing into the flower. I thought it was a good metaphor for an ear that is listening. Camera Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm Compact Macro lens. Camera Settings: 1/125 sec at f/2.5, ISO 1250. 

Advice to Myself: Take Risks, Trust Yourself by Leslie

Today I'm starting a series called Advice to Myself. The images will consist of my photographs overlaid with hand lettered text. I'll be posting one each Monday! Hope you enjoy.

Take Risks, Trust Yourself is fairly self explanatory, right? But I think sometimes this is very hard for me to do. Maybe it's hard for you sometimes too. I know what it means and yes, of course I want to do these things, but why and how? The why is that I must take risks to push myself out of my comfort zone and GROW. Risks often equals growth. I take a chance on something and if it works out then I win, but if it doesn't I have to be ok with the fact that at least I tried. Generally I'll learn something, even if my plan doesn't work out. The how is related to trust. Trusting myself allows me to take the risk in the first place. I must trust myself to recognise good opportunities and follow my intuition about people and projects. It also ensures that if it doesn't work out I can sort through how to do it better the next time. I trust that I will catch myself if I fall and that I will pick myself back up and try again.  

My biggest risks have been moving far away from home. I did it once when I was 16, I moved to Vancouver from my home town. It didn't last very long or work out the way I wanted, but I did take a photography course while I was there that set me on the creative path I am still on. Years later, when I was 22, I moved to the United States from Canada, first to Minneapolis and then to New York. This move worked out much better, as I had amazing jobs, met some life long friends and my husband and have stayed here to raise my family. Both moves required great leaps of faith, risk and huge trust in myself.

Do you have any examples of when you have taken a risk and trusted yourself?

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Today's hand lettering is taken from the font Memphis. It is a slab serif (also called Egyptian) designed by Dr. Rudolf Wolf in 1929 for the Stempel foundry. It's a good headline font, and combines well with traditional romans. It doesn't work well with san-serif fonts and shouldn't be used for body copy.

The photograph is a self portrait taken in the back of a taxi in NYC. Camera Equipment: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 50mm Compact Macro lens. Camera Settings: 1/125 sec at f/2.5, ISO 3200

Hand Lettering and Typography by Leslie

Ihave a new favorite thing to do. Hand drawing type. The image above is a freehand sketch of part of the New York Times logo. It's amazing what you can learn by studying something and re-drawing it. Copying work of others is ok in the context of learning, I'm not trying to pass this off as my own unique creation, but I really did learn so much by studying the NYT logo and trying to recreate it. I also learned that graph paper would be very helpful!

It all started last November after Camp Mighty when I illustrated the key points from the five talks. I enjoyed drawing the words in a way that reflected their meaning and gave them greater impact. Then I saw this O Magazine cover and this article about the artist Dana Tanamachi and I realized that I wanted to get much more creative with the lettering. When I illustrated the talks from Alt Summit, I loved thinking about the layout from a typographic perspective and I tried to do a few new things with the letters that I hadn't done before.

Lisa Congdon's 365 Days of Hand Lettering project has also been an inspiration, see her lovely script drawn in an old book below, and she also told me about Jessica Hische's drop cap project, where I got that fabulous letter "I" at the beginning of this post. Jessica's lettering work is very polished and it looks like she finishes everything in the computer. Whether it's drawn in the computer or on paper, as long as you are creating the letters yourself and not using a font, it is considered hand lettering. (PS. Jessica has great information on her blog about getting paid as a freelance artist/illustrator/designer and also about inspiration vs imitation. I love this gal, she is so smart, candid and honest about the issues that are important to her and everyone who works as a commercial artist.)

Despite my graphic design background, I didn't study type in school the way most designers did. I was a multimedia student who started out in photography and got a smattering of design education. I missed the crucial foundation design classes where students have to hand draw type, although I distinctly remember hearing about the assignment from my friends. I think I might be about to make up for it.

In New York last weekend I picked up Typography Sketchbooks by Steven Heller at McNally Jackson and then accidentally came upon Just My Type by Simon Garfield at my local library.

I love Typography Sketchbooks because it shows so many hand drawn fonts on their way to becoming more refined and polished. Process oriented books are the best for learning, you can see how things are developed and made and essentially see behind the curtain.

In the introduction Steven Heller says that a graphic designer who is not fluent in type is not a graphic designer. When I was working as a graphic designer in New York City after I graduated from art school I knew how to use type, I knew which fonts I liked and I recognised good design and typography, but I don't think that I was truly fluent in type. I didn't fully understand the history and work that goes into creating and designing type and that might be why I struggled with taking my design work to the next level. Time to go back to school! Or at least embark on some self guided study.

Just My Type by Simon Garfield looks like a fantastic story-based history of type. The foreword by Chip Kidd is awesome and had me hooked when he talked about the mostly typographic New Order album cover art. I just started reading it but I'm excited to get further into it.

I also picked up a first edition printing of Lettering by Alexander Nesbitt from the 1950s on our recent trip to the Reader's Quarry Bookshop in Woodstock, NY. It's inscribed to Wolfie (I love inscriptions in books!) and has some great examples of script lettering that I'd like to try drawing. It's got lots of information about the history of lettering and the second section contains "A practical course in lettering". It should be a really useful book and I just love that it's 60 years old. Can you believe that it is still in print? History is such a rich place to find inspiration. 

I'm really looking forward to focusing on this new creative outlet. I feel that lettering is a very useful skill for me to develop that will help me with my art and the communication and design of this blog. I've already started using it in my new weekly feature, Photo Walk Fridays, and I'll be redesigning my header as well. I do sometimes fear that my wide array of interests don't allow me to stay focused on just one thing, but I was encouraged by Laurie Smithwick of Leap Design who told me that all of these interests I have are related, they compliment each other and work well together. It's ok if I am a photographer/illustrator/writer/designer/artist. Why limit myself to just one thing? I'd like to know it all, thank you very much, and I'm happy that I have this nice little blog where I can put it all.

More Inspiration:

Do you love type? Do you draw type? Please share with me your favorites and your inspiration!

ALT Talks: Collaborations by Leslie

Today I am featuring my illustration of the Collaborations session from ALT Summit, I also illustrated the Growing Your Readership session. I find these drawings to be such a great way for me to process all the information, really aborb it and understand it and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out if you like!

Collaborations was hosted by:

Each of them covered an aspect of Collaborating:

1. GETTING STARTED - Danielle Krysa

  • Just ASK: Reach out to those people that you admire and just ask them for what you would like to do. If you outline how it is beneficial to both of you, very often they will say YES!
  • Create Guidelines and Rules: The less work that you make people do, and the less that you make them think, the easier it will be for people to say YES. Constraints can yield good material.
  • Keep Trying: There will be mistakes made, and you have to learn from them, revise and try again. When mistakes are made, not all is lost, much of the work can still be used, you might just need to apply it differently.
  • Bonus: "Drive It Like You Stole It"

2. FINDING THE RIGHT PEOPLE - Bri Emory

  • Similar Aesthetic: There is an easy back and forth when styles align and compliment each other. Complimentary styles can bring a fresh look to what you are doing.
  • Trade Skills: Designers and photographers work great together because they have skills that work well together. Find people who have skills that you don't, but make sure to establish the boundaries up front.
  • Have a Connection: It is more efficient and fun to work with people that you vibe with.
  • Bonus: "Don't be an internet DJ"

3. RULES OF ENGAGEMENT - Joslyn Taylor

  • Agree on Goals: Decide at the beginning what the plan is. What are the goals of the partnership? Is it fun? Is it business? How committed is everyone? Are you making money? Driving Traffic? Building communities? The answers to these questions will  inform all your decisions.
  • Always Meet as a Group: If there are more than 2 people, never pair off. Do not gossip. Keep it professional, even if you are friends. 
  • Weighted Voting: If one person feels strongly about an issue one way or another, they should have the right to veto or push through something. If it's that important to them, let them have it.
  • Sometimes you have to Walk Away: If it stops being healthy, if it veers to far from the original goals when you started or if you are no longer pulling your own weight, it's time to step away.

 4. TAKING IT OFFLINE - Victoria Smith

  • Face to Face: Your local area and blogging conferences can be the best places to meet people and build communities
  • Independent Print Magazines: There are many opportunities with small non-traditional media. Look for places with smaller budgets and freelancers. Uppercase, Rue, Kinfolk and Matchbook magazines.
  • Conversations can lead to other opportunities. Be open to talking with people, sharing what you are good at, and listening to what they need.
  • Bonus: "Enhance Creative Lives"

Hope that helps you with your plans for collaborating! It seems that collaborating is a great way to grow. It lightens the load, and makes our creative endeavors more fun and rewarding.

If you are looking for more ALT inspiration, be sure to check out the ALT channel for ongoing online classes that cover many of the topics presented at ALT Summit, including "Creative Collaborations" by Laura Mayes that offers more tips and tools for collaborating.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts:

ALT Talks: Growing Your Readership by Leslie

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Today I am featuring and illustrating the Growing Your Readership session from ALT Summit, in the same way that I did the talks from Camp Mighty. I found it to be such a great way for me to process all the information and also a great way to share it. You can click on the image above to link to a larger version that you can print out. (Edit: I also illustrated the Collaborations session!)

Growing Your Readership was hosted by:

They had three main points about how to grow your readership:

1. ORIGINAL CONTENT

  • Create a personal narrative from your own experiences. Examples included Jordan's move to Paris and Nicole's home renovation. Use these narratives to share tips and resources.
  • Use your expertise for DIYs and tutorials. Showing people how you do what you do is a great way to gain readers. It's the old give a man a fish/ teach a man to fish parable.
  • Do your own research and make something new. Don't just link to what other people have said or made, have a look at everything being done in a certain category or on a certain trend and do a comprehensive post that shows a complete picture and showcases your own insights.
  • Make custom layouts, curate and remix. Creating your own content is key, but if you are using other people's content, be sure to ask first, credit sources and then present it in a way that is new. Add graphics, pair things up, put your own personal stamp on it.  

2. CONSISTENT SCHEDULE

  • Have an editorial calendar. Plan ahead and try to post on the same days every week. If people know what to expect, they will look forward to your posts.
  • High quality posts are better than high frequency posts. Rather than post one item every day for a week in a series, consider posting all five at once on one day. Make it easy for your readers, don't space out content to have a post up every single day. Quality over quantity.
  • Find the right amount of content for your audience. Kelly found that when she was posting three times a day, less people were reading, it was too much. When she scaled back she found more people engaged.
  • Best times to post are 7am (EST), noon, 4pm and midnight. Know who your audience is and when they are more likely to be reading. Sometimes off times can benefit as well. Midnight is a good time for overseas audiences. Or you can just post it when it's done!

3. PROFESSIONAL LOOK

  • Invest $ in your blog. Spend money on design if you are not a designer, quality giveaways for things people want, hire assistants and pay contributors, and make sure you have childcare so you can dedicate time to your blog.
  • Masthead and URL should match. This means investing in a dedicated domain name and designing your header to be the same. Make sure you have a domain name secured before naming your blog.
  • Good design is a prerequisite. Good design used to set blogs apart, but now it is common place. You must have a good design that is easy to read and navigate to be successful.

Additional tips:

  • Put stuff out when you are excited about it and tweek it later. Execute the bare minimum of what you need to do to get it out into the world and then update it later.
  • Join Communities, build communities, comment on other blogs (but make sure they are quality comments, not just "cool post"), post on Facebook (have a page for your site) and contribute to other sites that have a similar aesthetic, style and audience with your writing or artwork.
  • Capture search traffic with unique seasonal and event based content. Check out what the trending topics are for the day. You can post about current events and holidays, but make sure it is not something that other people are doing. Make it special.
  • Learn how to do SEO and tags. Check out Google tutorials.

If you are interested in learning more about Alt Summit's Growing Your Readership session, check out Nicole's twitter recap on Storify.

You can also check out the Alt Summit channel for fantastic online classes that cover many of the topics that were discussed at the conference, including Growing Your Readership.

Check out my other Alt Summit posts:

Camp Mighty Talks: Lisa Congdon by Leslie

Lisa Congdon's talk at Camp Mighty was excellent and full of great advice. I admire her artwork, as well as her story about how she became an artist. She radically changed her career path, transforming herself into a successful commercial artist in just five years. She is a prolific collector, which I totally identify with, and she started a project in 2010 called A Collection a Day in which she photographed, on a grid, a few items from her collection every single day. It has since become a book.

Lisa's remarkable life change began, as some good things do, with a traumatic event. The relationship that she had been in fell apart and part of recovering from that was resolving to start fresh in every aspect of her life. She had grown up in a family of artists and had always made things, but she finally decided to pursue a career making art. It took her two years of simultaneously working at her job at a non-profit and making, showing and selling art before she was able to quit her job and dedicate herself to her art.

In examining her path to a successful artist, she identified seven critical things that have helped her to succeed:

1. BE A NERD. Nerds are defined by passion and love for what they do, they often live thier lives to the fullest and are not afraid to make a fool of themselves.

2. DAYDREAM OFTEN. Imagine being magnificent and map out your hopes and dreams for yourself.

3. TAKE RISKS. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail? Failing is also ok though, we learn from our failures, risks always pay off because every effort is valuable.

4. PRACTISE & HONE. Just practise, perfect and experiment. Repeat. Then ask for feedback about what you are doing. It will make it better if you can listen to what people think about what you are doing.

5. EMBRACE THE SUCK. You must work through the ugly stage and take it to the next level.

6. SHOW UP. Supporting others in the community is invaluable, be there for the people in your tribe.

7. STAY TRUE. This is the most challenging, but it is the most important.

Lisa is an inspiration to us all, to live the life we dream of and to be successful at it. She just began a new daily project on her blog called 365 Days of Hand Lettering, in which she will hand letter something every day. She's starting with the letters of the alphabet and will do sayings and words as well. I look forward to this project, as I've become interested in hand lettering myself while drawing these Camp Mighty Talk summaries. (As an aside, the letter R is very hard for me to draw!) I also just bought a 1950's book on lettering (inscribed to someone named Wolfie!) so perhaps you will see something about this topic from me too. Hand lettering is the perfect blend of art and design.

This is the last Camp Mighty Talk! I hope you have enjoyed them. If you would like to watch the complete lectures for yourself, you can visit the Camp Mighty Vimeo ChannelOr check out my other illustrated Camp Mighty Talks for Brian PiotrowiczEvany ThomasBuster Benson and Kenna.

Camp Mighty Talks: Kenna Zemedkun by Leslie

Kenna, a Grammy nominated artist and the organizer of Summit on the Summit, had the audience charmed from the start, telling us about his mother and asking us to sing happy birthday to her over the phone. He was very comfortable on stage and is clearly passionate about what he does. It was inspiring to hear about his experience planning and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the global clean water crisis.

Kenna said, right at the start of the talk, that to be well, you should do well. He meant that giving back and helping others is a very important part of being happy and feeling fulfilled. When choosing what cause to focus his energy on, he realised the answer had been communicated to him a number of times by his father. When he finally started listening, he heard stories of his father growing up in Ethiopia without clean water and when he learned that his uncle had died as a child of what was likely a water born illness, his dedication to bring clean water to communities throughout the world began. When you are looking for a cause to support, find something that is already close to your heart, it will be more personal and meaningful.

When choosing how to best raise money and bring awareness to the cause, he decided to do something extreme to attract attention. Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro was something he had already attempted to do and it seemed like a good endeavor that people would tune in to, whether or not he succeeded. Participating in the climb himself made it much easier to ask others to join him and he was able to get a number of culturally influential celebrities and educators to climb with him, raising the profile of the project and getting a documentary of it filmed and aired on MTV.

Before Kenna began his charity work, he had always hoped to have a larger audience, but he realized that you could wait forever for things to be just right. Whatever your platform, whomever your audience, it's never too early to start working for a cause you believe in. In addition to that, he stressed that action is not always what is required, sometimes your voice can be just as powerful. Helping people to understand the problem is as important as solving the problem. We can't all climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but we can draw attention to it, talk about it and spread the word.

When speaking about sponsors and advertising he brought us all back to Brian's talk when he said it is important that everyone's intentions match. His team turned away many lucrative sponsorships because the company's policies or practices didn't line up with the sustainability goals of the climb. He stressed how important it is to hand pick sponsors and to request money from marketing budgets and not budgets that were already earmarked to help people.

Kenna is already planning a second climb up Mount Kilimanjaro, and Maggie Mason, the original Mighty Girl, has agreed to climb with him, joking that she was going to head to the treadmill immediately to begin training. Of course she'll have all of us Mighty Campers on the internet cheering her on.

Next up is Lisa Congdon. She was the final speaker at Camp Mighty and her talk focused on how she radically changed her career path, transforming herself into a successful commercial artist in just five years.

Previous Camp Mighty Talks are Brian Piotrowicz, Evany Thomas and Buster Benson.

Old Children's Book Illustrations by Leslie

One of my five goals for this year is to volunteer at my son's elementary school for 20 hours. I've logged 12 hours so far, in various places like the Halloween Party, the book fair, my son's classroom and the library. I always knew I loved libraries, but spending time in one actually working has completely sealed the deal. My goodness does it ever feel good to be sorting, tagging and fixing books.

It's a small school library, so there are lots and lots of OLD children's books and I adore those the most. I LOVE the cover illustrations and the tape and the yellow pages and even the way they smell. Just look at these few examples.

The cover of this edition of the Wizard of Oz uses an illustration from the first edition that was printed in 1900, and look at that fantastic drawing of Puss in Boots (originally a 1697 French Fairytale). The adorable kids and vibrant green cover for Water are lovely and the typography at the bottom of the cover of Are you My Friend? is awesome and it's a bit of an inside joke because my husband's third album has the exact same name. The author George Mendoza is a bit of a mystery though, and might have written a book I had as a child and still own, called Need a House, Call Ms Mouse. Of course Maurice Sendak rarely needs an introduction and this early edition of Chicken Soup with Rice: A Book of Months just makes me smile.

I think I will be spending the rest of my volunteer time, and probably more, in the library. I'll see if I can find some more treasures and share them with you. Any old children's books you are looking for?