This week I spent 2 days on the Better Letters, Mike Meyer Hand-lettering workshop in Hackney Wick, homing in my basic sign painting skills. After previously seeing Mike in the Signpainters film and book I was very familiar with his work and looked forward to learning from the master!
Day 1: After an introduction by Mike, and a large ingestion of chocolate (he loves Cadbury's), the morning consisted of looking at Gothic lettering and how to construct letterforms with the use of a basic hand sketched grid. We created the grid by using the Mahl stick as a sort of ruler to roughly create straight lines, and then sketched out the letters to the correct proportions within this. After a short lunch break, in which Mike told us fantastic stories from his life, we started the afternoon by filling in the lettering we had sketched out. A small postcard was propped up on our boards showing us the steps in which we went about filling in the letters, of course Mike demonstrated this with great ease but it was not as easy as it looked! This was perhaps the method that was closest to the way in which I go about my own hand painted work.
Day 2: Casual and script lettering were the basis of the second day of painting. In the morning we started off with the casual, focusing on single strokes to create letterforms with 2 or 3 strokes, these could be given more character by leaving in brush ends or extending the serifs. I really enjoyed working this way as it was a style I hadn't tried before which really made you concentrate on the direction of strokes and where they needed to join.
We look a break mid-morning for Mike to show us some gold leaf, it was an amazing technique and also strangely so simple. When I have a bit of money I must try this out myself on some pieces!
In the afternoon we looked at script, which I struggled with perhaps more than the others. This combined the two techniques we had done previously and required you to have more control of the brush, especially the use of thick and thin strokes. Some others in the group created some lovely pieces during this session and Mike excelled in showing off his fantastic skills!
Overall, the Hand Lettering workshop was everything I hoped it would be. I learnt a great deal of technical skills I would have never have grasped on my own, Mike was a fantastic teacher and clearly has such a passion for what he does and passing his knowledge on to others. The course gave me the basis of what I needed to get started properly and I am looking forward to getting the brush out as soon as possible! A special thanks for my work, Premm Design, for allowing me to do this course and funding it for me as I wouldn't be able to do so myself. Another thanks to Sam for running the Better Letters events which you can find out more about here. I now dream painting letters!
A little while a go I approached Folkestone Fringe Festival, who are involved with the Folkestone Triennial, about doing some work for them. The Folkestone Fringe Festival is a non-curated platform which gives artists from all disciplines and backgrounds the opportunity to show work in the town for the duration of the triennial. The original plan was to do a wall mural but this ended up turning into some signage for their harbour sites.
The process took five days in total, beginning with cutting down a huge piece or marine ply into 3m long sections, two making up each sign. These were then sealed and the templates were applied. The weather quickly turned for the worst so I had to take everything inside and invade my parents living room!
The drop shadows were painted in first. Pink and green were chosen for the colours to tie in with that of both the Folkestone Fringe and Open Fringe Festivals. White then infilled the letters to give it a bold finish. Masking tape was used to ensure a crisp edge.
The signs are currently being installed at the Folkestone Fringe Harbour site on converted shipping container offices. You can find out more about what is going on at the Fringe here.
As part of London Design Festival, the V&A hosted a series of free and paid events this weekend covering a range of topics from illustration to the future of letterpress printing. I went along on the Saturday, with a few fellow designers, to have my first ever taste of the festival. Arriving at lunchtime we grabbed a quick coffee and cake in the courtyard before going to the first talk by Alan Kitching in a packed out lecture theatre.
He addressed his career over the past fifty years, going back and forth between when he was an apprentice to his latest work. It is fascinating to see how somebody can continue working in only this craft in the modern industry; which is so digitally influenced. I particularly enjoyed a quote he mentioned his friend had said to him, 'Never cut paper when you can tear it', indicating his appreciation for using as little modern technology as possible.
After Alan's talk, and short film that followed, we moved onto the workshop run by Animaux Circus called 'Dinner & Dreams'. Here you could take a template from a variety of different foods and create a dream meal for your ideal dinner date; I opted for an Ice Cream for Boy George. This was a great workshop for expressing your creativity and having a laugh with a group of people, there was a lot of children there who seemed to be really enjoying themselves getting arty.
The last part of the day concluded in attending a short film and talk on a new letterpress font that has been created using 3D printing, a way of both utilising and bringing letterpress into the 21st century in a contemporary way. It was interesting to see the process they had gone through to construct the font and the adjustments they made to ensure it worked within the old printing press.
The London Design Festival is still ongoing and you can find out more about what is on here.
The last two weeks has been a tattoo whirlwind! I recently went to get a new piece from my friend Dexter Kay at King of Hearts in New Cross. The tattoo is based on the idea of representing my time in London, with the independent, outgoing nature represented by the urban fox, and the geometric pattern hinting at the city architecture. She is doing really well for herself at the moment, and does some lovely line and dot work, you can find more of her work here.
In addition to this, I finally went along to the Time: Tattoo Art Today exhibition at Somerset House on Sunday. The exhibition presents artworks from 70 of the world’s most influential tattoo artists including Ed Hardy, Horiyoshi III, Paul Booth, Rose Hardy, Chris Garver and Miami Ink's Ami James. I was surprised by the work that was on show, expecting it to be marabout technical drawings and the fine art process. The resulting collection ranged from oil paintings, watercolours and traditional Japanese silk painting to paint layering on real skulls, airbrush and bronze sculpture.
The 3D pieces caught my eye the most, maybe this is because tattoo art itself is a 3D art form by working onto the body. As it is free it is worth going to have a look at, but it wasn't as mind blowing as I was hoping, I felt a lot of the pieces were slightly crude and reflected that of a 14 year old metal fans mind.
Leake Street, also known as the "Banksy Tunnel" or "Graffiti Tunnel", is a free graffiti wall running under the platforms and tracks of Waterloo station. Today I decided to test out the cans again in an attempt to try something different with my lettering work.
I took a simple flat graphic S design to test out before looking at doing a larger piece in a few weeks time.
The initial problem was what spot to pick, as I felt slightly bad covering up somebody else's piece of art! I also quickly realised that the amateur in myself had only purchased one size of cap, so the control of line work was rather tricky and thick. This was a great contrast to the controlled brush work I have been doing recently on my signpainting!
Going early morning provided the opportune time to get it done before crowds of people showed up. There were a few photographers doing photoshoots, as well as some soloists coming around and taking photos of myself and another guy further down the tunnel.
After getting back into the swing of things the S shape started to come along quite quickly. Initially I drafted out the shape, then filled in the inner sections with colour, followed by the back outline and backing. Sadly I managed to run out of black paint so I never managed to finish off the piece fully.
The white large drop shadow seemed to finish off the piece nicely giving a strong lift from the surrounding wall.
Lots of lessons have been learnt from this piece which I will ensure to apply to further work!