Draw Your Words: Block Letters, Etc.

The Draw Your Words Workshop continues! This is a free workshop about drawing better letters. Welcome to Draw Your Words. If you haven't yet done so, pop over and read the Intro & Materials List and Starting Ideas.

In this section of the workshop, we're going to do exercises to get you in the groove of seeing letters as not just LETTERS but as SHAPES. Take these ideas and run with them, play with them, and try them with different pens. I draw a lot of letters... variations of individual letters, alphabets, doodles and patterns. These are great practice for building line-drawing skills and getting familiar with what each of your pens can {and cannot} do. 

Watch the video below, or pop over to Vimeo to watch {7 mn}.

Assignment #1: Negative Space

Draw horizontal and vertical lines on your paper to make a grid, with boxes of any size you wish. You might start with 1/2” spacing so that each box is about 1/2x1/2” square. I like to make the little boxes a bit upright.

When you look at these boxes, see them as houses for letters. One letter will go in each box. You are going to draw lines to make the boxes into letters. Draw the reverse of the letters so that what is left in the box is the letter itself. You might have to squint to see the shapes of the letters. Imagine your letters as puffy cookie dough or boards of wood. 

Draw lines and shapes inside the boxes so that the remaining white space, the negative space, is the letter. Try different methods of creating the shape of the letter.

Make each box into one letter. Work through both upper case letters A-Z and lower case letters a-z. Some letters, like o or z or c are inherently the same in upper and lower case, although the size might change. Some letters are completely different, such as A/a and H/h. There are letters with variations, such as “a’ or “a” and so you can do the typical variations or just pick one. So you’ll work through 26 upper case and 26 lower case letters. Then work through numbers 0-9. That’s a grand total of 62 letters! That is your homework assignment for this week. 

Assignment #2: Block Letters

Practice drawing each letter of the alphabet in block letters at least twice... with inspiration from the video. For variations, try making your block letters tall and narrow, big and wide, puffy, rounded, etc. 

Creative Insight of the Day:

An interview of font designer Carlos Fabián at MyFonts includes a description of his early process that reminds me of the crazy stuff we do in our art journals.** "When I was 19 I wanted to imitate the letters and effects made by the Romanian Dada artist Tristan Tzara. I used ink, paper, scissors, glue, copier, scanner and a Power Macintosh 7200 to modify different alphabets from a Mecanorma catalogue I’d found in a thrift shop in Merida. I expanded the pages to tabloid size using a photocopier. I subsequently processed those photocopies by ruining them with sandpaper, burning them, wetting them and drying them in the sun to produce various effects of distress and destruction. I generated striking experimental fonts by redrawing those alphabets and mixing them using ink and scissors, and gluing them together with other, speedball-drawn letters. My love for these alphabets was a bit like someone who wants to make music but does not have a clue how to and can’t explain why or for what. So as I didn’t understand what I was doing, my intuitive solution was to use my scarce resources to express myself."

Draw Your Words: Alphabetized

Welcome to Draw Your Words. If you haven't yet done so, pop over and read the Intro & Materials List and Starting Ideas.

The english alphabet is comprised of twenty-six (26) unique symbols. And each symbol, each letter, is made up of a variety of lines. A word, a phrase, a quote or the entire alphabet looks different depending on the way you choose to draw the parts. You know the alphabet by heart, so you can use it to practice line work. You can use whatever phrase or song lyrics are swirling in your mind, or even a pangram {examples below}.

alphabet: noun
alphabetize: verb


My goal for this section of the workshop is to inspire you to simply write, write, write {draw, draw, draw} letters and words!

This is definitely not a calligraphy lesson or a tutorial in the "right" way to use a dip pen!  I use my drawing nibs to write words on journal pages, draw mandalas and sometimes to sketch! The simple truth is that I enjoy drawing with a dip pen. I like the smooth flow of ink, the imperfections and even the errant drips. All of it. 

I find writing words in this way lets my mind wander away from stress while I focus on each line. The "right" way to construct these letters involves working such that certain lines within the letters are parallel or have the same angles. If you would like to learn about calligraphy, look for a live workshop at a local community art center or offered by a local calligraphy and lettering guild. Then you can take the process and apply it to your art journals in a way that works for you. I just want to get the words on paper in some sort of quirky way. 

Watch the video below, or if you can't see it, click over to Vimeo to watch. {8 mn}

In the video, I am writing with a dip pen and a flexible drawing nib {I think it's a G-nib, but my nibs aren't shiny and legible} with Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay Black ink on cold-pressed watercolor paper. This is a fabulous ink, good for anything and everything. You definitely don't need to do this on watercolor paper! It would be fun to do this with index cards, drawing paper or bristol paper. Not paper where the ink from the dip pen or marker will bleed and not paper that is too thin. And also not handmade paper where the tip of the pen will "catch" and collect bits of paper in the nib. That's not fun. 

A pangram is a sentence which contains all of the letters of the alphabet, some more than once. 

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
Why did Max become eloquent over a zany gift like judhpurs?
Six of the women quietly gave back prizes to the judge.
We could jeopardize six of the gunboats by two quick moves.
I quickly explained that many big jobs involve few hazards.
My folks proved his expert eloquence was just a big hazard.
Quickly pack the box with five dozen modern jugs.
Brown jars prevented the mixture from freezing too quickly.
The five boxing wizards jump quickly.

So fill a page with the alphabet or a pangram, over and over again, in different widths, heights, slants, sizes & styles. Try writing letters super tall and narrow. Then w-i-d-e and elegant cursive letters. Fill the entire page, so that later you can cut it into pieces if you wish. The goal for this page is NOT to create a work of art. It is to practice writing. To get into the flow of writing. Try to create as many "textures" as you can. Your alphabets do not need to be legible. You can layer them, criss-cross them, or write in different colors. But fill a page.

The Tip Jar

If you find value in the tips, videos and exercises, I hope you'll consider adding something to the DY Tip Jar. As a bonus, if you contribute $5 or more to the Tip Jar, you can share your work in the private workshop FB group where we'll have extra Q&A etc. 

Holding A World of Artist Journal Pages

It's here! It's here! And I love it! It feels like forever since I first sent in pages to Dawn for consideration. I'm really impressed with the accuracy of the colors in the printed book. 

Dawn collected Q&A from a bunch of artists but not all of the responses fit in the finished version. So Dawn is sharing Q&A's at her blog in the weeks ahead. Today is my lucky day so if you are curious you can read my Q&A about art and art journaling at Dawn's blog. These are my heartfelt responses to Dawn's questions. If you've been reading DY for long, you know that I believe 117% in the power of art journaling.

The book is visually stunning, and I am choosing to contain myself and look through the just a few pages at a time. It's overwhelming in an amazing way. Artists from all over the world, joining together in their love for art journaling. Dawn is a keen curator and ace book designer deluxe and has gathered together in one space a wonderfully varied collection of pages. 

One of my pages that you'll find inside the book.

One of my pages that you'll find inside the book.

Draw Your Words: Ideas

Welcome to Draw Your Words, a workshop about drawing better letters. This is the pre-introduction, a warm-up post before the workshop really and truly begins. To give you a few ideas to ponder in the days ahead. Learn about the workshop in the real introduction.

Go ahead. Throw in some words. Your journaling experience will never be the same. 

The words that you add to your journal pages can be anything you wish. Puns. Rolling Stones lyrics. Profound decisions. Lists of pros & cons. A quote from a James Bond movie. The response to a journal prompt. Whimsical meanderings. A conversation overheard at the supermarket. Your word-of-the-year. A catch-phrase. 

The words don't even need to make sense. You can use words just for their interesting shapes. Or the negative space around those words. Actually they might not even be words, per se, but symbols, numbers, phrases, diagrams, frames.

Here are some word-filled pages that I've developed over the years. You know, to get you in the mood.

A page from a 2009 altered book written slowly and methodically {there's a tutorial for this style of writing in Art Journal Tangent #11. The words in the page above were written with a pink neon Sakura Gelly Roll, the wavy lines in blue neon and the squiggles in Caran D'Ache Neocolors on black gesso.

An altered catalog from 2009 where I wrote words with a Sakura Gelly Roll in black and then found words from magazines and printed ephemera and added those on top of the written words. The background here is acrylic paint.

To the right, a loose art journal page from 2011 on watercolor paper. To do the written journaling, I included accounting paper {you could use legal paper or any paper} as part of my collage and then I had a pre-made spot for words. I also stamped WISH with a hand-carved eraser stamp at the top and another WISH with fluid acrylic paint and an alphabet stencil. 

Inspiring Thought for Today:  

In 1Q84 Haruki Murakami writes, "People need routines. It’s like a theme in music. But it also restricts your thoughts and actions and limits your freedom. It structures your priorities and in some cases distorts your logic."