Judy Koot

InkDreamer | Multidisciplinary Artist & Teacher

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Hand-Lettering I: You Lucky Dragon (Ink)

1. STARTING POINT

The basic idea I started with was a greeting card illustration I did a couple of years ago.
It was inspired by Chinese astrology, something my Indonesian-Chinese (grand)parents firmly believe(d) in.
I was born in the Year of the Dragon, the "most desirable zodiac sign", and supposedly am lucky and destined for success.
I don't believe in astrology, and I'm not particularly successful, but I love stories and myths; the idea of this mythical creature and its powers always appealed to me.
The Chinese dragon symbolizes, amongst others, good fortune.

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The illustration was one of my first forays into digital drawing/painting.
I found the digital pen hard to control, which made the lines rather stiff, and I hadn't heard of lettering yet; I just drew something that I thought looked nice with the rest.
I don't think it's bad, but I'd love to learn how to letter properly and do a dragon lettering piece.

2. PERSONAL GOALS

For this class, I set myself some specific goals:

  • Use my Good Luck Dragon illustration as a starting point.
  • Dive into Chinese and Japanese dragon mythology.
  • Preferably use colors other than the usual Chinese red, gold, black and/or green.
  • Use text only, no illustration unless decorative. Since I have an illustration background, this will force me to really learn more about lettering, instead of putting all my energy into drawing some elaborate dragon.
  • Keep it simple by using one word or a few words only.
  • Learn how to work with my new vector program, Serif DrawPlus X8 (maybe in combination with my drawing/inking program Clip Studio Paint Pro and new brushes; I also have a computer now that enables me to draw directly onto the screen - so no klutzing with a digital drawing tablet).

3. BRAINSTORM, ART BOARD & SKETCHES

First, I did some brainstorming in PageFour, a writing program that's super easy to use and organize:

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Then I googled inspiring images and used Pinterest to create an art board:

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After filling my head with info and imagery, I started sketching:

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4. THUMBNAILS

I decided to go with the "You lucky dragon" text, and did some thumbnails and textures:

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I picked the left and middle thumbnail and started sketching on my computer to get a better sense of the idea, and try out working with white on a dark background:

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At the left, I tried representative letters with characteristics of the animal added.
At the right, I added decorative elements based on the animal's characteristics.
I wasn't happy with the result and felt stuck.

4. ZODIAC SKETCHES

I decided on another route: the zodiac one of my third thumbnail.
It would go more with the Chinese astrology idea that good fortune is a given for people born in the Year of the Dragon, as if their destiny is written in the stars.
I collected new imagery for my art board (yes, there are some McDevitts on there :):

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My new sketches:

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Ok, I went a little overboard with the text there.
Although fun, I realized it's like six lettering projects into one.
One of my goals was to keep it simple, since I don't have any experience with vector programs.
I also wasn't happy with the "dragon" letters, and wanted to take it further.
So back to the source text:

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5. ENERGY SKETCH
Mary Kate commented on my work. My latest sketch did indeed lack the energy found in some of my earlier sketches, so I incorporated her feedback into a new one.
I went back to the dragon script lettered version, and used the patterns from one of my thumbnails in the background:

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6. (DIGITAL) INKING

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Refining letter details:

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7. END RESULT

Finished inking. All in all it took me over a month to do the whole project, thought it would be quicker and easier. Loved it nevertheless (plus, it's my first real lettering project ever, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself).
Next step will be vectorizing/coloring/texturizing, I'm going to take Mary Kate's other class for that. As far as readability is concerned, that will be fixed with the color scheme I had in mind.
Thanks Mary Kate for the workshop, and the useful feedback, much appreciated! <3

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