Fear is a Silly Thing | Skillshare Projects

Tammy Ann Tan

Illustrator & Lettering Artist



Fear is a Silly Thing


How It Started:

"Fearfearfear is a silly thing."

My friend Ana posted this, and I knew I had to letter it, with her permission, of course!

I wanted to illustrate something related to the conquering of fear, and combine it with the lettering of the phrase. I decided to wrap my concept around the fear of heights, with regard to the splendor of viewing the world from up high. 

Initial sketches included Philippe Petit, who walked between the two towers of the World Trade Center, tightrope walkers and trapeze artists. I ultimately decided to leave it more general so I could take advantage of the acts related to carnivals. 


Mood Board:

I've drawn inspiration from lettering and type from traveling circuses and more fanciful contemporary examples. I'm liking the idea of using a frame for the lettering.

Letterform inspiration:



Oodles of doodles, but here are a few 'F's! Looking at lots of vintage posters as well as circus lettering/type. 



This is the general direction I'm looking to explore, with the trapeze artists knocking out the words "fear" stacked upon each other. I don't intend the background to drop into dark quite that much, but I do want a color change in the letterforms inside the "spotlight". Now I'll be working on making letterforms that are bold enough with ornamentation that fits its theme. I want the words for fear to be a bit silly (which is why I took out the sinister pointed terminals!) In my thumbnails, I'll play more with the stage setting the words will occupy and the rest of the composition.



I'm trying to find a balance between the lettering and the illustration. I thought putting more decorative ornamentation in the circus tent frame would balance the solidity of the shapes in the interior. I can't decide if I'd keep the crowd at the bottom, or if maybe they could be incorporated more with the text. Onto tighter rough sketches! 


Rough Comp

Everything is still up in the air (ha), but I think it's heading the right direction. There needs a little more room for the letters to breathe at the top, and I'll tweak the trapeze ropes to work. I'm going to make a few tighter versions and mess with the hierarchy of forms more.  I chose a more centered composition instead of handing the entire comp on an axis so I could do a whimsical border.


Loose Pencil

I've centered the lettering, and am playing with the folds in the tent before I ink. I was really charmed by the simplicity of the characters in the sketch stage, so I think I'll keep them stylized like that. They seem to fit in thematically (though not proportionally). Will shrink them a bit per Mary Kate's advice!


Inking Stage

We've got frames upon frames. Playing with the balance of delicate lines and thick circus tent stripes!


Had a tricky time using only two colors, but I enjoy the crazy dance of the figure and ground. I kept the frame docorative and simplified the frame to weave back into the tent. Not delighted about the colors. Knocked out the audience in white à la Parisian poster design, because a dividing color shape looked quite odd!



Thinking this might be the color scheme! I'm sure I will go back in and tweak things as I step away from it, but I'm happy with where it is now. I think this warmer palette keeps the background recessed while staying legible. 


Update: 12/6

Fussed with it a little more--I couldn't help myself.

Had a lovely time thinking about lettering and illustration these past weeks! I feel more confident about working from concept stage to execution. 


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