Part Three of my Fragile Things series is here! Part One is here. Part 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.Read More
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.
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 those that you have helped to help you in their turn.
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?
The first official video released for Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra is for "Want It Back" and it's an incredible mix of hand written type, nakedness, stop motion animation, ephemera and worn down brick. I love, love, love it. Watch it now and be happy. Also, check out AFP's blog post about it with behind the scenes pictures and details.
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?
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.
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?
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 Vignelli, Rick Poyner, Michael Bierut, Matthew Carter, Wim Crouwel, Tobias 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!
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!
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.
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?
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.
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?
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
have 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.
- Google Image search for "hand lettering"
- Hand lettering basics
- Darren Booth hand lettering
- Lindsey Hunter hand lettering
- Video: Hand Lettering and Ornamentation by Christoph Mueller
- Melissa Esplin, who I met at ALT, does great lettering and will be doing an online calligraphy class soon.
- Type Design on Wikipedia
- A Brief History of Type
- Periodic Table of Typefaces
- History of Western Typography on Wikipedia
Do you love type? Do you draw type? Please share with me your favorites and your inspiration!
There is nothing better than industrial lettering. At the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore I found so many spectacular examples I could not put my camera down. The colors and styles of lettering were bold and eye catching, meant to be seen and read while a train is zipping by.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (reporting marks B&O, BO) was one of the oldest railroads in the United States and the first common carrier railroad. It came into being mostly because the city of Baltimore wanted to compete with the newly constructed Erie Canal (which served New York City) and another canal being proposed by Pennsylvania, which would have connected Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In 1827, twenty-five merchants and bankers studied the best means of restoring "that portion of the Western trade which has recently been diverted from it by the introduction of steam navigation." Their answer was to build a railroad—one of the first commercial lines in the world.