Still working on those Romans

I’ve been playing with gouaches and colors this week, and the quotes I’ve chosen to do seem to call out for the use of Roman Capitals. Because, clearly, I need to punish myself for my sins.

The thing about Romans is that there are fairly strict proportional rules to the letterforms and the spacing between letters, and they can be tough to master. Only through repeated practice and analysis can you get them right, and that can take quite a while. So I may as well enjoy it while I can.

Lyrics - Garbage

This is from the Garbage song “Push it,” and while I do think these are the nicest Romans I’ve done in a while, the N is off-model. There shouldn’t be serifs on the pointy bits, which goes for pretty much any other letter with pointy bits on.

Quotation - KFM 01


This line comes from Kentucky Fried Movie, a wonderful film that is far funnier than you expect. I love this line, and Romans seemed to be the way to go. Centering aside, it’s not bad. The real problem with it, though, is that it’s wobbly. Look at ELEVEN – the vertical lines are all over the place there, and that’s true throughout. The differences in the three appearances of A suggest that I need to spend more time practicing instead of working on whole pieces. That said…

Quotation - KFM 02


This is another one of my favorite lines – out of many – from Kentucky Fried Movie. I did this first in walnut on white, but I thought I could make it look better with gouache. Now, a few things happened here. For one, I discovered that gouache doesn’t always behave the way you want it to, which is most evident in the Copperplate. I had to think out the white quite a bit before my pen would write with it.

As for the Romans, the same issues are in play – proportions, balance, and straight lines all need work. The two Ws definitely could be a lot more even. In addition, if I’m going to do serifs, they should look more intentional, rather than the result of a strong jolt from a car battery while holding the pen.

Quotation - Fallout

I did this after Fallout 4 was announced. The gold on red is gorgeous, and some aspects of this look better. The shading was done with a 2B pencil, and that makes the letters stand out, but still… I thought about wiping out the guidelines in PhotoShop, but wanted to keep them there to remind myself of why they’re there. Look at the C – it doesn’t come close to the upper guideline.

So yeah, Romans are a challenge, but they’re useful. More time and more practice, and eventually I’ll have them to a level where I don’t flinch as soon as I look at them.


Spring has finally arrived

Quotation - Henry Rollins 01
Coming from Rollins, though, it sounds dangerous.

I did this for our Reddit Spring/Easter contest. As of this writing, the contest is still undecided, so I guess I can cross my fingers. There’s some good competition, though…

EDIT: I won!

The effect here was done with gouache, a medium I’m slowly getting the hang of, and it was done by carefully, meticulously… tediously going from color to color within each letter. I mixed the gouaches a little more watery than usual so as to encourage blending, and then just tried to be as quick as I could. I think it worked nicely. I used the same techniques for these two as well:

Quotation - Pablo Neruda 02
You can never go wrong with Pablo Neruda
In case you’ve forgotten what this is all about.

Finally, in further celebration of the season, I went out to Osaka Castle to see cherry blossoms and did a little calligraphy en plein air. I wanted a quotation with some kind of flower reference, and I had this one hanging around.

Instagram - Mark Twain 03

The script, in case you were wondering (and I know you were) is a variation of Uncial as found in the Vespasian Psalter (8th century-ish). It’s a difficult script, and I still have a lot of practice to do, but I like how this turned out.

So enjoy your spring, everyone – here’s to new beginnings and hope trees full of blossoms.

Practicing Romans the Corporate Way

I thought I’d do some practice with Roman Capitals – letterforms that form the basis of most of the Latin Alphabet that we use today. Understanding these will help improve other calligraphic scripts, especially in terms of letter proportions and spacing. So, Given that this is one of my Resolutions this year, I’ve been making time to practice. The good thing is that they are best practiced monoline – a pencil or a fine-tipped marker will do, and I have plenty of those.

So, here we go. For this exercise, I made an Abecedary of fictional companies. See if you know where they all come from…

Corporate Abecedary


It doesn’t look all that bad, right? Well, it could be better. It helps that I used a 5mm grid as a guidesheet underneath, which made it easier to put everything on a straight line. But there is still some wonky spacing going on in places. Not to mention, I need to make sure my straight lines are actually straight. There are some wrinkly lines in here that need to be ironed out.

Let’s look at some letters, shall we?

The letter A should, in Romans, be about 2/3 the width of their height. In this case, 1 centimeter.  For this activity, I took all the As out and checked them against a 1 by 1/3 cm rectangle and…

Proper A

Yeah, that didn’t work so well.

How about O, which should be 1 cm by 1 cm. How’d I do?

Proper O


A little better, but not great. Finally, let’s try E – which should have the width of half the height.

Proper E


Again, a little better, but not nearly consistent enough. I could do this with the rest of the alphabet, but I’ll not burden you with all that. Next will have to be letter spacing, but I’m barely ready to start on that…


2015 Calligraphic Resolutions

When you make resolutions, it’s good for them to be specific and achievable – something you can say either “Yes, I’ve done that” or “No, I haven’t done that.” So here are my resolutions with regards to calligraphy for this year. I’m limiting myself to five scripts – three that I consider myself not terribly incompetent at, and two that I’m really just starting. Without further ado…

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